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Why does my dog turn circles before lying down?

 by yunus on 14 Sep 2016 |
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Whether it’s on the couch or in their own beds, dogs often turn a dizzying array of circles before finally settling down to sleep. While this seems an unnecessary ritual to their human counterparts, our canine companions are simply following a set of behaviors that their ancestors used to create a safe, comfortable spot to sleep.
 
Experts agree that Fido’s pre-sleep rituals most likely stem from his wild ancestors. Before they were domesticated, dogs had to sleep outdoors on various surfaces and in varied conditions. Walking circles in a spot helped them stamp down tall grass, creating a softer, more level surface for sleeping. Circling also helped dogs expose stones or twigs before settling down on top of them, and likely served as a means for scoping the area out for snakes and other hidden dangers. If turning circles before bed is functional, though, it also served a social role for wild dogs. As pack animals, our canines’ ancestors generally traveled together and bedded down beside each other, too. This helped protect the pack from harm and stay warm on cold nights. Some even theorize that the flattened sleeping areas acted as visible signs to other dogs that the territory had already been claimed.
 
In addition to circling, many dogs also “dig” at their bedding before curling up. Another relic of wild dogs’ behavior, this helped canines stay comfortable in a variety of climates. In hot weather, sleeping in a hole helped them control their body temperatures with the cool soil, for example. In cold weather, a hole provided a means of retaining body heat. A dugout den also provided a more concealed, secure place to lie down, and digging helped make the ground into a more comfortable spot to sleep.
 
While “nesting” is a normal canine behavior, repeatedly circling without seeming to settle down can be a sign that your dog is experiencing pain or discomfort. Arthritis can cause this, as can certain neurological problems, so if you notice your pet cannot seem to sit still, take him to the vet to rule out any pain and figure out what is causing his restless behavior. Similarly, digging at his dog bed is perfectly normal for Fido, but if his scratching carries over to your prizes rugs, you may need to provide alternative surfaces for sleeping. Try placing a blanket over your dog’s favorite spots; teaching him to use his dog bed only for sleep; or keeping your dog in rooms where he cannot damage the floor. Because pregnant dogs are especially prone to creating a maternal nest, provide them with clean rags, newspapers or other soft materials in an appropriate spot early in their pregnancy to encourage them to do their digging where it won’t cause damage.

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