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Have you ever seen your dog twirling around in circles before settling down to sleep? Or have you noticed that they tend to take a few laps around their bed before finally sitting down and getting comfortable? Maybe spinning in a circle before pooping?

If so, then you’ve likely wondered why exactly they do this behaviour. It turns out there are several potential explanations for why dogs spin in circles before certain activities - some of them being quite surprising!

From helping to find the coolest to lay down during the summer months to communicating with other dogs & animals, learn all about these theories and more as we explore - why do dogs spin in circles?

Why do dogs turn around before lying down?

Though not all dogs display this behaviour, many will circle around before lying down. This circling is a type of unconscious behavior where the dog is not cognizant of why they are doing it, but it likely stems from ancestral habits.

Ancient dogs needed to create a nest of sorts, similar to many wild canines today, and would circle around to trample down any tall grass & vegetation while seeking out soft spots and stirring up smells associated with a safe place.

Nowadays, this ancestral behaviour has been ingrained in some dogs, evidenced by their countless circles before finally choosing to rest for the evening.

A dog looking very comfortable in bed

Why Do Dogs Circle Before they poop?

Dogs employ a curious behaviour when they defecate: circling. Scientists are still grappling with the reason behind this fascinating dog trait, but there is at least one interesting proposed hypothesis - a connection to Earth's magnetic field.

It has been suggested that dog circles before pooping may be an instinctive attempt to line themselves up along the earth's magnetic poles - along a north south axis. This provides dogs an orientation in respect to the physical environment and could explain their sometimes ritualized circling behaviour.

While more research needs to be done, it appears that dog circles can reveal much about their link to the Earth's electro-magnetic field.

Finding the Perfect Poop Spot

Many people may think that when a dog turns or circles around on the spot before and during a bowel movement, it's simply a funny quirk of their species.

However, there are more grounded explanations for this behaviour. It all comes down to vulnerability: the theory holds that dogs instinctively seek to align their vulnerable points (i.e. their belly) away from potential threats when in a vulnerable position, such as crouching down to defecate.

This same action can be seen in wild canids like wolves and coyotes and is an evolutionary remnant rooted in the need to protect themselves from potential predators while finding the perfect spot to do their business.

A dog in the process of spinning around

The Root of the Behaviour

Understanding dogs' behaviour starts with understanding dogs' instinctual need to circle before they do their business.

Dogs have this habit as wild dogs would use it to trample down grass and make a circle, giving them a deterrent & easier line of sight against predators that may be lurking nearby while they relieved themselves.

It may come as a surprise to discover that dogs actually have another evolutionary purpose for this behaviour: it helps them bury their waste and mark their territory. By making it easier to pass poop, release pheromones from their anal scent glands and create a visual marker of the dogs’ presence, dogs are able to stake out their territories and discourage potential intruders.

Ultimately, the root of this behaviour is an instinct inherited over thousands of years of evolution, allowing dogs to remain aware, secure, and focused on survival.

Are there other reasons why my dog may circle before laying down?

A common behaviour among dogs is spinning before they lay down. This instinctual behaviour seems to come from dogs' ancestors who used constantly turning in a single spot on grass or nature as a way to flatten out the ground and prepare it for sleeping.

While dogs sleep on a variety of surfaces, including soft beds and blankets, many still have the urge to circle when given the chance to sleep on the ground. This behaviour may also indicate that dogs are marking their area, further making them feel safe and comfortable before falling asleep.

With this evidence, it can be seen why dogs turn a few times before finally settling down – it’s just a part of their nature.

How does circling help our pet dogs?

Circling is an instinctual behaviour demonstrated by pet dogs that helps them to feel comforted and more secure. This behaviour originated in their ancestors, whose behaviours were closely aligned with their own comfort and well-being in the wild.

When a dog circles before lying down, they are creating an impression of their own bed, complete with its familiar smells, which helps comfort them during rest. This comfort also serves a practical purpose - it can provide some measure of protection from potential predators or other dangers in the environment.

Human caregivers can capitalize on this instinct by providing pet dogs with beds that are comfortable for them, as well as ensuring that those beds appear inviting and safe for the dog.

Through this understanding of circling and its importance to comfort, humans can ensure their pet dogs experience a peaceful resting space free from worries or stressors - just like their wild counterparts.

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