Dogs have been man's best friend since prehistoric times, evolving after the domestication of the wolf. Many owners of the animal have observed the peculiar circling behavior they do before they settle in bed (or on the sofa or carpet.), seemingly fluffing it up before they settle down. But did you know the above fact was the reason why they do this? Chances are, probably not. Here’s the lowdown on why Buddy is constantly turning in circles.
Despite the fact that most of our household pets have been domesticated for many generations and seemingly have lost touch with their wild ancestors, this is one of the few traits that has remained. This type of behavior, according to dog behavior specialists is a hardwired trait that was drilled into the dog’s ancestors as a way to build a safe nest each night to sleep in. Still even today, wild dogs all across the world use the act of turning in circles to pat down tall grass and underbrush to create a comfortable bed for them and their pups each night.
Also called the “rounding ritual”, it not only serves as a bed making technique but also as a safety precaution. For wild dogs, this act of trampling down the grass and underbrush drives out any snakes or large insects hiding in the weeds. Yet another purpose of this rounding ritual is to effectively mark out one dog’s territory from the next. In the wild, this kind of flattening behavior shows other dogs that the spot is claimed and not to go near it.
There are other reasons for why your dog is turning in circles before they lay down. This includes the animal's attempts to deal with weather. In the wild, dogs will dig holes in the soil to cool themselves on a hot day. Domesticated dogs are just mimicking this behavior because inside human homes, temperature is usually moderate and controlled. Another reason could be excitement. This is usually evident in very compulsive dogs, who upon seeing you home from work will get so excited that they just spin and spin in circles.
A third explanation: this one applies to a dog circling before using the bathroom is that dogs actually have a “butt magnet”. Dogs can sense the Earth’s magnetism and prefer to do their business in a certain direction. Generally, they like to align their bodies along the North-South axis, but sometimes with an unstable magnetic field, this just isn’t possible, hence the turns. Therefore, they are known to turn in circles again and again, testing a spot before deciding to pop a squat.
For domesticated dogs, this really isn’t true of all their rounding behavior, it just explains the origin of their behavior. Now, dogs in the home are completely accustomed to sleeping on carpets, cushions or a dog bed, but that hardwired trait from their ancestors still remains and is practiced, each and every night.