Why Do Dogs Turn Around Multiple Times Before Lying Down?

4 min read
Why Do Dogs Turn Around Multiple Times Before Lying Down? - Animals Matter, Inc.

Every dog owner has watched their dog move from one chair to the next trying to find a place to land. You've watched them dig at their beds or blankets for that oh-so-perfect spot. You've wondered why dogs spin before they poop, especially in the middle of a cold winter. Blame their ancestors.

Much of your dog's behavior comes from a time when they were undomesticated. As they struggled to survive, these wild canids developed self-preservation instincts that have been passed down through generations, even if the behaviors aren't necessary. And those behaviors lead to an interesting phenomenon. Many dogs spin before they lay down for a nap.

Why Do Dogs Spin 3 Times Before Lying Down?

Technically, dogs twirl any number of times before lying down. It doesn't matter if they've slept in the same bed for years, they may still need to find that sweet spot for sleep. Like their owners, dogs have times when it's difficult to get comfortable enough to sleep. And like other animals, a dog's comfort has a lot to do with security.

Dog behaviorists suggest that turning in circles is an evolutionary behavior passed down through generations of canines and their ancestors. It is an act of self-preservation and may be performed for multiple reasons.

Smelling a Scent

Scents carry on the wind. As wild canids such as coyotes, foxes, or wolves, were bedding down, they would circle to determine which way the wind was blowing. They would then rest facing the wind to detect possible predators heading their way.

Protecting the Pack

Dogs are pack animals and come together to protect every member of their pack. Pack leaders could ensure that all members were accounted for by a quick 360-turn before settling in for the night. A few more dog spins might show a threat on the horizon -- either to the pack or stragglers.

Making a Nest

By circling, dogs can flatten grasses, remove sticks, and dig up stones, making for a more comfortable space to sleep. They may use the nest as a way to claim the space from other pack members. Making a nest can also expose snakes and insects that might pose a threat to their health.

Creating a Den

Denning describes dog behavior where animals create shelters to protect against the elements. Dogs circle to move snowbanks for better protection. They dig holes to reach cooler ground when temperatures soar. Dog twirls can clear spaces under trees when they need to get out of the rain.

Getting Comfortable

Domesticated dogs don't need to check for predators or prepare for weather extremes. However, they do need to satisfy those animal instincts before settling down for the night. If your dog's body language indicates that the circling might be more than satisfying an ancient ritual, you may want to look at their beds. Depending on the size and age of the dog, you may want a thicker or thinner base. For dogs with arthritis, orthopedic beds can help them get a better night's sleep.

Why Do Dogs Spin Before Pooping Too?

Dogs spin before pooping for many of the same reasons they twirl before settling down. They may be looking for predators or spreading their scents. Some researchers suggest that dogs twirl to align with the earth's magnetic field. So what are the most common theories of why dogs spin before pooping?

Aligning with the Earth's Magnetic Field

Researchers from the Czech University of Life Sciences and the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany studied 37 dog breeds over two years to determine if the Earth's geomagnetic field determined where dogs pooped. The results were published in 2014. According to their observations, dogs preferred to poop and pee in a north-south direction. The dogs never pooped in an east-west direction. The researchers did not provide any theories as to why north-south was preferred.

Protecting Themselves

Dogs are vulnerable when they poop just like they are vulnerable when they sleep. Dogs spin to find a place that provides solid footing and to check for possible threats. They may be trying to chase insects or snakes away from the area to poop in peace.

Spreading Their Scent

Dogs like to mark their territory. When they poop, they also release scent markers to indicate this is their place. Dogs may even circle to pick up the scent of other animals that have been in the area. sometimes a dog's body language can tell you whether they are marking or finding a familiar smell.

How Does Your Dog Pick Where to Sleep?

Dogs live in a nose-first world. Picking a place to sleep starts with how it smells. Usually, they want to sleep where you are, but that's not always the best option for a good night's sleep. Giving your canine friends a bed of their own means they can be close to you but not interrupt your sleep.

With their own bed, dogs can choose to sleep on the floor when they get too warm or snuggle into the bed when temperatures drop.


Do most dogs spin before lying down?

Yes. Most dogs spin before lying down, although they may not do it every time. Should your dog's body language hint at a physical problem, check where your pet sleeps. Dogs that spin excessively may be having difficulty getting comfortable. If their movements are slow or appear painful, consult a veterinarian.

Does your dog carefully pick a spot to sleep?

If your dogs seem to take forever to find a place to nap, they may be searching for that "just right" place that is not too hot or not too cold. They may be searching for a location that satisfies their instincts for a secure place to sleep. Consider investing in an orthopedic dog bed or dog pillows that are comfortable and warm.

Why doesn't my dog like sleeping with me?

Dogs sleep where they are most comfortable. Dogs are like little furnaces, generating heat on the hottest nights of the year. That can make sleeping uncomfortable for both you and your pet. The dog's size can make sharing a bed impossible. Great Danes and large Mastiffs need a space of their own.

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