Rochester Dad: My Daughter Wonders Why Dogs Circle Before Bed
Maybe you've noticed your dog turning around and around and around before they plop down and fall asleep. Why do they do it? That's the question Alan's daughter, Bri, wants answered.
The 7-year-old's dad sent me this email today...major points for the subject line.
And the answer? Well, there are a few. I reached out to a few Rochester, Minnesota, vets, but they were super busy, and I wanted to get this answer out asap.
a) They have to do it because their distant relatives did it to stay safe.
Dog behaviorists believe that a dog’s need to perform the bedtime ritual of turning around in circles before lying down is inherited. Canine ancestors, such as wild wolves, did the same thing, and domestic dogs retained this genetic predisposition. Evolutionary behaviors like this one are aimed at self-preservation and are strong influences that persist for generations in the animal kingdom.
b) What are they doing?
Bri, your dog is trying to position himself so he's safe in case a mountain lion, a super unpleasant cat, or a steak falls in front of him. OK, that last one's not true, but "Some wildlife biologists believe...Circling allows the wolf to determine the direction of the wind so that he can best position himself. With a quick whiff, the wolf knows that he may be in danger and is alerted for a potential attack." (VCA)
c) Is that the ONLY reason they do it?
Dogs in the wild dogs travel in packs, which is basically like traveling with your family. Sleeping outside, the pack leader might circle both to figure out which way the wind is blowing AND to check out his family...making sure they're not goofing off on their phones, and snuggled in for sleep.
d) So is Bri or her dad Alan correct?
Sorry Bri, your pop guessed one of the answers, too. Again, according to vcahospitals.com, even with the beds we supply dogs, they still like to get it just how they like it. Same if they were living in the wild.
"To make their sleeping quarters more comfortable, dogs pat down tall grass and move prickly underbrush and stickers before lying down. They root out rocks and fallen tree branches. In colder climates, dogs circle to reposition snowbanks." (VCA)
e) What if they won't stop circling?
If your dog circles constantly and has a really hard time bedding down, it could mean something is wrong. "Dogs that are in pain will circle excessively as they struggle to find a more comfortable position. They may also crouch then rise several times before completely reclining." (VCA)
Get in touch with your vet if they're excessive circlers. Rochester Minnesota Vets Found Here.
PS - You didn't ask, Bri, but just in case it's your next question; Cats circle for the same reasons. Meow.
As always, if you have a comment, complaint, or concern about something I wrote here, please let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org
Listen to James Rabe and Jessica Williams Weekday from 6 - 10 AM on Y-105 FM