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Why Do Dogs Walk in Circles Before Lying Down? 3 Reasons for This Behavior

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on April 15, 2024 by Dogster Team

labrador puppy sleeping in bed

Why Do Dogs Walk in Circles Before Lying Down? 3 Reasons for This Behavior

Have you noticed that your dog almost always circles an area before they decide to lie down? If so, you’re far from alone in noticing this. It’s an extremely common behavior for dogs, but what does it mean and why do they do it?

There are a few evolutionary reasons dogs circle an area before they decide to lie down, and the reason your dog does it could be any of these reasons or a combination of them all.

It’s likely not something you need to worry about, but if your dog’s behavior starts to drastically change then you’ll want to take notice.

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The 3 Likely Reasons Why Dogs Walk in Circles Before Lying Down

1. Self-Preservation

If you had to pick out one reason dogs walk in circles before lying down, this is it. In the wild, sleeping is one of the most dangerous activities a dog does. When they sleep, they’re not keeping watch of their surroundings, so getting one last look at everything around them before lying down is an essential thing to do.

While your dog doesn’t need to do that now, and they certainly don’t feel like they need to, it’s just a part of their instincts. It’s not something they’re even actively thinking about when they do it, and they’re not doing it because they expect a predator to come into your home.

They do it because it’s a hardwired feature they have, and it’s likely the reason your dog walks in circles just about every time they go to lie down.

weimaraner resting on couch
Image Credit: Meghan Huberdeau, Shutterstock

2. Getting Comfortable

When you get into bed one of the first things you do is adjust your pillows and blankets. Often, it’s not that they’re even in the wrong spot, it’s that you didn’t put them in that spot. You’ll fluff the pillows a bit and reposition the blankets before going to sleep.

Your dog doesn’t use their hands to do this, but they can prepare the area by walking around it for a bit and getting everything where they want it. In the wild, walking in circles allows them to tamp down grass and leaves and get a comfortable bed.

Modern dogs don’t need to tamp down leaves and grass, but they still might want to tamp down their blanket and bedding to get it right where they want it. And just like we might reposition things even when they’re in the right spot already, your dog might decide to do the same thing.

beagle dog sleeping on pillow
Image By: Przemek Iciak, Shutterstock

3. Temperature Regulation

In the wild, your dog doesn’t have all the modern conveniences they get in your home. When they circle around, they pick out a spot where they can get into a compact ball while they sleep. They do this to conserve body heat, which is a pretty important thing to do when outdoors!

Of course, your dog doesn’t need to curl up like this in a temperature-controlled home, but it’s still a part of their instincts. This is why you’ll often find your dog curling up in a tight ball when they lay down only to sprawl out into a more comfortable position after lying there for a bit.

dachshund curled up in a ball on a knitted blanke
Image By: ollytheoutlier, Shutterstock

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When You Should Worry About a Dog Circling Before Lying Down

When it comes to when you should worry about your dog’s behavior before lying down, it all comes down to sudden shifts in behavior. If you notice your dog is circling significantly more or not at all when they did it all the time before, that could be a sign of a deeper problem.

Things like osteoarthritis might lead to more circling since your dog can’t get comfortable, or your dog might suffer from an obsessive-compulsive disorder that’s getting out of hand.

Of course, if your dog has an injury that makes it painful for them to circle, they might stop completely, even though they want to!

When it comes to this type of behavior, it’s best to trust your gut. If you suspect that something is wrong, there’s a good chance there is. At the very least, you should take your dog to a vet to rule out any potential concerns.

The worst-case scenario with this is that they get an unnecessary wellness check, but if they need to go to the vet and you don’t take them, this could have more serious long-term implications.

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Dogs are creatures of habit and you’re likely not going to get them to stop circling before lying down. But there’s really no reason to try and get them to stop, just like there’s no reason for you to stop shifting your pillows and blankets after you lie down.

Let your pup get comfortable before lying down, even if there’s no real good reason for them to do it anymore!

Featured Image Credit: Lucy Spiers Photography, Shutterstock

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