Why Do Dogs Circle Before Lying Down?

When you think about hopping into bed, what comes to mind? Curling up under a blanket? Tucking yourself in? Spinning in a circle? That last one maybe not be so much for humans anyways. But your furry friend might find it essential to get a good night’s sleep. Where did this affinity for twirling come from, though?


Like a lot of dog’s weirder habits such as digging or eating poop, circling before bedtime is likely an inherited trait from their wolf ancestors.

The most likely reason dogs circle is to protect themselves. Sleeping, while a necessary function, puts wild dogs at risk of being snuck up on by a predator. Circling before getting some shut-eye is one last chance for dogs to stop, assess their surroundings, and decide if where they are is safe enough to spend the night. Some even theorize that wolves sleep with their noses facing the wind so they can pick up any scents more easily.

Though, circling allows your dog to do more than look over their shoulder. Since wild dogs lived out in the elements, they had to get creative on how to best regulate their body temperature to prevent hypo or hyperthermia. In cod environments, wild dogs curl into tight balls in an effort to conserve body heat, whereas they’d scratch away the top layer of soil to reach cooler ground to sleep on when they’re hot. These practices are a part of what’s known as “denning.”

Wild vs. Domestic Dogs

Domestic dogs obviously live very different lives than wild dogs, so spinning on a pet bed versus spinning on dirt can’t be compared too closely. Your pet likely circles to maximize comfort, similar to humans fluffing a pillow or rolling over. But the connection to their ancestors’ nighttime routine is strong and translates into their modern, comfortable lives.

Overall, circling before bedtime is a normal (and ancestral) dog behavior. Though, if you notice excessive circling, it could be a sign that your dog is experiencing pain of some sort, such as arthritis or spinal issues, which is especially common in older dogs. Be sure to contact your vet if you have any concerns about your dogs comfort level. Other than that, we wish your dog happy napping!

Abigail Kurten
Author: Abigail Kurten

Hi! My name's Abigail, and I intern as a Content Writer for DogFriendly.com. I have one dog, a chocolate lab named Riley who's the best! My favorite breed of dog is a Bulldog or Saint Bernard, though.

Leave a Comment