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Why Do Dogs Spin or Walk Around in a Circle Before Lying Down?

Here’s why some dogs circle before lying down.

Does your dog walk around in a circle for a while before he lies down, making you feel a little dizzy when you watch him? Many dogs perform this circling ritual before settling in, and there's an easy explanation for the behavior.

Circling Before Lying Down Is Innate Behavior

The probable reason why many dogs spin around or circle before they lie down is that their ancestors did so in the wild. Being warm and cozy while they slept would have been a major goal of outdoor canids, and stomping around in an area of grass would create a more level, softer surface for lying on. If the area was covered in snow or leaves, circling would similarly soften and level the spot.

Once the area is level and as soft as the dog can make it, he might do a little digging in the center (which could be his dog bed when he lives inside). Making a small hole to lie in can keep an outdoor dog cooler or warmer depending on the weather.

Curling up is another behavior that is left over from your dog's ancestors: "Why Do Dogs Curl up to Sleep?"

When Circling Behavior Is Worrisome

While circling and doing a little digging before settling in for a nap can be normal for many dogs, there are times when this behavior can indicate a medical problem.

  • If this is brand new behavior in an older dog, there may be some discomfort causing it. Sore joints, a painful abdomen, or back pain can cause a dog to be reluctant to lie down, resulting in restless circling or getting back up immediately after lying down.
  • If the circling seems compulsive and is not confined to the time period just before your dog lies down, a neurological problem might be the cause.
  • If the circling is accompanied by a tilted head or vomiting, it could indicate vestibular disease or a neurologic issue.

In the above situations, you should take your dog to the veterinarian right away.

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Vestibular Syndrome in Dogs

Why Do Some Dogs Curl up in a Ball When They Go to Sleep?

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