If you have a dog or spent any time around one, you’ve probably noticed that they like to do a couple of circles before they hunker down for a nap. You may have thought to yourself, where does this strange behavior stem from? It actually dates back to prehistoric times when dogs lived in the wild and did not have the luxuries of dog beds, or a whole side of a mattress.
When dogs lived in the wild, they often chose areas with tall grass or underbrush for their beds. This is both for comfort and safety. The best way for them to prepare a small area within the thick brush or grass was to walk around in a circle a few times, packing down the grass or brush.
This action could have also been used to rid any pests from their bed as well. By walking around a few times, snakes, rodents or bugs would run as to not be crushed. This would have helped to prevent any injury to the dog as well.
Another theory is that it was to mark territory. We know that does are very territorial animals and they have a few other ways of marking their territory. It is thought that if an area was already packed down, this would deter other dogs from making their bed too close.
You may also notice your dog “digging” or scratching at their bed. This is also an instinctual behavior that stems from the need to stay cool. In hot temperatures, the best way for a wild dog to stay cool was to surround itself with cool soil. Dogs do not have the ability to sweat so external forms of thermoregulation are necessary for their comfort.
If your dog is repeatedly circling or digging, and cannot seem to get comfortable, this may be a clue that they are suffering from a health issue. This could be arthritis, joint problems, or a neurological problem. In any case, if you are concerned that your dog is excessively circling or digging, a trip to the vet is in order.