Does your pup spin in a circle or rough up his bedding so it’s just right before he settles in for the evening? “While no one can be certain of the exact reason why canines do this, the ritual is likely a residual habit from the days when wolflike dogs lived out in the wild," says veterinary behaviorist Dr. Karen Sueda, DVM, of the VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital.
Let’s take a walk back in time! Well before dogs were man’s best friend, they were wolves living in the wild and were not at all domesticated.
These canines were wildly different than the pets or working dogs we share our homes with. These dogs had to be completely independent in finding their food and shelter. Interestingly, they were pack animals and lived in ‘family’ units, much like domesticated dogs today. They hunted, moved and even slept together.
At bedtime, these wild canines would stamp down long grasses or dirt to create a comfortable bed to lie down in. The tall grass and large rocks surrounding them offered protection from the elements and other animals. The dogs would pull the grasses around them or scratch the dirt to help regulate the temperature as well.
Ditches or caves also offered optimal protection from both the elements and predators. Many dog trainers will say that wild canines’ cave-dwelling nature supports the use of a covered crate today, drawing a comparison between a cave and the covered crate as your dog’s personal space in your home.
Another theory is that “Turning in circles before lying down is an act of self-preservation in that the dog may innately know that he needs to position himself in a certain way to ward off an attack in the wild. Some wildlife enthusiasts believe that wolves sleep with their noses to the wind so that they can quickly pick up on a threatening scent. 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.” Says Dr. Lynn Buzhardt in an article for VCA Hospitals.
While this ritual is no longer performed out of necessity (especially for a dog that sleeps in an orthopedic queen bed), it still has some benefits in helping your pup settle in for the night.
Your dog likely doesn’t have to protect him or herself (or you in the middle of the night) from an attack – unless the cat routinely pounces in the middle of the night!
While a few circles before bedtime can be a good thing, there are some circling behaviors you want to keep an eye on. If you see your dog doing any of the following behaviors, you should call the vet.
It’s okay to enjoy watching your pup perform their nightly bedtime ritual. Monitor your pet for any changes in routine, especially as they get older. Discuss these changes with your vet to make sure there is no concern about another more serious medical condition.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.
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