Why Does My Dog Circle Before Lying Down?

Your dog’s tired and it is time to lie down, but he doesn’t just curl up and lie down. Instead, he turns in circles again and again and again before finally curling up. Sometimes he even digs at the carpet before lying down. The behavior that you’re seeing is both common and natural. But just why do dogs circle before lying down?

The Origins of Circling

The circling behavior that you see is an instinct which remains even in today’s domesticated dogs. The instinct has likely been passed down from wolves, which dogs have descended from. The truth is that no one knows the one single reason behind dogs’ circling behavior. In fact, there are likely multiple reasons why your dog circles before lying down.


When your dog circles, he may be making a nest for himself. In the wild, dogs would lie down in snow or tall grasses, and this circling behavior would help to arrange the area into a comfortable nest. Much of the digging or rooting behavior that you see as your dog pushes pillows or blankets around may be his attempt in making his sleeping space as comfortable as possible.

Remember, too, that wolves lived in packs, and would lie down together. Your dog’s circling would be an effective way to mark his spot so that no other pack member claimed it.


Your dog may circle around as a protective measure, too. By circling repeatedly over a patch of grass, a wolf’s motion would scare away insects and snakes. One he finally laid down, his spot would be free of animals which could potentially hurt him.

It’s also possible that the circling behavior allowed a wolf to check on the other members of the pack before lying down. For wolf packs, there was safety in numbers, and circling around would reassure a wolf that his other pack members were close by.


Dogs may also circle around in an effort to regulate their temperatures. In cold temperatures, dogs will make themselves deep nests in the snow and will curl up into a small ball to keep warm. In warmer temperatures, dogs may circle about and push as much bedding away as possible before flopping down in a stretched out position. This position helps to keep them cool in the heat.

So, while your dog’s repeated circling may drive you crazy, know that there are several potential reasons behind it. After all, your dog is just listening to his instincts and doing what he thinks he should do.