Why Do Dogs Spin in a Circle Before Laying Down?

Dogs come from a long line of wild canine ancestors who had to sleep outside every night. Fortunately, since dogs have been domesticated, they now have comfortable, warm beds for dozing.

When a dog turns in circles before laying down, they are just satisfying an old instinct. They may be looking for threatening animals or predators. Your pup may also declare that their bed belongs to them and no one else. 

Of course, your dog may just be trying to get comfortable, or a health issue could be involved. Check out this article to know why dogs spin in a circle before lying down.

Dog spins before they lay down in Matthews, NC

Why Do Dogs Spin in a Circle Before They Lie Down?

Have you ever seen your dog spin in a circle before lying down? It is a commonly observed behavior in pups, and many people wonder why they do this. Dogs will often dig a deep, imaginary hole in their bed and then turn around two or three times in a circle before lying down. There are a few possible reasons why they may be displaying this behavior.

Their Wild Instincts

Dogs have not always been domesticated. Dogs were once wild creatures, and their ancestors often spun around in a circle before lying down for the night. Wolves and coyotes would do this because of their survival instincts. Turning around in a circle lets them take one last look for any predators who may be roaming around before they settle down for the night.

Circling can also help a dog establish the direction of the wind so they can position their nose and catch a good whiff of any threatening scent lingering in the air, even when they are sleeping. A sleeping pup may be vulnerable to an attack, so they must be prepared. Dogs are on the lookout for:

  • Insects
  • Lions
  • Lizards
  • Snakes
  • Spotted hyenas

If a dog sensed the presence of a predator, they would be able to drive them away. Circling before lying down would also allow them to check on their pack and ensure that everyone in their group was still there.

The pups were concerned about their family members and checked for safety purposes. Pack animals have an increased chance of survival when they are together. The instinctive behavior is still a part of your dog’s psyche.

Circling before lying down was also a way for the animal to claim their space. This message can be sent through both action and scent. Dogs have scent glands on their paws, which can help them communicate. Rubbing their scent around their sleeping area may also give them a sense of security.

Comfortable Sleeping Conditions

In the wild, when dogs would spin around in a circle before sleeping, it was a way to become comfortable. They could flatten the grass, which served as their bed, clear away snow, or pat down leaves to create a level surface.

Dogs would also control their body temperature by scratching an area on the ground, digging cool soil to sleep in for the hotter months, and digging deeper to preserve their body heat and sleep in when the colder months arrived. Domesticated dogs will walk in a circle before they sleep because they want to get in the most comfortable position possible.

Dogs are like humans because they may want their pillows a certain way. To relax and go to sleep, they want to find the best position to rest. Your dog may spin to pat the pillow’s surface or bed down to make it even. If your dog is pregnant, she may become protective of her bedding because she is preparing for her babies to come.

She may pull her bed to an area that she feels is more appropriate for her to give birth and nurse her pups. She takes pride in seeing that her little ones are safe and comfortable, much like how humans feel about their babies. It is normal behavior for a pregnant pooch.

Dogs Are Creatures of Habit

Like humans, dogs have created bedtime rituals they practice every night or when they nap. Your pup circling before lying down is the equivalent of us reading a book in bed or having some chamomile tea. Dogs will follow their routine.

They must do a timeless bedtime ritual, which is a bit compulsive. However, it is often said that some dogs must do this to prepare for bed. If they do not do it, they may not be able to get restful sleep. It is a familiar and comforting part of their natural routine.

Can Circling Before Lying Down Be Concerning?

In some cases, if your dog is spinning excessively, it could mean that they are in pain. They could have sore joints or abdomen or back pain. If your dog’s circling includes a tilted head or vomiting, it could be a neurological issue. If you do this, get your dog to the vet as soon as possible.

Health Can Be An Issue

A vet visit is essential when your pup is consistently circling, and you have never seen this behavior. When your dog is circling or pacing, it could be a sign of anxiety, ear infection, or liver damage. Circling can also be brought on by:

  • Cognitive Dysfunction
  • Brain Tumor

You should not overlook any of the above; get that pup to the vet as soon as possible.

What Can I Do to Help My Dog Sleep Better?

Dogs love their little doggie routines, but sometimes they could use a little help. That is the benefit that dogs have now that they did not have long ago: human companionship. Your pup may need you to help them settle down for the night and get better sleep. The following include some ways you can accomplish this:

  • Snuggle time with your dog to help them feel safe and loved
  • Give your dog a calming treat each night before bedtime
  • Give your pup a nice, warm, and comfortable bed
  • Give them a cuddle toy to feel secure

You can also get an all-natural calming spray and spray it on your pup’s cuddle toy for an extra loving touch. Combining all these wonderful ideas with your dog’s natural bedtime routine will make your pup feel extra secure and happy.


It is perfectly normal if your dog circles a couple of times before lying down. Dogs have evolved from their wild ancestry of sleeping in the wilderness, and now most dogs have their cozy bed to turn around in circles before they go off to slumber. If the activity is new onset, check with your vet.

For more information about reasons your dog is circling before they lay down, or if your dog needs to see a veterinarian, contact our team at Caring Hearts Animal Hospital. We’ll make sure to check if your dog has an underlying condition and help develop a treatment plan tailored to your pet’s needs. Make an appointment for your dog by calling us at (704) 893-2799 or by scheduling an appointment online.