Does your dog stare at you while you're fluffing your pillow before sleep? They might be trying to figure out why you do this strange ritual, kind-of in the same way we watch them circle before plopping down for a snooze. Ever stop and ask yourself why they do this? It's a little bizarre, especially since it's a behaviour that's not breed specific. All dogs do it. And they've been doing it since they first started hanging out with us thousands of years ago.
Thankfully the answer can be found by taking a gander at their wild cousins.
Wolves, foxes, coyotes and other wild canines, unlike our domestic friends, do not have the luxury of soft and cozy beds in the wilderness. It's purely instinctual - they know how to make a sleeping area comfortable.
Instead of cotton or down, they have to make the best of snow, dirt or grass. Unless they have the protection of a den, they have to sleep out in the open. It's also a method of claiming territory for themselves. Even though they are social creatures and will sleep very tightly together, by circling a particular area, the wild dog is saying "finders keepers, this is my spot".
If your pet paws or scratches at the surface before lying down also, it's a similar action related to increasing comfort. Canines who historically manage extreme heat would dig a small hole (think desert foxes) which would help reduce their body temperature thanks to the newly exposed cooler soil. In cold temperatures, digging a hole would help them retain their body heat.
However, pay special attention to your pet if the circling last abnormally long, or if they get up, and try it again. Even though this behaviour serves little purpose for our domestic pets (since the value of the actions are gone), it can still provide us with information if there is a problem. If prolonged and repetitive circling is an issue, it could be a sign of a neurological disorder or arthritis. Restlessness could be a sign of a problem that would need the attention of a vet.
So next time you see your pet do this oh-so-cute circling maneuver, smile at the fact you're witnessing nature's power working in your living room...or bedroom...or kitchen...or.....anywhere in your house.
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