I have observed over and over again in dogs (mine and others) that they will often walk around in a little circle, on the spot, where they are about to lie down. It's like they need to rotate a certain number of times before it's ok to lie down and curl up in a ball.

I have also noticed that they will only tend to do this, if they are going to curl up in a ball to sleep.

Why do dogs often turn around in a circle before lying down?

And is it connected to them wanting to sleep curled up?

  • 2
    Not just dogs, I've seen cats doing the same thing. Sometimes they get up again, make another 360 turn and lie down in exactly the same way as before.
    – Berend
    Jan 18, 2019 at 17:14

1 Answer 1


Nobody's exactly sure why domestic dogs do this, long after the need for it is gone (is that carpet really that much different after spinning around on it?). However, there are plenty of theories running around. I'm not sure that it's possible to know the answer for sure, or if they do it for multiple reasons, in different situations.

Here are some possible reasons that people have come up with:

  • Trampling down the grass In addition to carving out a spot in the tall grasses in the wild, the repeated stamping of the feet would also scare away snakes and other small animals, and also reveal the location of any large rocks that might be uncomfortable to sleep on.
  • Keeping cool Wild canines have been observed turning and curling after digging in the cool soil. The turning may help get their bodies in position before laying down in a tight curl to get the most out of the cool earth.
  • Testing the wind It helps the wild dog determine which way the wind is blowing so that they can sleep with their nose to the wind, alerting them to any enemies or prey.
  • Defining "mine" Dogs have a pack mindset. It's been proposed that by doing this, they are indicating that they intend to lay down in this area and are defining boundaries for the others in their pack.

Whatever the reason, it's definitely a throwback to the wild days of the prairie, and one that hasn't been necessary to select against or stamp out.