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Here’s Why Dogs Walk in a Circle Before Lying Down

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Dogs do many things that don’t make sense to us humans (enjoying a delightful afternoon snack of poop, for example), but if you remember that our domesticated pets are descended from wolves…their behavior may make a bit more sense. After all, they once had entirely different, feral lives.

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Take, for example, how dogs turn around and around in circles before seeming to find the perfect spot to settle in for a nice nap or snuggle down for the night. It seems odd, since we buy them beds that look more comfortable than our own, but according to University of Colorado-Boulder sociologist Leslie Irvine, the behavior is hard-wired and dates back to the days when our dogs’ ancestors had to build a safe nest.

She explains further in her book, If You Tame Me: Understanding Our Connection With Animals, that wild dogs had to pat down tall grass and underbrush to make a comfortable bed for themselves and their young. They prepared the area by walking in a circle over and over.

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“In the wild, the circling would flatten grasses or snow and would drive out any snakes or large insects. I have also heard that circling the area and thus flattening it leaves a visible sign to other dogs that this territory has been claimed.”

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Even though our pups are safe and sound and comfortable in our homes, the behavior continues. It’s part of their dogginess, so let them be – it makes them feel even better about snoozing safely at our side.