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Why Do Dogs Circle Before Lying Down?

Read time: 4 mins

06 Sep 2023

When we think about our furry companions, we often marvel at their quirky behaviours and wonder what goes on inside their four-legged minds. One such puzzling behaviour is when dogs circle before lying down, commonly referred to as "nesting."

Dog Circling Before Lying Down, AKA Nesting

It's a familiar sight for dog owners, but have you ever wondered why they do it? In this article, we'll delve into the fascinating world of dog behaviour and explore the reasons behind this peculiar ritual. So, sit back (or rather, lie down) and join us as we uncover the mystery of why dogs circle before settling in for a snooze.

What Does It Mean When a Dog is Nesting?

Imagine this: Your furry friend walks over to their favourite spot, whether it's a cosy dog bed, a plush carpet, or even your couch. Instead of plopping down immediately, they start circling the area. This circular dance might involve pawing at the ground, nudging objects, and generally making a fuss before finally curling up and resting. 

So, what's the deal with this behaviour?

Ingrained instincts

One of the primary reasons dogs circle before lying down can be traced back to their ancestral roots. In the wild, canines had to create a comfortable and safe resting place. By circling and patting down the area, they were essentially "prepping" their sleeping spot. This instinctual behaviour ensured that there were no hidden surprises, like rocks or twigs, that could disrupt their slumber.

Temperature control

Dogs are highly attuned to their surroundings, and this includes temperature regulation. When they circle, they might be trying to find the perfect position to maintain their body temperature. By making a shallow depression in the ground or their bedding, they can adjust their body position to either cool down or stay warm, depending on the weather.

Safety and security

Nesting behaviour also ties into a dog's need for safety and security. In the wild, circling helped flatten the grass or leaves around their resting spot, making it less conspicuous to potential predators. Even in the comfort of our homes, this instinctual behaviour lingers, as dogs seek to create a sense of safety and comfort in their chosen spot.

Marking their territory

Dogs have scent glands in their paws, and as they circle, they might be releasing pheromones onto the surface they're about to lie on. This subtle marking could serve multiple purposes, including claiming the spot as their own or communicating with other dogs in the household.

Mental stimulation

Believe it or not, the act of circling can provide some mental stimulation for our canine companions. It's a form of self-soothing and can help them relax before settling down for a nap. This behaviour allows them to release pent-up energy and anxiety, almost like a little ritual before bedtime.

Do All Dogs Circle Before They Lay Down?

Now that we've explored why dogs engage in nesting behaviour, you might be wondering if every dog does this. The answer is not a straightforward "yes" or "no." While circling before lying down is a common behaviour, it can vary from one dog to another and depends on several factors.


Some breeds are more prone to nesting behaviour than others. For instance, terriers and hounds are known to be avid nesters, while certain breeds like Greyhounds might not engage in this behaviour as frequently.


Puppies are more likely to circle before lying down than older dogs. This behaviour tends to decrease as dogs mature and become more accustomed to their surroundings.


A dog's health can also play a role in their nesting habits. If a dog is in pain or discomfort, they may circle more as they try to find a comfortable position. It's essential to monitor changes in nesting behaviour, as excessive circling or sudden changes could indicate an underlying health issue.

Environmental factors

The environment in which a dog lives can influence their nesting behaviour. A dog that spends most of its time outdoors may not circle as much as a dog that primarily resides indoors and has more specific resting spots, like a dog bed.

Individual personality

Just like humans, dogs have their unique personalities. Some may be meticulous nesters, while others might be more casual about their sleeping arrangements. It's all part of what makes them wonderfully individual.