We’ve all seen it: our dog pacing desperately in circles before finding that perfect spot to lie down. It’s common among almost all dogs as a pre-bed ritual, but why?
The practice of circling has been a tradition of good boys since ancient times, and is hardwired into their behaviour. For wild dogs, circling before resting for the night is a practical, and in some cases, life-saving habit.
Unlike the domesticated pooches of the 21st century, wild dogs used to (and still do) have to make their own beds. The circling is suspected to help them flatten grass and surrounding vegetation to make a more comfortable resting place. Furthermore, it also disturbed any potential threats (such as insects or snakes) away from the chosen spot.
Although it is hard to determine experimentally, scientists suspect that there may be a social element to this behaviour as well. Wild dogs travel in packs, and as a result have developed strict social hierarchies. By circling the spot in which they intended to sleep, dogs “mark their territory”, with the higher ranking good boys having choice of the prime spots in the pack’s sleeping arrangements This is effectively the dog form of calling “shotgun” at bedtime.
Despite the complete domestication of the modern day pooch, we’re still not sure why we can’t breed out this behaviour. Now however, you’ll know that every time your pampered pooch circles for the night they’re paying tribute to their wild ancestors.
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