Why Do Dogs Spin in Circles? - Understand this Canine Behavior

Why Do Dogs Spin in Circles?

Why Do Dogs Spin in Circles? 

If you're a dog parent, you've probably witnessed your furry friend spinning in circles before lying down or even when they're just standing around. At first glance, this behavior might seem quirky or an endearing part of their personality, but it can also be a new behavior in an adult or senior dog with potential medical causes related to dog walking, such as serious medical issues like dog dementia. Like most dog behaviors, there's often more to the story than meets the eye.

Here are the 7 Reasons behind this dog behavior

#1 Primal Instincts

Dogs have been our companions for thousands of years. Still, before they were domesticated, they had to fend for themselves in the wild. When wild canines such as wolves or foxes prepare to sleep, they often walk around a chosen spot to pat down the grass, leaves, or snow to create a comfortable sleeping nook. 

This circling behavior also serves to scare away pests and set up a visible sign that the spot is taken. Today's domesticated pooches have inherited this behavior, even if they're only about to nap on a plush bed.

#2 Checking for Safety

When a dog spins in circles, it's also checking its surroundings from all angles. This ensures that the area is safe from predators or threats. Even in the safety of your home, this instinctual behavior remains.

#3 Territorial Behavior

Canines have scent glands in their paws. Walking in a circle and pressing down on the ground, they're marking their territory, letting other animals know this is their spot.

#4 Medical Concerns

In some cases, frequent and obsessive circling can indicate a health issue. This can range from ear infections, where the pooch feels an imbalance or discomfort, to more severe conditions like Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (similar to dementia in humans).

If your dog starts to circle more than usual or seems disoriented, it's essential to consult with a veterinarian.

#5 Chasing Their Tails

Puppies often discover their tails and might chase them out of sheer curiosity. While it's cute and often harmless, excessive tail chasing in older dogs can sometimes indicate a behavioral issue, boredom, or even a skin problem that's causing itchiness.

#6 Anticipation or Excitement

Some dogs will spin when they're excited or anticipate something pleasurable, like the promise of a treat or a walk. This behavior is simply an expression of their enthusiasm.

#7 Compulsive Behavior

Just like humans, canines can develop compulsive behaviors. Continuous circling without any apparent reason can be a sign of this, including an inner ear infection. It can stem from anxiety, past trauma, or even boredom. If you suspect your dog's circling is a sign of a compulsive disorder, including uncontrolled twitching and loss of consciousness in bathroom accidents, as well as an excess of appetite, thirst, and urination, it's best to consult a vet or a canine behaviorist.


Why Do Dogs Spin in circles before they lay down? - Is it a bedtime regime?

Dog behavioral experts have hypothesized that dogs walk in circles before lying down because their ancestors – wild dogs and wolves – needed to prepare their beds independently. Before we brought dogs inside our homes and offered up sofas, our beds, twigs, and fluffy dog beds for their comfort, they were forced to find a place to rest wherever they could, often with their family members in a tight circle to conserve body heat.

Turning in circles helped them push down tall grasses to make a softer surface. Also, it helped eliminate annoyances like snakes, small animals, rocks, and other things that might cause discomfort.

In 2016, one researcher performed a study in which he invited 62 pet owners to bring their fidos to test whether they still do this behavior to make their beds more comfortable. 

They gave 31 of the dogs a smooth, comfortable piece of carpet as a bed. They gave the others a lumpy, haphazardly placed piece of carpet as a bed. Their results showed, "On the smooth surface, roughly one out of every five dogs (19%) turned at least one full circle before lying down in a comfortable position. On the shag-carpeted, uneven surface, more than half of the dogs (55%) turned at least one full circle before finally resting. That means to say that the dogs were nearly 3 times more likely to circle before lying down in a comfortable position on an uneven surface than on a smooth surface".

The next time you see your furry friend walking in circles before lying down, you will know that she is just making the bed just right.


Also Read: Why is my dog whining?


Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tail?

Few things are cuter in a puppy's development than when they notice their tail and try to catch it. This behavior can continue into adulthood and be a silly game. However, obsessive or frequent tail chasing can indicate a problem. 

Some dogs chase their tails in an obsessive-compulsive way because they are bored and do not receive enough physical and intellectual stimulation.

You can often alleviate their tail-chasing by taking them on more walks and adventures or taking a class to learn a new canine activity like nose work or obedience. 

Sometimes, obsessive tail chasing can be a sign of a medical problem, so pet owners should consult their veterinarian if adding exercise does not solve it.


Also Read: Why is dog humping?


Why Do Dogs Spin Before Pooping?

It’s Potty Time

When it’s potty time, you might notice your dog spinning in circles before they finally decide on the perfect spot. This behavior is quite common among dogs and can have a few different explanations. One reason could be that your pet uses their sense of smell to find the best spot to go potty.

By circling, they can pick up different scents from the surrounding area and choose the ideal location with cooler soil. Another reason could be that it’s simply an instinct for dogs to circle before going potty, as it helps them create a comfortable and safe space to relieve themselves and alert potential predators to their location. Regardless of the reason, this behavior is a normal part of your dog’s potty routine.

Similar to the reasons for spinning before lying down, some canine behavioral experts attribute a dog's pre-poop turning as a smart way to survey the surroundings for safety before squatting down. This behavior is also believed to be a way for dogs to avoid any surprise attacks while in a vulnerable posture. Others think it is to get a 360-degree view of their environment and possible predators before becoming involved in a bowel movement.

One group of researchers, though, did some interesting work that suggests that dogs spin around to align themselves north to south when defecating.

They studied 70 dogs and watched them poop 1,800 times and found that dogs prefer to poop on a north-south axis when magnetic fields were calm and did not seem to have a preference when the magnetic field was unstable.

This indicates that dogs are connected to the earth's energy and changes in it, which is pretty cool to even dog owners who are not into the science of it so much as they just think their dogs are awesome and intuitive.

Many fidos spin circles before pooping or sleeping. In this case, there's nothing to worry about. However, some dogs may constantly circle to ignore food or sleep. Here, they need a thorough veterinary examination. Training, Medications for anti-anxiety, and behavior transformation – may be much needed.


So, Why do dogs spin in circles? - The Bottom-line

In conclusion, dogs spinning in circles is a behavior rooted in their instincts and influenced by various factors, including excitement, territorial marking, automatic nesting habits, and crate spinning. This amusing quirk can also be a way for pups to communicate their needs or feelings, as seen in the offered behavior of spinning in response to training from a certified professional dog trainer.

While generally harmless, pet owners need to observe if the spinning becomes excessive or seems driven by discomfort, as it might indicate underlying health issues.

Understanding the reasons behind this circular dance, or spinning circle, as it is often the first thing dogs offer in response to training, not only deepens our appreciation of our canine companions' behaviors but also ensures their well-being and happiness.