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Why Dogs Turn Around Three Times Before Lying Down

By: Alex Lieber

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According to American humorist Robert Benchley, a dog teaches a boy three things: fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down.

If you've ever wondered why dogs turn around several times before flopping down on the floor, the answer is simple genetics. They've been genetically programmed to trample their sleeping areas in the wild so that the grass is tamped down to make a comfortable resting place.

Although your dog have the finest dog bed money can buy, he still feels the urge to circle before lying down, even in the comfort of the modern home. It's nature at work. Nature is the reason dogs gobble their food. The most successful survivors were able to eat fast before other members of the pack could grab a share. Wild dog cousins didn't know when his next meal would come, so being the fastest gorger was a real advantage.

A fair question to ask is whether these innate traits will ever disappear? The answer is, only if we want them to. The natural evolution of dogs has been superseded by centuries of deliberate breeding. Dogs exhibiting strong retrieving instincts, high intelligence, and friendliness, for example, have been selectively bred with other dogs showing the same traits to create the retrievers of today. Likewise, undesirable traits can be bred out of dogs, if we so desire.

Because there's no reason to eliminate the habit of turning around three times before lying down, dogs will probably keep making sure their doggy beds are tamped down to their satisfaction, even though the practice is now unnecessary.

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