Spinners 101: Why Does My Dog Spin

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Does your dog’s behavior drive you crazy? She might shake her stuffed animals violently back and forth, “talk” back when you give her a command, or grab dinner off the table every chance she gets. Those actions have somewhat logical explanations. What about the activities that seem to have no rationalization? One of these dog habits is spinning. Some dogs spin before they lie down. Others do it when they greet new people. Is spinning normal, or is your dog just a little insane? Here are some theories that explain why dogs spin.

Securing the Area

Before dogs had loving companions to make life safe for them, they lived, hunted, and slept in packs. They couldn’t just flop down on a couch at night, confident that they were safe from predators. Some experts think that dogs would turn around before they went to sleep to get a good look at their surroundings. If they sensed danger, they could address it before closing their eyes. Herding dogs might be trying to get a sense of everyone’s location before they relax.

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Getting Comfortable

Another theory is that dogs turn around incessantly to create a nest for themselves. This activity could help them inspect the ground for uncomfortable rocks or twigs. It might also pat down tall vegetation to create a comfy bed out in the wilderness. When my dog is spinning in circles before she goes to sleep, she looks like she’s trying to scope out the most comfortable way to sprawl out across my legs under the covers. Perhaps she’s trying to figure out where my feet are so that she can plop on top of them. Pregnant pups may do this as natural maternal canine behavior to create a nest before she delivers her babies.

While there is not a great deal of research on this subject, one dog expert set up his own small study to explore why dogs spin before sitting. He set up an area that had either a smooth carpet or a rug with uneven lumps underneath it and sent dogs in to hang out for 15 minutes. The dogs were three times more likely to circle before sitting on the bumpy surface than on the flat one. This doesn’t prove that seeking out a comfortable position is the only reason why dogs spin before sitting, but it supports the theory.

Another way that some breeds get comfortable when hitting the hay is by covering their faces with their tails. You’ll notice this in cold-weather species, like huskies. These dogs have fluffy tails, which protect them from biting winds and snow. Even though you’re probably not letting your dog sleep outside in icy weather, she carries this trait from her ancestors. Rotating before she settles down helps her maintain her warm position more easily.

Staking Their Claim

According to Live Science, wild dogs might have circled an area to make a visible mark. This would have been a sign to other dogs that this spot was taken. It would have also made it hard for vermin, like snakes and rodents, to hide in the area and bite the dog while she slept. Did you ever think that your dog is turning in circles on your mattress to show you that it’s no longer your territory?

Protecting The Pack

In the wild, canines often slept with the pack. This provided body heat and helped protect the animals. Sleeping in a tight circle helps distribute warmth to every animal. When they’re curled up, the animals can still spring up if they need to act quickly. They wouldn’t be able to do that if they were lounging on top of each other. Turning before settling down can help the dogs form a tighter bundle.

Letting Out Some Excitement

Some dogs can’t contain themselves when they’re happy. If your dog turns in circles when you walk through the door, she’s telling you that she’s super excited. She doesn’t know whether she wants to wag her tail, lick you, jump up to get closer to you, or press her body into your legs. Therefore, she does everything at once, which can end up looking like a frantic spin.


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