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Nesting Dogs

January 5, 2016

A listener asks why dogs sometimes turn around in circles before lying down.



Video: Many dogs circle before lying down, or even create more elaborate nests, like the producer’s dog Mango. (Susanne C. Bard)


Rotating canines. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Science Update listener Bob Stephenson wrote us with this Why Is It? question: “Why do dogs spin around in a circle before they lie down?” We consulted University of British Columbia psychologist Stanley Coren, who says the circling is likely an evolutionary holdout from when dogs – and their wolf ancestors – lived out in the wild.

STANLEY COREN (University of British Columbia):

Turning around was really of sort of trampling down the grass and making the area where the dog wanted to lie down a little bit smoother and more comfortable.


In support of the hypothesis, an unusual study showed that dogs will spin around more on shaggy carpets than smooth ones before lying down. And if you have a science question, give us a call at 1-800-why-isit. That’s 1-800-949-4748. Or write to us on our website at I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.