The evolutionary reason why dogs walk in circles before lying down

Originally published at:


Some enterprising soul should apply for a grant from large pet supply corporations to quantify the eternal question: are there more clockwise or counterclockwise dog pre-lying-down circlings (For standardization: counterclockwise depicted with this fine posting). A subsequent grant would then be sought to see how this correlates with magnetic field alignment during the dog pre-pooping circling. (replies to the Coriolis effect and north/south hemispheres shall remain an occupational hazard)


I’d thought for a long time that it was a pattern carried over from mashing down grass to make a bed.

The self defense angle is interesting. I wonder if that’s why my dog will run back and forth across the yard, finally start spinning, and then pooping in the same place that he ends up pooping 90% of the time?


Far be it from me to say that Southern Living isn’t the best place for evolutionary biology findings, or that a vet from Zachary that doesn’t study evolutionary biology might not be an expert, but this is almost certainly bullshit.


Yeah, maybe. However, just as with all pop evopsych, we will never know why that really evolved.


Cats do it too, which suggests that the true reason will never be known.


An addendum to the study could be evaluating triggers for change of direction. (My dog will sometimes circle one direction, stop, then do the full routine in the other direction.)


At least @pesco wins the prizes for the most interesting headline, the cutest gif, and the most BBesque post for the whole day.

Just FTR, a hell lot of evolutionary ethology is just what you said. And you are quite gentle with your wording.


IIRC, it explained in this show - and done for superstitious reasons. After tossing in bed, a dog jumps up and walks in a circle saying, “Before bed turn once around, or else you’ll wind up in the pound.”


I have it on good authority that this was peer reviewed in not one but TWO Starbucks locations.

[Holds up two fingers]
[Sips 40 ounce frapachino]



Wait, where are there open Starbucks locations?


This might have been news maybe 50 or 200 years ago, but not now. THese guys really think they worked out something new?

if you are about to lay down in a field or woods, probably good idea to do a last second check for sneks

what’s interesting about this though is unless genetic memory is somehow real, that means thousands of evolutionary “fails” had to happen where they sadly died off because they -didn’t- do the circle and the circlers survived?


They’ve gone speakeasy. Need to know the password.

Joking aside, my dad just told me the Mexican restaurant near him just got busted for running a secret lounge/restaurant during the shutdown.

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I just figured they inherited the trait from their distant common ancestor with the helicopter.


Pitiful. An “evolutionary” explanation, yet evolution does no work at all. Yes, we all must worry about predators before bedding down, but what leads dogs in particular to do this thing the rest of us (not me, anyway) do not? How has this behavior evolved over time, or perhaps evolved in response to the uniquely doggy features of our best friends? Speculation dressed up as science, using highfalutin pseudo-scientific lingo…


The self defense aspect might make sense if dogs ever did it while looking up, instead of always looking down at their feet the entire time. You are certainly right, it’s instinctual grass flattening. A dog could look in 360° by just turning its head twice.

Dingos always circle counter-clockwise before accepting a babysitter job.


There was a study a while back finding dogs spin around to find the north/south axis before they do their doggie business:

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Perhaps a case of Canine OCD?


You got had.