Yes, it is normal for dogs to spin in circles before finally finding their safest place to doze off.
The reasons could be any of the following: environmental check, nesting, body temperature, and owning their space.
As we mentioned a while ago, circling before lying down is an instinctive behavior. Wolves did this circling or spinning behavior to survive in the harsh realities of the wild.
In a nutshell, the ancestors of our fur babies would circle before lying down in order to determine the wind direction. This is very important because knowing the direction of the wind made it easier for them to locate exactly the scent of an impending attack by their enemies in the wild.
Through smell, wolves knew if they needed to run for cover to save themselves from nearby predators.
This self-preservation instinct is still very much intact even among our domesticated dogs. This behavior is more evident among those dogs that are more nervous and have a higher sense of protective instinct.
They would naturally circle themselves before lying down to make sure that it is already safe to call it a day.
You can call this behavior a protective instinct. To lessen behavior, what you can do is to place your dog in a crate where it would feel safer about its environment.
Doing so will reduce your dog’s circling behavior from which you can also benefit. Plus, admit it or not, circling behavior can sometimes be sleep disruptive to us humans.
Another reason why dogs spin in circles before they lay down is simply that they want to find the most comfortable spot on their bed.
In the wild, their ancestors did the circling behavior to check for any stones or perhaps some twigs that would make their rest uncomfortable.
The same is true for our fur babies, they spin in circles, sometimes even gathering pillows and blankets to build a comfortable nest for them to sleep on.
To Regulate Their Body Temperature
Have you noticed that your dog tends to dig a little bit more during the summer months? It’s because that’s what their ancestors did in the wild – to dig the earth so as to expose the cooler underground soil.
That said, the circling behavior is your dog’s instinctive behavior to ‘remove the topsoil’ and to ‘sleep on the cooler ground’ during hot, summer days.
The same can be said during the cold months. Dogs circle around before they curl up into a tight ball so as to conserve their body heat.
This Spot Is Mine
We all know that dogs are social animals that belong to a hierarchical pack. This bedtime circling routine was part of the rituals of their ancestors in which it identified the wolf’s place in the hierarchy.
In the case of domesticated dogs, they circle before they lay down as a way of sending the message to the other members of the pack that ‘this is my space and I am claiming it.’
Circling allows dogs to leave some scent from their paws as a way of territorial marking.
And, even if our dear Fidos now sleep on comfy cushion dog beds, circling ‘flattens’ the spot thus, leaving a visible sign to others that this space has been taken. This is an instinctual behavior that is still very much ingrained in their systems.