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Why MUST dogs rotate before settling down on the floor?

By Gay Published: October 11, 2009

My dog Jake can count. I’m not making this up; he can really count, at least up to seven. The reason I know he possesses this incredible mental ability is because he turns exactly seven times before settling down on his favorite spot on the floor. Should he decide to settle in on HIS couch, he makes two rotations, not seven. So, floor—seven. Sofa—two.

He has done this since he was a baby, a little golden, curly teddy bear of a golden retriever, big triangular deep brown eyes, big black nose and smiling mouth. I’d say, “Come on Jake, come sit with me” and pick him up and plop him on my lap. Didn’t work—he had to make two turns before he fell into puppy sleep.

It amused me, but it also drove me nuts. If I wanted him settled for the night before we went out, we had to wait for his careful turntables. He’d flop down after the seventh and look up with a “What? What’s your problem? A dog’s gotta do what a dog’s gotta do!”

I did some research, and we evidently can blame dog’s lupine ancestors.

Wolves often liked to hide in high grass which kept their predators away, but also afforded them the advantage of peeping at rabbits or other prey behind a screen of grasses. But high grass does not afford a comfortable bed, so the ancient wolves would rotate, stomping down the grass for a more comfortable nest. It’s instinctual, yes, but I believe it is also habitual. One of my goldens loved his cage (door was left open) and circle it, even though there was a huge, comfy bed and turning his enormous self (all our goldens have been huge) was a tad challenging.

Female dogs will circle, an obvious reversion to the times when they whelped in the wild. They’d make a safe and cozy nest for their pups, and the surrounding long grasses protected them from predatory eyes.

I think dogs carry the genes to tramp out a soft spot, but in the case of modern dogs, I think they also twirl around to see if they’ve missed anything that might be in their cages. For instance, did they perhaps leave a bone, lurking in some secret corner? Is there a nice chew toy with squeaker underneath a piece of blanket, wedged tightly against the side of the crate ? If he doesn’t investigate, he might miss out on some delights to carry him off into dreamland. Or, in the case of Jake, he may be superstitious, his seven circles somewhat akin to my knocking wood.

They look so goofy and cute, one can’t resist petting the dog circler: Maybe they realize that. It’s possible. After all, my Jake can count.

--By Gay Fifer, owner Parsley Hollow, Inc. -

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