The Surprising Reasons Your Dog Curls Up in a Ball Before Going to Sleep

iStock/LTuray
iStock/LTuray

Besides being great companions and painfully cute, dogs can be a little quirky. Between their funny expressions and odd behaviors, each of our furry friends has eccentricities that make us love them even more. But some of the adorably weird things they do are actually an innate part of being a canine, which might come as a surprise to some pet parents.

Take, for example, when dogs curl up in a ball before falling asleep. To the average pet owner, this probably just seems like a way to get comfortable before dozing off. And while that could be part of it, Dr. Margaret Gruen—an assistant professor of Behavioral Medicine at NC State University's College of Veterinary Medicine—said that the behavior is also firmly rooted in evolution.

"When dogs sleep in the wild, especially where it’s cold, they’ll dig a nest and curl up into it," Gruen told Vetstreet. This gives them warmth—tucking into a ball conserves body heat. It also protects their most vulnerable organs in the abdomen from would-be predators."

Yes, she's saying your dog gets into this position so no one comes for their organs. It sounds silly for your beloved pooch, but it's a reasonable tactic for their wild ancestors.

The next reason makes more sense, and it's that your dog is making his or her own nest when they curl up in an attempt to stay safe in a possibly foreign area. Even if your dog is at home, they still often revert back to basic instincts when getting ready for sleep, as it's a vulnerable state. Which makes sense. And it turns out that there's a whole host of reasonable explanations for your dog's other odd behaviors; here are just a few of them.

Meet LiLou: The World's First Airport Therapy Pig

Kseniia Derzhavina/iStock via Getty Images
Kseniia Derzhavina/iStock via Getty Images

There's a new reason to get to the airport early—you might run into a therapy pig who's there to make your trip a little easier. As Reuters reports, LiLou the Juliana pig is a member of San Francisco International Airport's "Wag Brigade," a therapy animal program designed to ease stress and anxiety in travelers.

Aside from her snout and potbelly, LiLou can be recognized by her captain's hat and red "hoof" polish. She spends the day with guests who are happy to take a break from the pressures of traveling. She might comfort them by posing for a selfie, playing a song on her toy keyboard, or offering them a head to pet.

After bringing joy to people's day, LiLou goes home to her San Francisco apartment where she lives with her owner, Tatyana Danilova. In her free time, she goes on daily walks and snacks on organic vegetables. She even has her own Instagram account.

Airports around the world are embracing the benefits therapy animals can bring to customers. The Wag Brigade program at San Francisco includes a number of dogs, and earlier this year, the Aberdeen Airport in Scotland debuted its own "canine crew" of dogs trained to make travelers feel safe and happy. Therapy miniature horses have even been used at an airport in Kentucky. According to the San Francisco Airport, LiLiou is the world's first airport therapy pig.

To see LiLou turn on the charm, check out the video below.

[h/t Reuters]

Sssspectacular: Tree Snakes in Australia Can Actually Jump

sirichai_raksue/iStock via Getty Images
sirichai_raksue/iStock via Getty Images

Ophidiophobia, or fear of snakes, is common among humans. We avoid snakes in the wild, have nightmares about snakes at night, and recoil at snakes on television. We might even be born with the aversion. When researchers showed babies photos of snakes and spiders, their tiny pupils dilated, indicating an arousal response to these ancestral threats.

If you really want to scare a baby, show them footage of an Australian tree snake. Thanks to researchers at Virginia Tech, we now know these non-venomous snakes of the genus Dendrelaphis can become airborne, propelling themselves around treetops like sentient Silly String.

That’s Dendrelaphis pictus, which was caught zipping through the air in 2010. After looking at footage previously filmed by her advisor Jake Socha, Virginia Tech Ph.D. candidate Michelle Graham headed for Australia and built a kind of American Ninja Warrior course for snakes out of PVC piping and tree branches. Graham observed that the snakes tend to spot their landing target, then spring upward. The momentum gets them across gaps that would otherwise not be practical to cross.

Graham next plans to investigate why snakes feel compelled to jump. They might feel a need to escape, or continue moving, or do it because they can. Two scientific papers due in 2020 could provide answers.

Dendrelaphis isn’t the only kind of snake with propulsive capabilities. The Chrysopelea genus includes five species found in Southeast Asia and China, among other places, that can glide through the air.

[h/t National Geographic]

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