“Atavism” is an evolutionary throwback, and atavistic behavior refers to conduct that reverts to ancestral type. Dogs circling before they lie down to sleep is a good example of this, but there are some behaviors that seem breed specific, as well. Elsewhere, we’ve talked about the “snout pits” of the Carolina Dog, but we recently came across an account of someone’s Anatolian Shepherd Dog we that we thought you’d find interesting.
In Kathryn Braund’s marvelous book, “The Uncommon Dog Breeds,” the author describes the life of a working Anatolian. The dog was left alone to protect its flock for months on end, and often, water was scarce. When it was available, the water was found in the muddy waters of a stream and was usually covered with a brackish film. To get to the clear water below the film, the dog pushed aside the scum with his paws. This suddenly makes sense to a new Anatolian owner also mentioned in the book who wondered why his well loved dog with constant access to fresh cold water changed twice daily would push away imaginary filth in his water bowl with his paws.
The things our dogs do may baffle us, but they make complete sense to the dog.