When your dog sleeps, it reveals a lot about how it feels around you. Even when you’re not around, dog sleeping positions can reveal a lot about what your dog is feeling physically and emotionally, and how it feels about the immediate environment.
Canines, as we know, are social animals. Their space and surroundings, including their humans, influence much of their dog behavior, even when they sleep.
So, after an energetic roll in the grass, how does your dog prefer to nap? Do they lie on their side or on their backs? Do they collapse into a dead cockroach pose? Or are they all about the blankies and cuddling? Do they take on crazy cat like sleeping positions?
Let’s find out what all of this may mean, and what you can learn about your pup’s state of mind while it is sleeping.
- 1 13 Dog Sleeping Positions
- 1.1 1. Back to Back
- 1.2 2. Burrower
- 1.3 3. Cuddler Bug
- 1.4 4. Donut
- 1.5 5. Dead Cockroach
- 1.6 6. Lion’s Pose
- 1.7 7. On Its Back
- 1.8 8. On Its Tummy
- 1.9 9. Raised Head and Neck
- 1.10 10. Side Sleeper
- 1.11 11. Spread Eagle on a Cold Surface
- 1.12 12. Superman
- 1.13 13. Spooning
- 2 Last Word on Dog Sleeping Positions
13 Dog Sleeping Positions
1. Back to Back
Sometimes, a dog will prefer to sleep with its back against another dog in its pack, or even against you. Strangely a dog lying with its back against you is a very affectionate, trusting, and loving position. Consider yourself one of the family if this occurs.
There are several theories surrounding why a dog will lie with its back or bum towards you. Here are a few:
- Dogs just aren’t front-facers. Most dogs prefer not to sleep in such a way that something is in their face, so to speak. They may also simply prefer not to feel contained or restricted physically, especially from the front.
- Avoiding eye contact. If your dog is relatively new to you or your home, they may prefer to avoid eye contact at least for a while. They may also not entirely be comfortable with a stranger, despite being somewhat reassured by your presence.
- It is a protection pose. Facing outward, a dog may instinctively be positioning itself in such a way as to look out for danger. If it simply opens its eyes, it can scan for any danger approaching.
- Trust. In that same vein, he trusts you and therefore doesn’t need to keep an eye on you. Just as he has your back, he trusts that you have his.
Some dogs have a natural tendency to dig and burrow. They even do this when it comes to finding a place and position to sleep. They will dive down into blankets, beds, sofa cushions—anything, really than can be gotten into. Sometimes it may be because they are seeking warmth. Most times, though, the instinct is related to feeling safe and comfortable. Some breeds are natural burrowerslike Dachshunds.
Burrowing also invites some opportunity for play, sometimes. Be aware though that some dogs may feel that you’re trying to threaten their safety and comfort, should you mess with their little dog forts.
3. Cuddler Bug
Many owners of large dogs might chuckle at the inclusion of this sleeping position. The cuddler bug is cute and adorable for dog owners because it usually involves their dogs climbing on top of them to curl up and sleep in a lap. Sometimes, that means even on top of a person lying down.
When it’s a Great Dane or another large dog, it may not be exactly as pleasant. Nonetheless, it’s a position that you will appreciate, as it signifies a really strong bond between you and your dog. They love you, they trust you, and they want to be with you—as closely as possible. Also, you probably smell good and familiar.
Remember, there is comfort and safety in being together.
Like its namesake, the donut sleeping position is sweet. The name is taken from the round shape of the dog curling up in a circular position. Everything comes in close, into a tightly wound ball, in a sense.
Legs are tucked in, the back is curled, and sometimes the nose even reaches the rear. You will find this position common in dogs that are trying to keep warm, or dogs that are not completely familiar with their environment. It is a protective sleeping pose, usually seen in dogs living on the street or outdoors.
5. Dead Cockroach
This pose is not as bizarre as it sounds, although the reference is somewhat hilarious and dark at the same time. In this position, you’ll see your dog dropped into a deep sleep, lying partly on its side, but with its belly facing half upward. Its two legs are on the top side, and sometimes even all fours will be dangling as if reaching for the air. There is a practical reason for this pose, but it also requires a particular environment in order for it to appear.
Firstly, the dog is usually indicating that it’s hot, and is cooling down while in this pose. Bear in mind that dogs do not sweat from their bodies, so exposing the underside might allow for some breeze to cool a hot belly. Its paws are in the air to take advantage of the few sweat glands it does have on its paws.
A dog needs to feel perfectly secure in its surroundings in order to be comfortable enough to fall into this sleeping pose. Genetic memory says that exposure of the belly in the wild is usually dangerous, allowing predators to attack it.
A Note on Dogs, Heat, and Sweat Glands
A side note of interest. In the cold, a good fleecy dog sweater can be employed to help keep Fido comfy. Heat is a different problem to tackle. Dogs do not possess sweat glands in the same way humans do. They have two types specifically: merocrine and apocrine.
Merocrine glands are found in the paw pads (the one mentioned above), and will release cooling “sweat” on hot days. There is no fur on a dog’s paw pads, which is why they function better here, as opposed to over the rest of the body.
Apocrine glands aren’t really sweat glands in a practical sense. They actually secrete hormones as opposed to cooling sweat.
When dogs need to cool off, their main method is panting. Panting opens the mouth and helps to evaporate fluid from the tongue. Panting also helps to expose the lungs and nasal passages for more “coverage”.
Contrary to acting as a coat, dog fur actually acts as an insulator against heat, too. It may not guard against intense heat, but it does play a role in at least maintaining some degree of body temperature and its regulation.
Because of this, it’s not recommended you shave dogs with double-coats (like huskies, for example). It may impact their ability to insulate themselves against heat.
Special care for Brachycephalic Breeds
Certain types of dogs need special care in extremely hot conditions, though. Brachycephalic breeds are breeds known for their flat faces and short noses. Boxers, pugs, and bulldogs are examples of these breeds. They cannot cool themselves as efficiently due to short muzzles—they, therefore, are prone to heatstroke.
6. Lion’s Pose
If strains of “Mbube”, that famous song about the lion sleeping in the jungle tonight, have crept into your brain, it’s perfectly normal. If you can imagine a lion (or your cat) lying squarely on its belly, with its head resting calmly on its paws, you can see The Lion’s Pose.
The Sphinx in Egypt is said to be in a similar resting pose, although its head is upright of course. This is an interesting transitional pose. When cats do it, they are trying to relax (eyes closed) but remain alert in case something attracts their attention.
A dog lies with its head on its front legs or paws for similar reasons. If it is suddenly required to act, it can spring into action immediately, simply by rising from its position. Typically, your dog will not be in a deep sleep in this pose. You might even observe ears twitching in response to noises, or eyes opening occasionally to check what you’re up to.
7. On Its Back
Much like the dead cockroach, the on-the-back pose is largely about releasing heat through the paws and lighter fur on its belly.
Just like the cockroach, the pose is also only seen when the environment is super-trusted, and the dog feels completely safe. Still, seeing a large dog sleep on its back is always photo-worthy.
When a dog falls into a deep sleep in this position, it may also dream, moving its paws and making odd sounds on its imaginary run.
8. On Its Tummy
This is a more standard resting position, similar to the lion’s pose. Basically, it’s a simple way to catch some rest without necessarily committing to total sleep. If you find yourself relaxing casually, you may find your dog doing the same.
A dog might also prefer to lie on its belly if it is hot. If you find the dog doing this on a tile surface, more than likely this is the case. Sometimes, falling asleep in this pose is accidental. Nonetheless, it means your pup is relaxed.
9. Raised Head and Neck
You may have come across a dog that prefers to “sleep like a human” in the sense that they prefer to have their head resting upon a pillow. At the very least, their head may be raised against a sofa arm or piece of furniture. This, aside from perhaps seeming quite odd, has an interesting cause.
It is theorized that a dog may prefer this method or pose if it has trouble breathing in a normal sleeping position. They may also simply feel much more comfortable.
Still, it’s worth trying to observe whether your dog might have some breathing or movement discomfort. Look out for heavy or noisy breathing, or irregular breath. Some symptoms may also manifest in hampered movement or lack of desire to walk and exercise.
Sometimes, it could be a sinus issue, similar to when you have a cold. In extreme cases, some of the problems might even include heart disease. But there’s no need to panic, necessarily. If you spot any of the above symptoms, talk to your vet about a checkup.
10. Side Sleeper
When a dog lies on its side with its legs extended out to the one side, they seem very content to just grab a few minutes of calm rest. It might be considered a short nap on a couch if it were a human. Basically, it’s just taking a break while others in the room may be busy with something else.
The dog feels safe and is in an easy mood. They will usually be in this position in a familiar environment—likely their own home or yard. Significantly, they are feeling safe enough to leave their vital soft belly exposed. In the wild, this would be potentially dangerous.
Some experts suggest that this is the most comfortable sleeping position for a dog, offering a good balance between cool, relaxed, and ready to go at a moment’s notice.
11. Spread Eagle on a Cold Surface
Similar to the superman (see below), this sees the dog stretching out on its belly with front legs out front and hind legs backward. We make the distinction here, though, because the pose may mean something different in adult dogs as opposed to puppies.
From time to time, you may see an adult dog strike this pose. Usually, they will be feeling hot, and looking for a cool surface upon which to stretch. They will also usually be a little lethargic or sleepy.
This hilarious name is used to describe a lying position that is similarly hilarious to look at. It is similar to the spread eagle. The dog lies flat on its belly, with its front legs stretched forward, and its hind legs stretched backward. Thought of in another way, it might resemble a spatchcock chicken on a BBQ.
Most times, you’ll see puppies lie in this position, especially if they are awake and are looking for an energetic or exciting distraction, as opposed to sleepy or lethargic when it uses this position as an adult. Of course, while waiting, puppies sometimes just fall asleep.
Yes, it’s true. Some dogs—especially larger ones—love to spoon with their humans. In this case, they will happily occupy the largest area of the bed, regardless of your comfort. It’s suggested that they learn this in puppyhood, as they curl up with the rest of their litter to keep warm, and for safety.
Spooners are typically just in love with you and want to make sure they spend every minute of the waking day and sleeping hours with you equally. Many of them also snore.
Last Word on Dog Sleeping Positions
When your dog takes a nap or goes to sleep, does it have a favorite position? Hopefully, this little guide will help you understand what it’s feeling. It’s amazing how even in sleep, your dog’s body language can reveal so much.
Most that you observe above might suggest a deep level of trust and security around you. Perhaps they also feel they need to be a little protective of their human. Either way, this knowledge should help you understand your pup just a little more. And that is always a good thing.
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