If you share your life with a furry friend, you won’t have failed to notice that your companion spends a lot of time sleeping. How much does a dog sleep? Whilst you probably thrive on 7–9 hours, your dog needs a lot more—typically adult dogs sleep from 8–13 hours a day, with the average time spent snoozing clocking in at around 11 hours. So, dogs spend about half their lives in dreamland.
If your dog is anything like the norm, then they love to nod off! With your dog spending so much more time asleep than you, you should be able to catch them having forty winks and observe how your dog likes to rest. You will quickly discover in what positions and where your canine buddy likes to crash out.
The posture in which your dog likes to slumber can reveal a little about their life and state of mind. Read on to find out about these common positions that dogs adopt when catching some shut-eye.
The 11 Dog Sleeping Positions
Every friendly family pet dog is descended from a long lineage of pack animals that goes all the way back to wolves. Whilst thankfully you don’t have a feral lupine in your home, your dog still has some habits from those long-forgotten ancestors. When your pal sleeps back-to-back with another dog, or with you, they are displaying behavior that originates in wild canine packs. Going to sleep in this position is a way of sharing warmth and intimacy. It demonstrates that your dog feels as though they are safe at home with their pack.
The belly-up position is when your dog sleeps on their back, pointing their four feet to the sky and displaying their tummy. In this position, your pet is quite exposed. Your dog’s soft underside is their weakest point physically and it is a bodily part that virtually all dogs prefer to protect and hide. But there are good reasons why a dog might want—or be willing to—show their vulnerable abdominal area.
Most dogs’ bodies are covered in thick hair, but it tends to be thinner or non-existent on their stomachs. So, if it’s a hot day and your dog wants to cool down, lying on their back with their belly up is a good way to catch a breeze. This posture also means that they are comfortable with you and feel safe dropping their guard in your home.
Sometimes dogs will seek out soft objects to burrow into—such as pillows or blankets. If they have the chance, even a pile of nice clean clothes will suffice! The reason a dog might snuggle in like this may be in response to the ancient self-protective canine instinct to create a cozy den. Dog ancestors probably made similar nests in tall grasses. Your pooch is seeking the same sense of comfort and security when buried in your blankets and clothes.
This position tells you that your dog wants to block out outside distractions such as light and noise while maximizing their sense of relaxation and safety.
For pet parents, the cutest and most rewarding position for your dog to sleep in is when they cuddle up —on you or against you—and fall asleep. Sleeping next to you or snuggled up against another dog gives your best friend that feeling of security and warmth they had as a puppy with their mother. Safe in a cozy embrace, close to you or another dog, they are probably getting the best sleep of their lives. When your canine companion drifts off this way, they are telling you they want to share and reciprocate love.
When your dog is curled up, nose to tail, with their legs tucked in underneath them, they resemble a tight, round, donut. The donut position is a great way for your dog to conserve heat. Scrunching up their body and limbs means there is less surface area for heat to escape. For this reason, you are unlikely to see your dog sleeping in a donut position on a hot summer’s day.
Additionally, the donut position is a way for your dog to take up less space and stay out of harm’s way. Coiled up into a donut shape, your dog is protecting their sensitive and vulnerable underside whilst they sleep.
6. Head & Neck Raised
If your dog is sleeping with their head and neck raised—say by propping it on the side of its bed or the armrest of a chair—you should pay attention. In most cases, it is probably nothing more than your dog regulating their temperature. This raised position allows air to circulate around a larger surface area to keep their head cool.
But a more troubling reason might be that your dog is having breathing issues. Pay attention to how fast your dog is breathing, how much effort they are exerting, and whether their breathing is noisy. Breathing issues can be caused by a simple respiratory infection—or a more serious condition such as heart disease or cancer. If you are in any doubt you should contact your vet and have them check your dog over.
7. The Lion’s Pose
The lion’s pose, also called the sphinx position, is when your dog is lying on their belly with their paws stretched out in front and the hind legs folded up beneath them. This may be the position your dog favors if they begin falling asleep from an alert position. As unconsciousness takes hold of them, they will lay their head down on their paws. Your dog may stay in that position, or they may roll over on their side or slide their back legs out into the superman position, really getting into the spirit of having a long deep rest.
The lion’s pose is an alert position that a dog can spring out of very quickly. If your furry friend sleeps this way, it suggests that they may want to remain on high alert for some reason.
The superman position is a variation of the lion’s pose, but one taken to the next level. Your dog will be sitting with their belly pressed to the ground, paws out in front, head dropped between their paws, and their back legs splayed out behind them. When you see a dog in this position, they’ve probably had a busy day and now they need to calm down. This pose is a mixture of a recovery pose—with the belly pressed on the floor it is a position dogs like to use when they have been active and now want to cool down—and a pose that lets them get back into the game quickly if the situation warrants it.
When you see puppies in the superman position, they are probably dog-tired and have dropped off while fighting the urge to sleep.
9. On a Cold Surface
On a baking hot summer’s day, it’s easy to understand why dogs sleep this way! Dogs sleep on a cold surface to cool down when they are overheating. One of the best ways for a dog to regulate their temperature while sleeping is to get their tummy touching the ground. With much less insulating hair, their tummy is perfect for maximizing the dissipation of body heat into the nice cool floor.
The best positions for getting a hot tummy in contact with a cold floor are the sphinx position and the superman position.
10. Side Sleeper
The side sleeping position, where a dog lies down on their side with their legs stretched out in front of them, is the most common sleeping position for dogs. In this position, your friend is completely relaxed. With their belly and vital organs exposed, reclined rather than ready to bolt, and spread out over a larger area this position shows you your dog is right at home with you and feels safe having a completely self-indulgent deep nap with you around.
11. Sleeping Under Covers
Sleeping under the covers refers to when a dog gets into bed and gets under the covers, often with you. So, it’s a combination of the cuddler and burrower positions. Although your dog may be getting under your bed covers so as to be close to you, sharing a den, and feeling the maximum amount of love, a simpler explanation might be that your dog is simply cold and wants to bed down with you for warmth.
Dog Sleeping Positions When They Are Sick or In Pain
If your dog is sick it is possible they will assume a fetal position so that they can conserve heat and save energy. When your dog is in pain, they will try and find a position that’s not putting pressure on their pain point. It’s also quite likely that whatever position they are in they are still not comfortable and will be restless and try to change their position frequently, looking for a new position that they can tolerate for a while.
So, if you see your dog sitting or sleeping in an unusual, odd, or uncomfortable position, or changing positions often, pay attention and consider whether you need to take your dog to see your vet.
Why Do Dogs Sleep with Their Butts Facing Towards You?
It can be disconcerting to wake up and regularly find your dog’s rear end pointing at you! You might think that’s a strange way for your dog to express affection for you, but that’s precisely what they’re doing. When your dog sleeps facing away from you, they are saying several things to you including that they trust you to protect their blind spot. They may also be saying that they’ve got you covered—by positioning themselves to block access to you they are communicating that they want to protect you.
Why Does My Dog Move Around While Sleeping?
The fact that a dog moves around while sleeping is not unusual in and of itself. Holding any position for too long may make them uncomfortable. When your dog tosses and turns during the night they are merely adjusting their posture either by moving out of a position that they have been in for too long, or by adjusting their posture or location to conserve heat or lose heat faster.
Dogs also dream and may twitch and vocalize in their sleep. Sometimes their adventures in REM sleep may cause them to become over-excited and wake them up suddenly.
There are many positions that your dog may choose to sleep in, and the position they select may tell you something about how they are feeling physically and emotionally. Not surprisingly, dogs are searching for the position that is most comfortable for their current predicament: if they are hot, they want to cool down, if they are cold they want to warm up. Or maybe they aren’t feeling very safe, so they want to be cautious and keep their options for springing into action open.
Pay attention the next time you see your dog catching forty winks: you may gain some valuable insight into their world.
Featured Image Credit: Mylene2401, Pixabay