Have you ever noticed that your dog sleeps in a variety of positions? Maybe they have one that they tend to favour over others, or maybe they have a go-to favourite way to sleep. Just like us humans, dogs have different sleeping positions, and the way your furry best friend sleeps can tell you more than you might think. If you’re curious to know what a dog’s sleep position might mean, read on.
On their side
A common sleep position for dogs, when they lay on their side with their legs extended it means they feel safe, relaxed and at a comfortable temperature. From an evolutionary perspective, side sleeping leaves the dog’s vital organs exposed, so for them to be laying in this prone position indicates they feel no potential threats and are familiar with their surroundings. As well as being the position that’s likely to result in the deepest sleep for your dog, this position also leaves their limbs and paws free to move as they sleep, so you may get to see some adorable twitching and leg kicks as they dream.
Another common position for dogs to sleep in is to curl up in a ball, sometimes referred to as a ‘donut’ sleep position due to the rounded form. As they are able to tuck all their limbs in close to their body, this position helps the dog to protect itself by covering access to its internal organs. A dog could choose to sleep this way when in an environment they’re not completely familiar with – perhaps they are getting used to their new home and have a certain amount of anxiety about sleeping whilst they get used to their surroundings. A dog might also choose to curl up into a ball to sleep for the same reason a human might – to keep warm.
If they feel cold, they lay this way to preserve body heat – a reaction that stems from their ancestors, who would have slept this way outdoors, not only to protect themselves more from potential predators (it makes it easy to quickly get up too), but also to protect from the elements if the weather was particularly wet and windy. As this position restricts movement, you might not see as much twitching from a dog that sleeps this way.
On their front
Often called the ‘Superman pose’, this position sees your dog sprawled out on the ground with their belly pressed to the floor, back legs behind them, and front legs stretched out in front of them. The benefit of this for the dog is that it allows for them to spring up onto their paws quickly if needed. This is a common position for puppies and more high energy dogs to rest in during the day, as they are ready to jump to action and play when the opportunity arises!
On their back
Just as with the side sleeping position, dogs who sleep with their belly facing upwards must feel very comfortable and safe in their surroundings, because they are exposing their vital organs in this vulnerable position, as well as making it more difficult to quickly get up and on their paws if a threatening situation arises. Contrary to the way that curling up into a ball to sleep conserves heat, sleeping on their back with an exposed belly helps dogs to cool down. The fur is thinner on a dog’s belly, and they release excess heat through sweat glands in their paws, so if they feel too hot a dog will often lay on their back in order to beat the heat and is therefore a common sleeping position for warm summer months.
Their back facing away from you
When your dog sleeps back-to-back with another pet or is snuggled up to and facing away from you, it means something really special. Your dog is bonding and showing that they want to get as close as possible to you. Sleeping this way means your dog feels completely at ease with who they’re cuddled up close to and shows their affectionate side. Dogs choose to sleep this way only with those that they feel safest with, and it also demonstrates that they are willing to protect their favourite members of the household; facing away in order to ‘keep an eye out’ on surroundings.
Whichever position your dog prefers to sleep in, they may move from spot to spot quite often. This is not uncommon and not something to be concerned about. Your dog might be simply adjusting to get comfortable, or they may be too warm or too cold and moving to a position that helps alleviate this. Similarly, you might find that sometimes your dog loves to cuddle up to you – which is usually a sign of affection but could also be for protection and warmth, but at other times they sleep away from you and in their own space.
Again, this is perfectly normal and just a way of sleeping in the most comfortable spot for the environment at that time. If you notice your dog is uncharacteristically restless and not sleeping through the night when they usually would, it would be advisable to have them checked out by a vet to check for any issues with anxiety or pain that they can detect.