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  • Molly Weinfurter

Dog Sleeping Position Meaning: Why Does My Dog Sleep Like That?

Dogs often fall asleep in the silliest ways, many of which don’t even look comfortable. My dog often sleeps with her head hanging off the edge of her dog bed, and I’ve always wondered why she decided to lay like that. As it turns out, a dog sleeping position could tell you a lot about your furry friend. So, you may finally get an answer as to why your dog sleeps so weird.


(All the images in this article are of my former foster dogs or my dog)


What Do Dog Sleeping Positions Mean?

The following are common dog sleeping positions that have an explanation behind them. Some of them have specific names because that’s what I found when researching this topic. I will explain what each position looks like before diving into what each one means.


The Side Sleeper

Beagle sleeping on side

This is probably the most common dog sleeping position. Dogs who sleep like this rest on one of their sides with their legs extended. Dogs need lots of space for stretching out to be comfortable in this position.


Meaning

Your dog’s belly is a vulnerable part of their body, and when they’re on their side, part of their belly is exposed. So, dogs who sleep like this are often relaxed, loyal, and trusting. They trust the people around them enough to leave their belly partially exposed while they sleep.


Most dogs are side sleepers at one point or another, but the environment plays a huge role in when they choose to sleep that way. For example, if a dog is trying to cool off, they’ll likely sleep like this so cool air reaches all areas of their body. This is likely the case if they’re napping on the cool floor or near a vent blowing cold air. 


In most cases, dogs like to have a quiet, safe setting to sleep like this. Thus, many dogs may display a different sleeping position in an unfamiliar setting.


The Lion’s Pose

former stray rescue dog in lion's pose

The Lion’s Pose, also known as the Lion Pose and Sphinx Pose, is when your dog is positioned like the famous Sphinx statue. Their belly rests on the ground, their back legs are at their sides, and their front legs are stretched out in front of them. They usually rest their head on their front legs when in this sleeping position.


Meaning

While your dog is technically relaxed and sleeping, they’re not usually in as deep of a sleep while in the Lion’s Pose. Dogs in this position are quick to get up if they hear a sound or sense a movement, so it’s their way of sleeping while still staying alert.


Dogs who frequently sleep like this are typically loyal and always ready to protect their loved ones. This is especially true if your dog sleeps like this at your feet.


In some cases, sleeping in this pose could indicate that a dog is nervous because this sleeping position allows them to quickly get up and escape if they’re startled. Many of the shy dogs I’ve fostered slept like this when I was near them because they were still learning to get comfortable around people.


The Superman

black dog sleeping with legs outstretched

The Superman is like the Lion’s Pose but more relaxed and sprawled out. Your dog is still on their belly, but all their legs are outstretched as if they’re melting into a puddle. One of my favorite nicknames for this pose is a sploot. This dog sleeping position is most common in puppies and young dogs that are full of energy.


Meaning

If your dog sleeps like this, they’re probably tired, but they still want to get up and play if the opportunity presents itself. Dogs will often plop down into this position for a quick nap when they’re exhausted from playing, but then they’re quick to get up and run around again if they hear you call them.


In some cases, this could just be a comfortable way for your dog to sleep. For example, if your dog is feeling hot, it might feel nice to nap in this position with their belly against the cool floor.


The Donut

foster dog sleeping curled in a ball

This position occurs when your dog curls up in a tiny ball to nap. Dogs usually tuck all their limbs under their body so they look as small as possible. I usually see dogs sleep this way when they’re in a small area, such as a crate or dog bed.


Meaning

Many dogs like to sleep in this position because it keeps their vital organs protected. Their belly isn’t exposed, so they can feel safe falling asleep like this even if they’re in an unfamiliar place. It’s a common behavior for dogs that are still adjusting to a new home.


Dogs may also sleep like this if they’re cold. When they curl up, they can retain more body heat, keeping them extra warm and cozy at night. When my dog and I go camping, she often sleeps like this when it’s cool at night (she also climbs in my sleeping bag sometimes).


Some dogs may just be the most comfortable all curled up. If your dog has a fluffy round bed, this position is usually the best for that space.


The Belly Up

Chihuahua sleeping with belly up

When a dog sleeps on their back with their belly facing up, it’s an adorable sight. Even though many humans sleep on their backs, it looks silly when dogs do it (probably because they don’t do it often). Despite looking slightly uncomfortable, dogs in this position are often in a deep, relaxing sleep.


Meaning

When dogs sleep with their belly facing up, that’s a sign that they’re fully comfortable in their environment. This is a very vulnerable sleeping position, so a dog that regularly sleeps like this likely trusts you a lot. They’re not worried that something bad will happen while they’re sleeping.


A dog may also sleep on their back as a way to cool off. This position allows cold air to reach all areas of your dog’s body, including their belly, so it’s a popular position on a hot day.


The Cuddle Bug

two rescue dogs cuddling

This refers to when a dog sleeps cuddled up next to a person or pet. Maybe your dog likes to sleep right up against you at night. Maybe they always like to curl up next to their canine sibling in a large dog bed. This position can look different for every dog, but ultimately, it just means your dog loves to cuddle while they snooze.


Meaning

Dogs who cuddle while sleeping likely have a close bond with the person or pet they’re snuggling with. Since dogs love to be pet, many of them enjoy getting as much physical affection as possible. Cuddling while napping is a common way for dogs to form a stronger bond with their loved ones.


While cuddling is a normal behavior for many dogs, it could be a sign of separation anxiety for some pups. They may want to be as close to you as possible at all times, which could lead to them getting upset and acting out when you’re gone. If that’s the case for your dog, talk to a vet or dog trainer to find ways to help soothe your dog’s stress.


Some dogs may only cuddle when they’re cold. If you’ve ever had a dog fall asleep on top of you, you probably know how hot it can get. My dog loves to cuddle with me at night, but it can get a little warm for me sometimes. Of course, I still find her behavior adorable though. 


The Burrower

Shih Tzu burrowed under blanket

Some dogs love to burrow under blankets to sleep. My dog regularly does this at night, especially when it’s cold. She loves to shove her way under the sheets of my bed and curl up right next to me. Some dogs are great at burrowing on their own while others may need help from their humans.


Meaning

Most burrowers sleep that way simply because it’s comfortable. Their humans probably put a blanket on top of them once and they have loved sleeping that way ever since. Having a blanket on top of them can also help them feel safe and secure. It could be soothing for anxious pups.


Like my dog, some dogs might burrow when they’re cold. If they learn that it’s warmer under your blanket, they’ll likely be drawn to that spot whenever they’re shivering.


Using a Pillow

Shih Tzu sleeping with head elevated

Some dogs like to sleep with their head and neck raised as if they’re using a pillow. They may actually rest on a pillow or they may just be resting on another elevated surface, such as a raised edge on their dog bed or a pile of clothes.


Meaning

For many dogs, this position is just comfortable. Yet, in many cases, dogs sleep like this when they’re having trouble breathing. Sleeping with their head raised allows them to get air more easily. Thus, this position is most common in brachycephalic breeds, such as Pugs and English Bulldogs.


If you suspect that your dog is sleeping with their head raised because of breathing issues, you should talk to your vet to see if there’s a way to help them breathe better overall.


Sleeping on a Cold Surface

Great Pyrenees sleeping on cold surface

While some dogs sleep in certain positions to cool off, others specifically seek out cold surfaces to sleep on. This could be a cold tile floor or a cooling dog bed. When dogs sleep on cold surfaces, they usually sprawl out as much as possible.


Meaning

As you probably guessed, dogs who sleep on cold surfaces are trying to cool off. Most dogs will do this after a walk on a warm day. Dogs with thick, fluffy coats may seek out cold surfaces year-round. I once fostered a Great Pyrenees who always slept on the cold floor because of how much fur he had.


If you’re worried your dog is too hot, offer other ways to cool them down if possible. Offer them cool water and make sure the AC is on. Most dogs love being outside in the summer, but it’s important that we don’t let them overheat.


Back to Back

two dogs snuggling in car

Some dogs cuddle while they sleep, but only in a unique way. The dog may sleep with their back against a human’s back or another pet’s back. Even if you move into a different position, your dog will always try to find a way to sleep back to back.


Meaning

Like traditional cuddling, sleeping back to back signifies a strong bond between them and the person or pet they’re sleeping next to. It’s a way for them to show affection while still sort of keeping to themselves. Dogs who do this clearly feel safe around their family members.


Frequently Asked Questions


Why Do Dogs Sleep in Weird Positions?

Dogs tend to sleep in whatever position is most comfortable for them. However, if their sleeping position seems weird, they may be sleeping like that because of anxiety, temperature, or other factors.


Why is My Dog Twitching in Their Sleep?

Dogs often twitch when they’re in a deep sleep. It’s like how humans sometimes twitch while they’re dreaming. In rare cases, twitching in their sleep could be a sign of a medical concern, so if you’re noticing other unusual symptoms, consider talking to your vet.


What is the Best Sleeping Position for a Dog with a Collapsed Trachea?

Dogs facing a collapsing trachea should have their neck and head elevated when they sleep if possible. Doing so helps them breathe better. If you haven’t already, talk to your vet about how to improve the well-being of a dog with a collapsed trachea if your dog is dealing with this.


What Position Do Dogs Sleep in When They’re in Pain?

When a dog is in pain, they may sleep in a way that prevents them from putting pressure on the area that hurts. Many old dogs with arthritis sleep on their side because it doesn’t put as much pressure on their joints. Keep an eye on your dog’s sleeping position to make sure they’re not dealing with any pain.


A Dog Sleeping Position Meaning Could Help You Understand Your Pup

Dog lying positions are unique for every dog, so how your dog sleeps could help you better understand how they’re feeling. Dogs that lay stretched out with their bellies exposed are often more trusting than dogs who always curl up to nap. Dogs that snuggle at night are typically more comfortable around their humans than dogs who keep a distance.


However, these sleep position meanings are only general ideas. They apply to many dogs, but not all of them. So, if your dog’s sleep position meaning doesn’t seem to match their personality, they might just sleep like that because it’s comfortable for them.

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