You may notice your dog sleeping in a position you’re not familiar with. Does it mean anything?
Just like humans, dogs sleep in a variety of positions. From sleeping on their side to sleeping on their back with their paws in the air, we can learn a lot about our furry friends through their sleeping positions and habits.
Dog sleeping positions are like little clues that can give insight into how they’re feeling. To truly understand dog sleeping habits, we tapped the minds of veterinarians and professional dog trainers to reveal what 10 common dog sleeping positions mean.
Read on to check out our dog sleeping positions chart, learn more about the adorable meaning behind these sleeping positions, and gain insight into common dog and puppy sleeping habits.
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Jump to one of these sections or scroll through each one:
- Dog Sleeping Positions
- Dog Sleeping Patterns and Behaviors
- Puppy Sleep Habits
- How Long Do Dogs Sleep?
- Dog Sleep FAQs
- How to Help Your Pup Get the Best Sleep
1. The Side Sleeper
Just like humans, dogs love to sleep on their side. Lying on their side with their legs extended is one of the most common sleeping positions for dogs. This sleeping position is especially prominent in puppies as well as older dogs who may be suffering from stiff joints.
Meaning: When your dog sleeps on their side, it means they feel relaxed and safe in their environment. According to Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM, who serves on the advisory board for Pup Life Today, “dogs will sleep in this position when they are feeling comfortable with their surroundings and are at a comfortable temperature.”
It’s also when they’re likely to get the most deep sleep. Jen Jones, a professional dog trainer, behavior specialist, and founder of Your Dog Advisor, says that “this position is also where you’ll often notice ‘sleep running’ and twitching during your dog’s dreams, as their paws are loose and free to move.”
2. The Lion’s Pose
The lion’s pose sleeping position (also called ‘the sphinx’) is when your dog sleeps with their head on top of their paws — similar to statues of lions you might see outside of large buildings. Your dog can also fall asleep in this position with their front paws tucked in and their back legs at one side.
Meaning: When dogs sleep in this position it means they are resting, but not sleeping deeply. According to Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM, CVJ, and the vet expert at Pumpkin Pet Insurance, “dogs will often start out in this position if they feel like they will need to jump up quickly.”
3. The Superman
The superman position is when your dog lays sprawled out on the ground with their belly pressed to the floor, their back legs behind them, and their front legs stretched forward. Sometimes called a “sploot,” this is a common position among puppies and very playful dogs.
Meaning: When your dog sleeps on their stomach in the superman position, it means that they’re tired but ready to play if the opportunity arises. Jen Jones says that “this position allows for dogs to snooze quickly, but be ready to hop up at a moment’s notice to play.” This is a common sleeping position for high energy dogs during the day.
4. The Donut
The donut position is when your dog sleeps curled up in a ball with all of their limbs tucked close to their body. Sometimes their nose will touch their hind legs in a “shrimp” curl and they may even drape their tail over their body.
Meaning: According to Dr. Margaret Gruen, DVM, this position keeps all of the dog’s vital organs tucked and hidden. When a dog sleeps in this position, it means that they seek to protect themselves while sleeping or that they’re still getting used to their environment. This is especially common in stray or new dogs.
This is also a favorite position for dogs when they are cold. By curling up in a ball, they are attempting to preserve their body heat. Dr. Linda Simon, a Veterinarian and Veterinary Consultant for ThePets, says that this is a popular position “when the weather is cold and/or windy, as it would have protected dogs from the elements when they slept outside.”
5. The Cuddler
One of the most adorable dog sleeping positions is ‘the cuddler’ position. This is when your dog prefers to sleep on top of you or another dog cuddled up. This is a great position for those that love to let their dog sleep in bed with them.
Meaning: Peter Laskay, a pet expert and pet care blogger at Petworshiper, says that this position is a clear sign of bonding and “that the dog wants to get close to you or other dogs.”
According to the vets at PetMD, sleep-cuddling is a leftover behavior from when your dog was a puppy and snuggled up with their litter to keep warm. When they’re older, cuddling turns into a habit of comfort.
6. The Burrower
Have you noticed that your dog seeks out pillows, clothes, or blankets to sleep under? If so, your pooch likes to sleep in the burrower position.
Meaning: When dogs sleep in the burrower position, they are searching for comfort and security. Burrowers may also be seeking to calm themselves down — studies have shown that dog shirts meant to swaddle them in gentle pressure help ease nervous behaviors for dogs with anxiety disorder.
Jo Myers, DVM, told The Wildest that burrowing under blankets could also just be your dog’s way of taking a cozy break from their vigilant watch over the house and their pack members. Just like how humans use a sleep mask to minimize noise and light, your dog could be trying to block out distractions before bed.
7. The Belly Up
Arguably one of the cutest dog sleeping positions, the belly up position is just as it sounds. This position is when your dog lies on their back with their belly up and paws in the air. As uncomfortable as this position may look, this is a sign of true comfort and relaxation in dogs.
Meaning: Dogs who sleep on their back with their tummy and paws in the air do so for a few reasons. One of them is to keep cool. Jen Jones says, “dogs sweat through their paws and their belly is a source of heat. When they sleep on their back with their belly in the air and paws up, they are trying to keep cool.”
Because this is such a vulnerable position to be in, when dogs sleep on their back with their paws in the air, it also means that they fully trust you and their environment. Dr. Sarah Wooten says that “because they are exposing their belly and their vital organs to the world, you have to know that they feel really secure to fall asleep in this position.”
As dogs age, you’ll notice that they may no longer sleep on their back as much. According to Steffi Trott, a professional dog trainer and the owner of SpiritDog Training, this is due to arthritis and you should not assume that your dog is no longer trusting you.
8. Back to Back
Similar to the cuddler sleeping position, when a dog likes to sleep back to back, it means they like to cuddle up and get as close as possible by placing their back next to either you or another dog. In the simplest form, this position is a sign of love and comfort.
Meaning: Sleeping back to back indicates a sense of intimacy. When a dog sleeps in this position, they are showing you affection and trust. According to Jen Jones, “dogs may choose to sleep this way with one person in the home they feel safest with.” This can include additional family members or other dogs and cats.
9. On a Cold Surface
Whether it’s lying face down on the kitchen floor or sprawled out on your pavement, dogs tend to sleep on a cold surface when they are hot. This type of position can take the form of the superman pose or could be similar to the lion’s pose. Whatever it is, your dog is likely making sure their tummy is touching the cold surface.
Meaning: This position is directly related to temperature. “Dogs may be hot if they sleep sprawled out on cool surfaces, particularly when they’re on their bellies with legs extended maximizing the amount of unhaired skin that touches the cold floor or ground,” says Dr. Jennifer Coates. If you notice your dog seeking out cold surfaces to sleep on, try your best to cool them down with the tips below:
- Turn on a fan or the AC
- Offer the dog some cold water
- Get a cooling mat for them to sleep on
- Give them a frozen treat
- Get them groomed (if they have a long coat)
- Let them sleep downstairs, where it’s likely to be cooler
10. Head and Neck Raised
Some dogs seek out a sleeping position where their head and neck are raised. They will usually leverage the side of their dog bed or a couch cushion.
Meaning: If your dog likes to sleep in a position where their head and neck are raised, it could mean that they may have issues breathing properly — something that is commonly seen with chronic heart disease and other health problems.
According to Dr. Linda Simon, if your dog sleeps in this position “keep an eye out for worrying symptoms such as faster breathing rate, noisy breathing, or a reduced ability to exercise.” If you notice any of these symptoms, make sure to contact your veterinarian.
Make sure to check out our full dog sleeping positions chart below.
Dog Sleeping Patterns and Behaviors
While your dog is fast asleep, you may notice them start to snore, bark, or even twitch. These sleeping behaviors are normal and can even give you insight into the quality of sleep they’re getting.
- Dreaming — Yes, dogs can dream! MIT research showed that rats experience complex dreams during REM, just like humans, so it’s likely that dogs and other animals do too. While it’s difficult to uncover exactly what dogs dream about, we know the brain processes their events of the day during sleep. So we can assume they’re dreaming of what happened during the day — like a walk around the block or chasing a squirrel.
- Twitching — Just like humans, dogs may twitch in their sleep while they are dreaming or moving between sleep stages. This is a completely normal part of the sleep cycle.
- Barking or squeaking — If your dog barks (or squeaks) during sleep, don’t panic. This is completely normal and may indicate that they’re reacting to something that’s happening in their dream.
- Running — You may notice this when your dog is sleeping on their side and their paws start to move in unison. This is typically in response to a dream your dog may be having.
- Snoring — Some dogs snore just as much as humans, but not every dog will snore. Snoring is most common in brachycephalic breeds or those with short noses and broad skulls — such as pugs, bulldogs, and boxers.
- Circling and digging — Sometimes dogs will circle or dig in their bed before lying down to sleep. According to Peter Laskay, this behavior comes from the dog’s ancestors — wolves. Peter says that wolves did this to get “rid of excess leaves, earth, and snow by digging to make their sleep area more comfortable.”
If you notice your dog exhibiting any of the above sleep patterns, there is no need to worry! Every dog’s sleeping habits will be different and are perfectly normal.
Puppy Sleep Habits
There are specific daytime and nighttime sleep habits unique to puppies.
- Daytime sleeping habits — Puppies tend to sleep a lot more than adult dogs during the day. This excessive sleeping helps them mature, grow, and process the variety of information they have learned. You may also notice your pup napping several times during the day. Some puppies may even sleep every hour. These power naps are normal and may even come out of the blue! Puppies can fall asleep in the oddest places and may even fall asleep in the middle of a training or play session.
- Nighttime sleeping habits — When you first bring your pup home, you may notice that they’re very restless at night. They may get up to go to the bathroom, get water, or eat several times. After a few months, this should stop and you will notice your pup getting around 10 full hours of sleep.
Just like human babies, puppies need an adequate amount of sleep so they can develop and grow properly. To make sure your pup is getting enough sleep, it’s important for them to stick to a consistent sleep schedule.
How Long Do Dogs Sleep?
On average, here’s how many hours dogs sleep by age:
- Puppies: 18-20 hours per day
- Adult dogs: 8-14 hours per day
- Senior dogs: 18-20 hours per day
Typically, adult dogs will sleep 12–14 hours a day. However, just like humans, these numbers can vary based on your dog, their age, activity level, and personality. Dr. Linda Simon says that you “will likely find that your pooch sleeps more on days they have been most active.”
According to Veterinarian Dr. Joanna Woodnutt from DoggieDesigner, “dogs sleep the most between 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., although they usually have afternoon naps.” These naps can happen several times a day depending on your dog.
Puppies, on the other hand, need significantly more sleep for their development and can even sleep up to 20 hours a day. Senior dogs also often have less energy and sleep more during the day.
If you notice that your dog starts to sleep a lot more or is staying awake longer than usual, consider scheduling a vet exam to check for any underlying issues.
Do dogs sleep a lot?
Dogs certainly sleep more than people! Puppies and senior dogs sleep around 18 to 20 hours per day, while adult dogs sleep for eight to 14 hours per day.
Why do dogs sleep on their back with their legs in the air?
A dog may sleep on their back with their legs in the air to keep cool. This way, cold air can reach their belly. This position can also mean that they’re comfortable in their bed and fully trust you.
What is a dog’s most comfortable sleeping position?
This will depend on your dog, but lying on their side is one of the most common sleeping positions for dogs. This position usually means the dog feels safe and relaxed in their environment.
Why do dogs like to sleep with you?
If your pup likes to sleep with you, it means they feel secure and comfortable with you. When your dog was a puppy, they cuddled up with their littermates for warmth and comfort, so now they want to do the same with their people.
Why does my dog have to be touching me when he sleeps?
When your furry friend wants to cuddle up next to you at night, it’s usually a sign of affection. They may also feel the need to get close to their pack members for protection or warmth.
Why does my dog move from spot to spot?
Moving around at night isn’t uncommon for dogs. Circling and digging is an attempt to make their bed more comfortable. Your fur baby may also be trying to find a warmer or cooler spot. However, if your dog is restless, pacing, and not sleeping through the night, you should consult your veterinarian to see if there are any anxiety or pain issues going on.
How to Help Your Pup Get the Best Sleep
It’s important to always keep an eye on your dog’s sleeping habits. The position they sleep in or the amount of sleep they get each day can be little clues into how they are feeling — both mentally and physically.
Dr. Jennifer Coates says that “dogs who are sleeping more or less than normal or in new positions or locations may be suffering from an illness or injury.” It’s always a good idea to talk to your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your dog’s sleep habits.
To help your dog get the best sleep possible, make sure their sleeping environment is comfortable. You can do this by buying a dog bed they love, filling their sleep area with their favorite toys, and keeping water nearby.
If your dog is a cuddler and likes to snooze in bed beside you, make sure to get a mattress protector to safe-guard against any accidents or spills.
“The most common posture that dogs use to sleep is lying on their sides with their legs extended,” says Dr. Coren. This means that a dog is relaxed and comfortable and shows a level of trust with his surroundings.
Just like humans, dogs love to sleep on their side. Lying on their side with their legs extended is one of the most common sleeping positions for dogs. This sleeping position is especially prominent in puppies as well as older dogs who may be suffering from stiff joints.
When your dog cuddles up with you, they are acknowledging that you are a member of its pack. It's a sign of affection, closeness, and connection, and your 'furkid' is saying that it feels safe to be with you. It's a continuation of the bonding process that began when you and your dog first met each other.
#5 “The Spooning Position”
This resembles the human “spooning” positions where there is a “big spoon” and a “little spoon”. This position is touching as it means that your dog is ready for some love and affection, and wants to feel close to you.
So rest assured that the look in their eyes is one of concern and care, not judgment. Dogs also stare when you sleep because the owner's eye contact is comforting to them, and it makes them feel safe. So never think twice about why your dog stares at you while sleeping. They're just showing how much they love you!
There are many reasons why dogs choose to sleep beside or close to their guardians. The reasons for this are strongly based on the type of relationship you have with your dog. For example, a dog will most often sleep with the family member they most strongly relate to. If you are this person, consider yourself lucky!
Dogs tend to love cuddling in their owner's beds. They enjoy the comfort of sleeping by their masters, but dogs tend to carry many types of critters and bacteria that you probably don't want in your cozy sheets. Also, there are certain types of cuddling that dogs do not appreciate, such as giving them bear-type hugs.
They enjoy sleeping with you because it makes them feel safe and comfortable. Sleeping together gives dogs an emotional connection to their owners. Dogs feel love and gratitude towards you, just like you feel towards them.
Your dog wanting to sleep next to you is also a sign of affection and closeness. It means they like your company and consider you a member of the pack. Sleeping by your side also proves their loyalty, trust, and willingness to protect you.
Alpha Family Member
This person, in the eyes of the canine, becomes the alpha member of the pack and Fido will follow the alpha everywhere, even into bed when invited (unless Fido is crate trained where the crate becomes his own safe place).
By putting his paw on you whilst you are petting him, he is expanding contact and reciprocating affection back to you. While this act can be interpreted as an expression of love, your dog pawing at you can also be credited to numerous other feelings. He wants to play, he wants food, he's anxious, or may be in pain.
The Root of the Behavior
Some dogs might resist you touching their paws simply because it makes them feel awkward or vulnerable. While the leathery bottoms are padded to withstand changing terrain and temperatures, the tops are among the most sensitive parts of a dog's body.
It depends. "If the dog has learned to accept kissing on top of the head, then that's fine," says Shojai. "For a new-to-you dog, though, I'd find other more species-appropriate ways to show affection." The truth is that some dogs simply don't like being kissed.
On hot days, squirrels keep cool by splooting (stretching out) on cool surfaces to reduce body heat. It is sometimes referred to as heat dumping.
One way a dog sees a hug is a threat. You are close to someone and your arms are wrapped around them. Your dog might think, “How on earth will they escape?! This must be a death hold!” and out of love for you, he jumps on you to stop the embrace and help you escape from certain death.
The Root of the Behavior
If your dog feels he's had enough sleep and is full of energy, he will try to wake you up so you can do something together. After all, he doesn't understand how hard your day has been and that you really need your rest. Your dog is never happier than when he's with you.
Dogs choose their favorite people based on positive interactions and socialization they have shared in the past. Like humans, dogs are especially impressionable as their brains develop, so puppies up to 6 months old are in their key socialization period.
Turning in circles before lying down is an act of self-preservation in that the dog may innately know that he needs to position himself in a certain way to ward off an attack in the wild.
Bonk told The Dodo. “If a dog is taken care of by a female, they're more likely to prefer females, [whereas] if they're primarily taken care of by a male, they may prefer males.” And in some cases, these associations can be negative.
Licking is a natural and instinctive behaviour to dogs. For them it's a way of grooming, bonding, and expressing themselves. Your dog may lick you to say they love you, to get your attention, to help soothe themselves if they're stressed, to show empathy or because you taste good to them!
According to Dr. Brian Hare, a canine cognition specialist, our dogs do know we love them. Dogs and humans have the ability to form a special neural connection. This connection is the same human oxytocin bonding pathway used by parents and babies.
According to Animal Behaviorists, 'dogs don't understand human kisses the same way that humans do. ' When kissing a young puppy, you may not notice any signs of recognition at all because they have yet to associate kisses with affection.
Obviously, his stronger sense of smell is useful, but it's also because dogs can see movement and light in the dark, and other low-light situations, better than humans. They are assisted by the high number of light-sensitive rods within the retina of their eyes. Rods collect dim light, supporting better night vision.
Does Your Dog Have a Blanket? Dogs notoriously love their blankets. Whether it's at home or on the road, it gives them a place to snuggle up and be comfortable. No matter your lifestyle, this is an easy investment that every pet owner can make to improve the quality of life for their animal.
- Your dog is happy to see you. ...
- Your dog gives you presents. ...
- Your dog puts you second only to food. ...
- Your dog likes to sleep with you. ...
- Your dog looks at you with loving eyes. ...
- Your dog does not care about your appearance. ...
- Your dog follows you everywhere.
If your dog follows you into the bathroom, it's likely a result of their animal instinct and pack mentality. Canines who do this are referred to as “Velcro dogs,” due to their desire to be attached to your side. They may follow you around, even to the bathroom, to protect a part of their pack.
If your dog follows you everywhere then it's a sign that they trust and love you and that you make them feel safe. Following you very closely can be a sign that they're bored, they want something, they're feeling scared or are just being nosy.
But most dogs tend to bond to the person who gives them the most attention. For example, in a family with two parents and two kids, the dog may favor the parent who fills their bowl every morning and takes them for a walk every evening. In addition, physical affection solidifies the bond between dog and person.
If you mean two different family members, yes. If you mean two people who are in charge and give commands then yes but give them more time to get used to the tone and word usage of each person but yes it is also possible. Is easier on the dog if you both use the same word and tone when giving commands.
If you invite someone over and have them give your dog positive attention and treats, your dog will associate that person with positive attention and treats. They may not “remember” your guests the same way you remember them, but they will form associations.
If your dog sees you as the alpha, they will permit you to eat first and refrain from snatching or stealing food. This is a sign of respect. In your home, you set your dog's feeding schedule. If your pup sees you as the alpha, he or she will patiently wait for food or subtly ask for table scraps.
Just as humans stare into the eyes of someone they adore, dogs will stare at their owners to express affection. In fact, mutual staring between humans and dogs releases oxytocin, known as the love hormone. This chemical plays an important role in bonding and boosts feelings of love and trust.
Stop petting and see if your dog solicits more attention by pawing or nosing your hand. This is a gesture to encourage you to keep going," she says.
As such they aim to protect it from any potential harm that may come their way. So much like you would recoil and try to protect your eyes, they would do the same for their nose. The nose consists of fragile mucus glands, so any drying or agitation could hurt. This all being said, you probably shouldn't touch it.
There are, however, some dogs who can survive without the constant stomach rubbing. But most experts agree that when dogs ask for belly rubs or petting of any kind, it shows how comfortable they feel as part of the family. “The greatest reward you can give your dog,” adds Schaier, “is the touch of your hand.”
So, next to a good belly rub, why do all dogs love having their ears massaged? Nerves — a whole branch of them — release endorphins that make your dog feel downright relaxed.
Animal memory is thought to be much more simplistic than human memory, and dogs have episodic memories, which means they are only able to remember certain events in their life. While your dog will remember you leaving the house, they most likely won't understand how long you were away.
What does a dog laugh sound like? All laughter is a sound made by exhaling and inhaling air. Human laughter is made when the chest muscles squeeze air out of the ribcage, creating a vocalised, spoken “ha ha” sound. Dog laughter is created by panting without any vocalisation, creating a more “hhuh hhah” sound.
Researchers looked at 37 pet dogs from volunteers to see how they reacted to baby speak, or 'dog-directed speech' (DDS). They discovered that, compared to a regular voice, DDS grabbed the dogs' attention and held it longer. It's also believed this type of speech can strengthen the bond between pooches and their owners.
Typically, splooting is neither harmful nor a cause for major concern. In fact, the position may actually help dogs relax their legs and hips while stretching other muscles throughout their body. It can also be a beneficial way to cool down, especially during warmer months.
Do all dogs hate being covered by a blanket or do some dogs not mind it? Yes to both. Small dogs, dogs with short hair or hairless breeds, and burrowing breeds tend to like being covered.
If your dog is a particularly loving and affectionate breed, they may choose to sit in your lap as a way to bond with you. Some dogs just really enjoy being close to their people and do whatever they can to keep in contact with them, including sitting on them.
Is a Dog More Protective of Female Keepers? This isn't a general rule, but some pets are more likely to exhibit protective behavior with female keepers. This is because women generally have a softer voice and are gentler whenever they care for the dog.
A study published in Psychological Science says yes. The researchers found that dogs will go so far as to show jealousy even when they can only imagine their owners are interacting with a potential rival.
"Yes, your dog knows how much you love him! Dogs and humans have a very special relationship, where dogs have actually hijacked the human oxytocin bonding pathway that is normally reserved for our babies.
When a dog is happy, their whole body and tail will look relaxed, and they quite often wiggle! A happy dog's whole body can wag along with their tail. A wriggling dog showing you their belly is likely to be a very happy and comfortable dog.
When dogs sleep back-to-back with you, it means that they trust and love you very much. The side position is when a dog sleeps on its side with one or both legs tucked up. This pose usually means that the dog feels comfortable and safe around you.
Signs of an Upset Stomach in a Dog
There are a variety of symptoms that indicate your dog may be experiencing stomach pain. The most obvious symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, pacing, or loss of appetite. If your dog is having severe vomiting, fever, or bloody diarrhea, you need to visit a vet immediately.
They love to eat, sleep and run around outside. Interestingly, dogs have preferences unique to canines. Most people are not aware of these particular tastes. Dogs, like humans, enjoy certain activities, mostly related to their breed, instinct, temperament and personality.
Yes, your dog knows how much you love him! Dogs and humans have a very special relationship, where dogs have hijacked the human oxytocin bonding pathway normally reserved for our babies. When you stare at your dog, both your oxytocin levels go up, the same as when you pet them and play with them.
One of the main reasons your dog sleeps between your legs is for warmth and comfort. Perhaps they feel like a baby in their mother's warm embrace. It might also be because human legs are soft and warm, making you an instant heating pad where they can relax. What's more, it is also a warm mutual benefit.
Dogs can usually go three to five days without food, however, this is not ideal. If your dog has gone two days without food, it is highly recommended you call a veterinarian if you haven't already. More important than your dog eating is their water intake.
- swollen or distended abdomen.
- painful abdomen.
- overall look of distress.
- retching or attempts to vomit with no success.
- excessive drooling.
- panting or rapid breathing.
Chicken and rice are prime ingredients in many dog foods, and these mild foods sit well on upset canine stomachs. Plus, this bland meal is easy to prepare. All you need are boneless, skinless chicken breasts and rice.