October 03, 2019 5 min read

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Dogs sleep in a few different positions, but one of the strangest is on their backs. Some dogs have a habit of sleeping flat on their backs with their paws stretched outwards. Some owners can wonder why do dogs sleep on their backs since this hardly looks like the most comfortable position! However, there are a few good reasons why your pet might be napping like this.

Why Do Dogs Sleep on Their Backs?

As strange as it looks, each dog likely has a different reason for sleeping in this specific position. It depends on the climate that you live in, the location of where your dog sleeps, and even their mood.


The reason why dogs sleep on their backs might depend on where it is you live, and the average temperature. The fur on a dog’s stomach is considerably thinner than anywhere else on their body. By sleeping with their stomach upright, they’re able to cool down considerably more than the other way around. Sleeping on their stomachs swaddles their most exposed area, allowing the fur on their backs to insulate the exposed area. Dogs only sweat through their paws, so this position maximizes their potential for cooling.


Pug Sleeping on its back with its paws up

Some dogs sleep on their backs for a very simple reason; comfort. Like people find different sleeping positions comfortable, so do dogs. With dogs, sleeping on their back might be more comfortable for your pet than it appears. A dog sleep on their back will have all of their muscles relaxed. None of them have to tense or have any pressure put on them. If your dog really wants to relax during their afternoon nap, they might choose this position.

Feeling of Security

Dogs sleeping in that strange position on their backs only occurs in domesticated dogs, and not their close relations in the wild. While dogs have plenty in common with their wild counterparts, this is a quirk exclusive to pets. Laying directly on their back is a particularly vulnerable position. It doesn’t give their body any protection and leaves them vulnerable to threats. If a dog is sleeping on their backs it indicates that they feel particularly secure. They are comfortable enough that they don’t need to protect themselves.


A sweeter answer to why do dogs sleep on their backs may just be to project their affection. A dog that sleeps on their back is exposing themselves entirely to those around them. Dogs that are very trusting of their owner will fall asleep in this position by their owner to demonstrate that trust.

Other Common Sleeping Positions

Terrier puppy sleeping on its back next to a red ball

While dogs sleeping on their backs is a particularly funny position, a lot of dogs sleep in different positions. Sleeping dogs chose a variety of ways to lie their head down for the night (or afternoon, or even mid-morning for some pets) for quite a few different reasons. If your dog is going for their back over their positions, it can tell you something about their sleeping needs.


The superman position gets its name from the way that Superman looks when he’s flying, rather than being the preferred way for his dog to sleep. This position is where a dog is laid flat on their stomachs, with their paws pointed forwards. This allows a dog to spring back up right away. It is a popular position for puppies to lay in and is frequently seen when a dog falls asleep while still attempting to play.

Curled in a Ball

The most common position for dogs to sleep in the wild is curled up in a ball. This way of sleeping protects them and gives them a sense of security. However, it isn’t a sleeping position reserved entirely for dogs that feel unsafe. It is the warmest position to sleep in. During the colder months, or even if your dog is just fond of a toasty nap, dogs will default to this position to save warmth. If your dog has a tendency to become alarmed at outside noises, they may sleep in this position for alertness. It lets them spring back into action as quickly as possible, sleeping in this position may be part of their guard duty routine.

On Their Side

Golden dog sprawled out sleeping on its back

A dog sleeping on their side shares a lot of similarities with those laid on their backs. They’re leaving themselves exposed which shows trust. It also allows them to rest their muscles and go relatively limp. A dog sleeping on their side is likely a pretty relaxed pet. This position allows gives them scope to fidget in their sleep, so you’ll know if a dog is dreaming about running.

Let Your Dog Sleep

A sleeping dog is sleeping because they’re tired or really need some rest. While it can mean a dog is bored, they typically only sleep if they want to relax. It is important to allow your dog to sleep when they want too, even if they’re in a weird position. Waking them prematurely can cause the dog some problems

Dogs Woken Suddenly Can Be Confused or Aggressive

Chihuahua sleeping on its back on a pink blanket

A dog that is woken up suddenly can become pretty confused. This can lead to random bursts of aggression in an otherwise good-natured dog. Many animals will panic or assume they’re in some sort of danger if they’re awoken suddenly. It is a response that natural selection has trained them for, it keeps them safe. You should avoid waking your dog up suddenly to cut down on these types of incidents. Although if it happens too often it may be a sign of aggression or distress.

Help Your Dog Get the Best Rest with a Dog Bed

Sleep is really important to your dog’s health regardless of the position they’re in. You can help make sure your dog is always comfortable by providing them with a dog bed. Dog beds are the best place for a dog to sleep since they encourage relaxation and comfort, making it easy for your dog to get the rest that they need. If your dog is laying in a specific position, it might mean that you should consider getting a type of bed that helps them stay comfortable.

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Gel-Cooled Dog Bed

If you’re wondering why do dogs lie on their backs, the answer might be with your bed more than their environment. If a dog is laid on their backs to keep cool at all times, they might need a bed that helps them to stay cool. A gel-cooled bed is the best way to keep a dog comfy while they sleep since it cools them down by itself, ensuring they’re not waking up from the heat.

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Orthopedic Dog Bed

Orthopedic dog beds have a lot of benefits for helping your dog to relax their muscles. If your dog is laid on their back to sleep because they really need to relax after a particularly long day of playing or working, then an orthopedic dog bed can ensure they can sleep in a lot of different positions and still wake up feeling refreshed.

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Dogs sleep on their backs for a variety of reasons. A dog may just enjoy sleeping in that goofy position. However, if you think it is because your dog is uncomfortable with muscle pain or because your house is a bit too hot for them, then a specialist bed can be a big help. Otherwise, they might just enjoy that strange way of sleeping.

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