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Why do dogs sleep on their back?

Author: Charlotte

Watching a dog sleep can be really soothing and sometimes ridiculously funny. Watching their little legs chase after something, their tongue lolling out to the side of their mouth and listening to the weird and wonderful sounds they make as they snooze can be really entertaining. 

But perhaps the funniest things about dogs sleeping are the positions they get themselves into. We’ve all seen the cute pictures of dogs sleeping on their backs, all four paws up in the air like a flailing beetle. But did you know, that how and in which position your dog sleeps can actually tell you a lot about how they’re feeling and their sleep patterns? 

So, why do dogs sleep on their backs and what can it reveal about them if they do?

Is it common for dogs to sleep on their backs?

The most common and natural way for a dog to sleep is curled up on its side, its paws tucked under its body and the tail wrapped around across the face, not on its back. In this position they’re able to protect their vital organs, throat and face which is instinctual in most dogs. 

Wild and outdoor dogs can conserve and share heat, protect their puppies and be constantly ready to leap up if there’s a threat of danger. Indoor dogs also often sleep like this, ensuring they’re always ready to chase off the postman at a moment’s notice. 

Although it’s the most practical sleeping position for wild and outdoor dogs and an instinctual one for many, it doesn’t give them the best night’s sleep. Their muscles are constantly tense and on edge, meaning that they rarely drift off into a deep sleep where they can really relax. Their brain is always stimulated and their hearing on overdrive. 

So, why then do some dogs sleep on their backs?

what does it mean when a dog sleeps on its back

It’s a sign you’re doing a good job!

When a dog or a puppy sleeps on its back, all four legs up in the air, they’re showing that they feel incredibly comfortable in their environment. There’s no danger or threat of attack and they feel quite happy exposing their most vulnerable organs. It’s a sign that they’re confident in their surroundings and can completely relax. 

It’s quite common to see puppies sleeping on their backs when they’re surrounded by their litter and mother, they feel safe and haven’t quite yet learnt about the dangers of the world. It would be really unusual to find an outdoor dog sleeping on their back as it’s a clear sign of vulnerability and submission. Rolling over onto all fours isn’t as quick as just jumping up either!

When a dog sleeps on their back they’re also allowing all their muscles to properly relax, unlike many other positions. Because they’re so comfortable in their environment, there’s no need for them to stay alert to their surroundings. Pups sleeping in this position can properly drift off and just concentrate on dreaming about rabbits, trips in the car and their favourite treats.

It’s all about regulating their body temperature

Another reason why dogs sleep on their backs is to cool down. Unlike humans, dogs can’t regulate their body temperature by sweating. Normally when they’re hot or exhausted they pant, which circulates cool air through their bodies. 

The one place, however, where they can sweat is through their little paws – which is why there’s often nervous, wet paw prints on the vet’s table! When a dog sleeps on its back, they can put all four paws in the air, allowing them to sweat and cool down.

Our furry friends are also a little less furry on their stomachs, meaning that by sleeping on their backs, more heat escapes and they can better regulate their body temperature. 

Some dogs also find it easier to breathe when they’re sleeping on their backs, especially brachycephalic breeds that have restricted airways. When they’re stretched out on their back, their neck is longer and it can be easier for them to breathe. 

Learning why your dog sleeps in a certain position is a really important part of you getting to know them better, and now you know what it means if your dog sleeps on their back! 

Comment below and let us know what position your dog sleeps in!

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