Common Dog Sleeping Positions and What They Mean
Like humans, each dog has its own amount of time that they like to sleep for on a given day. Though also like humans, there is an average amount of time that they should be sleeping in order to feel refreshed and ready for playtime! Most dogs will sleep an average of 12-14 hours a day, though this will vary depending on their age and health. Puppies are known to sleep for a lot longer, and the same goes for seniors.
When your four-legged friend is enjoying a good nap, you may notice they have a whole variety of ways to keep comfy! Whether your dog sleeps on their back in the middle of the floor, or your dog sleeps against you, these different positions can tell you how they are feeling at that particular moment in time. In this article, we are going to explore some positions and what they could mean.
How Your Dog Sleeps with You
Now, you may be one of those people that brings your dog to bed with you for a warm cuddle at bedtime or someone that likes to have them curled up alongside you on the sofa in the evening. And that’s absolutely fine! Sometimes the comfort of your little (or maybe not so little!) companion is just what you need, and the same goes for them.
Having your furry friend sleeping alongside you can actually improve the quality of sleep for both you and them. The thing to remember with all dogs is that when you bring them into your home, you are giving them a new pack and that new pack is you, just like them becoming part of your family. Packs stick together, this is for protection, comfort, entertainment, and many other reasons. When you sleep with your dog, be it alongside them, having them at your feet or having them in a bed of their own in the room with you, you build that pack bond, and you maximize your time with them, which will make them very happy.
Dog Sleeping Positions and Their Meanings
You may find yourself wondering, why do dogs curl up to sleep? Or how are they not uncomfortable hanging off the sofa like that? Some sleeping positions are simply a quirk of that particular dog and their personality and others can tell you how they are feeling at that particular time. Here we will take a look at a few of the more common sleeping positions and what they may mean.
- Curled into a Ball
Let’s start with one of the better-known ways in which most dogs sleep! Curled up into a little ball.
The most obvious and instinctual reason for this sleeping position, particularly in the wild with dogs and wolves, is that by sleeping in such a way that then heads are tucked away behind their tails they are able to protect their eyes and throat in the event of an attack. It is one of the least restful of positions for a dog because by sleeping like this they don’t allow their body to fully relax in case of an emergency in which they are required to leap into action. This position also allows them to save space amongst their pack-mates and protect their young.
By curling into a ball dogs are also able to make themselves as small as possible, therefore making it easier for them to regulate their body temperate more evenly and keep themselves warm when it’s a bit chilly. This is why you often see dogs sleeping like this in exposed environments such as the outdoors. You will also find that this sleeping position tends to be more common in dogs that are short-haired or have a slight frame, like greyhounds for example, as they will struggle to stay warm as easily as something like a husky.
- The Sphinx Pose
You may find your dog sometimes sleeps like a reclined lion (or sphinx); settled back on their hind legs, with their head resting on their front paws. When they are in this position it is actually more likely that they are just “resting their eyes” and not actually sleeping. This is another alert position so that they can jump up and continue on with their day at a moment’s notice. Dogs sometimes assume this position shortly after playing, just to catch a quick rest, post-playtime.
- On Their Side
This is probably the most common sleeping position amongst dogs, in which they lay on their side with their legs out in front of them. You should take solace in this sleeping position, as it means that they feel relaxed and at ease with their environment. When you have created a loving home for your pup, they will not feel the need to protect themselves at all times, because they have complete trust in you as their owner and pack-mate.
- The Superman
This sleeping position is exactly what it sounds like! They will sleep splayed out on the floor, with their belly to the ground, their hind legs stretched out behind them, their front legs out ahead and their chin on the floor.
This is actually the complete opposite of curling into a ball, in a sense that by curling up they are able to reserve their heat, but by laying themselves flat against the ground they are actually trying to cool down. You’ll often find that if your pup is doing this, they will have also found themselves the coolest spot in the house (perhaps the kitchen where there are tiles). This is because the skin on a dog’s underside is not nearly as thick and insulating at the fur around the rest of their body, so by being able to rest their belly against a cool surface, they can bring their core temperature down, and their fur can insulate them from the heat, making them much more comfortable.
If it is that your little buddy is often sleeping in this way (say for example if you live somewhere that is warm a lot of the time), it may be worth looking into means of providing them with a cool place to sleep, such as a cooling matt, or an elevated bed. If you are concerned that your dog may be struggling in the heat it is also advisable to ask for your vet’s advice on additional or alternative cooling methods.
- Snuggled Up
Possibly the most endearing way for your pup to sleep! When they get a point in the day that they just want to be with near you, your dog may decide then is the time to sleep either up against you or even on top of you (perhaps easier said than done for some of the larger breeds!).
There is a bit more to this sleeping position than simply wanting a snuggle, though that is part of it. This is actually a behavior that is carried over from when they were a puppy and is something you often see in cats as well. As a puppy, they will have spent a lot of their time sleeping closely with their owners or pack-mates as a way of keeping warm. This is because, like human babies, they struggle to regulate their body temperate at such a young age. They also will have done this to seek comfort and security in the closeness of their family. As they grow into adulthood they will have held on to this instinct and continue to seek the closeness of their owners. Hence how you end up with very large breeds that still believe themselves to be lap dogs!
Dog Sleeping Stages
Very much like humans, dogs have several stages to their sleep which rely very much on their environment.
This is an active stage of sleep, in which if something were to happen a dog can leap up at a moment’s notice and spring into action. It is often found to be the main way in which wild or outdoor dogs sleep.
2nd to 3rd Stage
When transitioning through these stages, their heart rate will decrease, their breathing will slow, and they will drift into a deep sleep. This is when you will notice some dogs start to snore.
This is a very heavy point in their rest where you won’t be able to wake then easily. They will be oblivious to anything going on around them and would appear disoriented if woken suddenly at this point.
Though it is not confirmed whether dogs actually dream, this is the point at which they begin twitching, barking, moving and otherwise behaving in a way that a dreaming human would.
Understanding the reasons your dog sleeps the way it does will help you to further your bond with them and be more secure in your knowledge of their behaviors. Be it in a ball, laid out flat, on their side or even upside down, you will get to know what style suits them best, and may even learn a couple of things that could help them be more comfortable along the way.