Dog Sleeping Positions: What the Furry Formations Mean

There’s more to sleep position than comfort.
Photo by Mary, Concord

You love your dog 24/7—whether he’s playing, walking by your side, or relaxing with you on the couch. But there’s little better than watching your dog take a snooze. Dogs have a way of finding the most relaxing positions on their corner of the couch or on their dog bed. Because they sleep from 12 to 14 hours every day, we get familiar with the cozy, sometimes hilarious, ways our dogs like to catch their Zzzzs. Here are some common (and weird) dog sleeping positions and what they may be telling you about your best friend.

Photo by Barbara, Santa Fe

Curled Up Like a Ball

The curled sleeping position provides comfort, warmth, and safety—the closest equivalent for people is the fetal sleeping position. Sleeping tightly curled in a ball is a holdover survival trait from a dog’s ancient forebears. Dogs descended from wolves, pack animals who sleep together in dens. The curled-up sleep position is often called “the fox” after another well known denning creature. Sleeping curled up with their legs tucked toward their belly, and their noses and hindquarters curved together, offers dogs multiple benefits. It allows more animals to fit within a small space; it protects their vital organs in the event of an attack while they are sleeping; and it keeps them warm. Sleeping nose to tail doesn’t mean your dog is less secure or more scared than other dogs; he is simply most comfortable in that position.

Photo by Melissa, West Windsor

The Superman Sprawl

Some dogs sleep on their bellies with their ‘arms’ stretched out in front and ‘legs’ extended behind. (In the similar “sploot” position, most associated with Corgis, the dog stretches only his back legs behind him in a frog-like position.) Often when dogs sleep Superman-style, it means they are feeling hot and cooling off by putting their core against the cold floor or earth. If a dog opts to sleep in that position on a cool, but very hard, tile floor, he is definitely hot. The Superman Sprawl can also be a sign of youth: Puppies will sleep like this because it puts them in the starting position for playtime the second they wake up.

Photo by Melissa, Indio

The Side Sleeper

When dogs sleep on their sides without curling inward on themselves, it means they’re in their comfort zone. In this position, they’re not instinctively drawing their legs in to protect their bellies. Their heads and back sides are stretched out long without a care in the world. It’s also an ideal position for a little cooling off, since airflow over the belly is improved. When your dog sleeps on his side, you’re most likely to observe him twitching and moving his legs as though running, while he dreams about chasing birds and squirrels. Dogs who sleep tightly curled use muscles to stay that way, so you’re less likely to see a curled-up dog “run” in his sleep.

Photo by Melissa, Long Beach

The Back Sleeper

This is the most entertaining of the sleep positions. Sometimes called the “dead bug,” this position exposes a dog’s belly to the ceiling, with his legs hanging akimbo, and sometimes his head lolling off the side of his dog bed or the couch. This image could be more charming and ridiculous only with his tongue hanging out to boot. The back-sleeper position means your dog is ultra-comfortable in his surroundings, taking the side sleeper’s ease a step further. If your dog prefers sleeping on his back, it means he feels utterly safe and unworried about an attack on his vital organs. He may also be trying to stay cool: Dogs have sweat glands in their paw pads, and exposing them to the air can help keep them cool. Seeing your dog or any dog sleeping this way is endlessly amusing, and #dogsofinstagram owes it a debt of gratitude.

The Best Sleeping Positions for Dogs

When you catch your dog sleeping in positions that seem weird, rest assured he has chosen the most comfortable position for that particular moment. If not, he’ll adjust his cozy configuration and furry formation until he hits the sleeping sweet spot.

There are some caveats.

Older or injured dogs may need some help finding the right position. Signs your dog can’t get comfortable include trying multiple positions without settling, stiffness in his joints after waking up, or whimpering or whining while trying to sleep. Help him sleep better with a memory foam dog bed that supports him and relieves pressure, no matter what position he prefers.

Puppies move in their sleep more than adult dogs, and could be injured if they take a tumble while dozing. Keep an eye on your puppy to make sure he doesn’t fall asleep in a dangerous or high place—like a couch or bed—and ensure he isn’t somewhere anyone could step on or trip over him.

It’s an adorable truth: Dogs snore. Brachycephalic breeds are more prone to snoring due to their short snouts and obstructed nasal passages. Some sleeping positions, especially flat on the back, can contribute to snoring. Usually, it’s not a problem. But if your dog’s snoring seems to interfere with his sleep, a dog bed may help him find the best position to reduce the noise. Poor sleep quality or the sudden onset of snoring warrants a call to the veterinarian to rule out medical concerns.

Some sleep positions may indicate pain or discomfort in dogs of any age. If your dog’s eating or behavior has changed and he stretches out his front paws and raises his rear end while trying to get comfortable, he may be suffering from abdominal pain or pressure, a situation that requires a vet visit.

How Can Dog Beds Help Sleeping Positions?

A dog bed is more than a convenient place to snooze: Choosing the right fill and shape can help your dog find the most comfortable position based on his preferred sleep style. To choose a bed your dog can’t pass up, look to his preferred positions for clues:

  • If your companion prefers to sprawl out while he sleeps, a platform bed may give him the freedom to stretch, roll, and tuck as he pleases.
  • A dog who likes to press his back against you or another dog, or who prefers to prop up his chin while dozing, may appreciate a bolster or couch-style dog bed.
  • A wraparound bed gives the curled-up snoozer a bit of extra security.
  • Older dogs may have difficulty curling up to sleep, making a large, rectangular bed a comfortable option.
  • A platform bed may be a good option for older dogs who have trouble climbing into and out of wraparound or couch beds.

Choose the fill based on your dog’s preferred position, age, and sleep habits. Memory foam offers exceptional support, and it’s not just for older dogs: Set up your dog for comfortable sleep right from the start with a memory foam bed that reduces pressure on joints and muscles. For the dog who likes to dig, burrow, and tug his bed into the perfect nest before settling in, ComfortFill-Eco™ is a plush fill option for comfort in any sleep position.

Why Does My Dog Sleep on Me?

Your dog is family—and you’re part of his pack. He wants to sleep as close to you as he can, which means you sometimes end up with a furry companion on the furniture, in the bed, or even sleeping on top of you. Wanting to sleep with you instead of in his thoughtfully chosen bed is a sign of affection. He’s mimicking the warm, furry dogpiles he remembers from puppyhood, and following the pack animal instincts he was born with.

Whether you let your dog sleep in bed with you is up to you, but know that his desire for closeness comes from the bond you share. Keeping the human bed a dog-free zone is your choice—provide plenty of positive reinforcement to make his bed the favorite sleeping spot, and offer him affection and snuggles throughout the day.

Dogs choose the sleeping position that works best for them in the moment. Whether he chooses to snooze nose-to-tail or flat on his back, unless your dog shows signs of discomfort, he’s just making the most of his naptime. Provide dog beds to suit his preferred sleeping style, and enjoy a good laugh (and snap some photos) as he finds new, strange positions for dozing.

3 thoughts on “Dog Sleeping Positions: What the Furry Formations Mean”

  1. I want to buy (as I’ve done before) a dog collar. Can’t even get the page.
    Yes, I called. I was told to try starting my computer (Mac) again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *