Aside from lounging around the home and their daily walks, dogs have an enviable lifestyle. Experts suggest that puppies can sleep as much as 11 hours per day, with older adults getting anywhere between 8 and 12 hours.
It’s understandable, then, that you’ve probably encountered your dog trying out some pretty questionable sleeping positions.
Whether they’re half-balanced on the couch, upside down, or they’re neatly tucked up in their bed, what do dog sleeping positions mean? Is there any rhyme or reason to how your dog chooses to sleep? Let’s explore more on this, below.
Dog Sleeping Positions and Their Meanings
You may not have given much thought as to the position your dog’s sleeping in. If anything, you’re probably just wishing that you could trade places for a few moments. But in reality, the way that your dog settles for some shut-eye could reveal their feelings about their environment.
Here are some of the most common sleeping positions, plus some weigh-ins from experts in the industry.
1. The Lion’s Pose
Also known as "The Sphinx," the names are a dead giveaway. When your dog sleeps with their head nestled on their paws, it's reminiscent of those Sphinx or lion's head statues you've probably seen from time to time.
What does it mean? Your dog's likely not in a deep sleep at this stage. One industry expert and vet, Dr. Sarah Wooten has said that this pose is common among dogs who believe they need to remain on guard, or ready to respond quickly.
2. The Superman
When your dog's sprawled out like Superman flying through the sky, legs sprawling forward and belly pressed against the ground, that's "The Superman" pose. It’s common among younger and more carefree canines.
What does it mean? If your dog's adopted this superhero pose, it generally means that they're worn out, yet remain ready to play. That’s why you’ll see it in dog breeds that are overly playful or have higher levels of energy compared to others.
3. The Side Sleeper
Many of us like to sleep on our sides, and dogs are no different. “The Side Sleeper” is a canine who’s quite content to collapse on their side, their legs extended outward.
What does it mean? When your dog’s happy to sprawl out in such a way, it generally means that they’re feeling comfortable and that they’re in a safe space. It also means that they’re a comfortable temperature, as he or she is not trying to preserve body heat.
4. The Cuddler
One of the most popular social media moments among our pups is when they choose to settle down with another dog, or even a cat! However, "The Cuddler" can also involve you, if you'll allow them on the bed.
What does it mean? When a dog's willing to sleep curled up with you or another animal, it means that they trust them completely. They're affection and loving, and it's a source of comfort from their puppy days, according to experts at PetMD.
5. The Donut
When your vast and powerful canine resembles more of a balled-up donut, they're looking to seek comfort. This pose offers reassurance and protection to your dog, while keeping them warm by preserving body heat. They may drape their tail across themselves if they’re a particularly hairy breed.
What does it mean? If you’ve recently adopted a new dog, you’ll probably catch them sleeping in this position while they acclimatize to your home. Dr. Margaret Gruen says that your dog is protecting their vital organs by covering them up, keeping themselves safe. But it’s also a learned habit that goes back generations, when dogs would curl up to preserve body heat in the outdoors.
6. The Burrower
Can’t find your dog because they’ve buried themselves somewhere? "The Burrower" tunnels his or her way into a den made out of blankets, pillows, or cushions in search of security and comfort.
What does it mean? A dog that likes to surround themselves with comforting objects like these is often looking for some reassurance and security. This is another position you might expect to see in a newly-adopted rescue dog. However, some believe it’s simply their way of cutting out distractions to get some quality sleep.
Much like the cuddler position, a dog might back into their canine companion, or into you, to get as close as possible. Some suggest that this is harking back to their puppy days, huddled up with the family as a pack.
What does it mean? You should feel special in this case, as it means your dog loves and trusts you a great deal. If you’re the first in the family to be treated to this behavior, then feel proud — you could be the one who they trust the most!
8. The Belly Up
There's little doubt that this is one of the sweetest positions you'll catch your dog sleeping. On their back with their little paws in the air, your dog is actually very comfortable sprawled out like this.
What does it mean? This sleeping pose is quite the opposite to the donut. With their belly exposed, your dog feels completely safe in his or her environment. They’re comfortable in the knowledge that they’ll be secure with you, while sleeping. However, you might also spot this position frequently in the summer months; dogs’ bellies release heat more quickly!
9. The Elevated Head
Ever spotted your dog sleeping half on, half off the couch? Some dogs like to sleep with their neck and head elevated from the rest of their body. This lessens the pressure placed on these parts of their bodies.
What does it mean? If you catch your dog opting for this position more than a handful of times, they could have problems with their breathing. This could be related to their heart, or to a number of other ailments. Keep an eye out for changes in their activity levels and breathing, and be sure to contact your vet if you're worried.