Dogs are quirky creatures. They do things that leave us scratching our heads. Like, why do dogs sleep on their backs? It doesn't look comfortable, but that's how some dogs like to sleep. Dogs sleep on their backs for a number of reasons, and some will go out of their way to find a soft surface, only to roll on their backs or cover their face with their paws.

Dog sleeping position says a lot about how they are feeling. If your dog is sleeping on their back, it suggests they feel safe and secure in their surroundings. But it can mean other things too. Let's dive into this behavior and see what it means for your pooch!

Here's Why Your Dog is Sleeping on Its Back

If you've noticed your dog sleeping on its back with their paws in the air, you may have felt concerned. Why would a dog sleep in this position? There are a few reasons why dogs lie on their backs to sleep.

The most common reason dogs sleep on their back is because it's comfortable. Just like humans, dogs may prefer a certain sleeping position. Most often, this comes down to comfort. For many dogs, laying on their backs is a lot more comfortable than laying on their tummy, especially if they have long hair that gets pulled and tangled.

An adorably cute puppy lounges coquettishly on a bean bag ottoman

Confident and Secure

Dogs sleep on their backs when they feel confident and secure in their environment. Exposing their belly puts them in a vulnerable position, so they won't do it just anywhere.

You may notice that your dog sleeps in this position at night on their dog bed, but if they are napping outside during the day, they are curled up tight in a ball. This is because your dog feels safe and secure in the house, but less so outdoors.

Sleeping positions can also indicate the levels of a dog's happiness. A dog who sleep on their back is happy and feels safe. This sleeping position is a sign of confidence. If your dog is sleeping on their back, they are completely comfortable in their home.

Interestingly, back sleeping is a sleeping position that's only found in adult dogs and puppies who are domesticated. Wild dogs, like coyotes and wolves never sleep on their backs because it makes them too vulnerable to attacks from predators.

It's Too Hot

Another reason dogs sleep on their backs is because they are too hot. Dogs don't regulate their body temperature the same way humans do. If the temperature is too high for them, it can change their sleeping positions. Exposing the belly is one way your dog can speed up the cooling process.

If you notice your dog sleeping on their back more in the summer months, this could be why.


If your dog changes position frequently or tosses and turns while trying to fall asleep, your dog may be trying to get comfortable. Just like humans, dogs sleep in the position that feels best. Even though it looks uncomfortable to you, back sleeping allows your dog to stay relaxed by releasing tension from their muscles. It avoids putting pressure on them while they sleep. The deeper your dog is sleeping, the more likely they will end up lying on their back with their paws in the air.


Sleeping on their back exposes a dog's belly to everyone around them. When a dog trusts their owner, they may fall asleep on their back to display their level of trust.

Other Common Dog Sleeping Positions

Dogs look especially adorable when they sleep on their backs, but there are a number of other positions you may find your dog sleeping in. There are different reasons why dogs choose each position.


The Superman sleeping position gets its name from the position that Superman puts himself in while flying. This position involves a dog lying flat on their tummy with their paws pointed forward. This position allows a dog to pop up quickly to run away. It's most commonly seen in puppies who fall asleep mid-play session.

Curled in a Ball

Wild dogs sleep curled up in a ball more often than any of the other sleeping positions. This sleeping position provides security, but it also protects a dog's body from the cold. If you find your dog curled in a ball during cold weather, it's most likely because they are trying to stay warm. Puppies do this too as it protects and allows them to spring into action quickly when they wake up.

Side Sleeping

Side sleeping positions and back sleeping are similar in the sense that they both leave a dog in a vulnerable position. Dogs who sleep on their sides are very relaxed. They often fidget and dream in this position, too.

Sleeping dog under the blanket.

How Much Sleep Do Dogs Need?

If it seems like your dog sleeps an awful lot, you're not imagining it. Adult dogs sleep an average of 10-12 hours a day. A puppy or senior dog can sleep as much as 20 hours a day! However, dogs don't sleep all at once like humans do. They have a sleep pattern that's polyphasic. In contrast to us biphasic humans, this means that dogs sleep in short bursts throughout the day, for an average of 45 minutes at a time.

While it might seem like your dog sleeps at night along with the family, they rarely meet all their sleep needs all at once. They often take naps during the day as they need them. Dogs are often dubbed as "social sleepers" because they adjust their sleep habits according to those around them. Essentially, they want to be awake when we are and adjust their habits to their environment.

Dogs require adequate sleep to maintain their health and wellbeing. Sleep supports their immune system, brain function, and memory retention. Daytime activities and changes in routine can affect a dog's sleep schedule, as can changes in routine and environment.

Much like us, dogs can have significant health impacts from not getting enough sleep. If your dog isn't sleeping enough, they can become stressed, anxious, and even aggressive. Health conditions can alter a dog's sleep quality and also affect their behavior.

How Do I Know If My Dog Is Getting Enough Sleep?

If you notice that your dog is suddenly having difficulty sleeping or that they are getting less sleep than they should, it's important to talk to your veterinarian. But it can be tough to know how much sleep your dog is actually getting. Using a sleep tracker, like the one on the Fi GPS collar can help.

Using a sleep tracker gives you accurate information on how much sleep your dog is getting. It tracks duration of sleep, length of sleep, and gives you 24 hour totals. Since Fi also tracks the amount of exercise your dog gets, you can monitor and detect any unusual patterns.

Puppies and Senior Dogs Need More Sleep

A puppy needs a lot more sleep than an adult dog. Older dogs do too. So, if it seems like your puppy or senior dog is sleeping a lot, it's because they need extra sleep to stay healthy. A growing pup needs as much as 21 hours of sleep each day. Since they spend most of their awake time playing and learning how to behave, they need plenty of rest to recover.

Young animals are fantastic at napping, but often terrible at sleeping through the night. Part of the reason for this is that puppies are learning to control their bladder. They can't hold it for very long, so they learn quickly to wake up when their body indicates it's time to go.

As dogs age they need more recovery time after activities. It's normal for seniors to sleep more and slow down a bit. A dog's enthusiasm for intense exercise will naturally decline as they age, but if your dog is struggling to stay awake, it may be time to see the vet, as it can be a sign of an underlying condition.

How to Help Your Dog Sleep

With regular sleep, you can help your dog stay healthy. Here are some tips to help your dog sleep:

  • Create a routine - Establish a regular bedtime routine for your dog, similar to how you would with a young child. Be consistent with exercise and feeding times, let your dog out when you get up in the morning, and make sure they are exposed to sunlight, which can regulate sleep-wake cycles.
  • Make time for play - Dog sleep is directly affected by exercise and fresh air. It tires out their body and gets rid of excess mental energy, making it easier to fall asleep.
  • Help them relax - When it's time for bed, dim the lights, help your dog settle into their bed, and keep the room quiet.
  • Give them a comfy bed - Since dogs lie down in different positions, it may help to try a different dog bed. If your dog likes to sleep on their back with their paws in the air, they may like a large bed to spread out on. Maybe they need an orthopedic pillow for their head or a self cooling mattress to help them cool off in the heat. Some animals prefer a foam bed to help relax tense muscles. If your pup likes to curl up completely, they may like a bed that creates a den or nook.
  • Treat any underlying issues - Talk to your veterinarian about any underlying conditions that may be preventing your pet from sleeping properly. Lifestyle changes, medications, or supplements may help improve sleep quality. For dogs suffering from arthritis, pain medication may be needed to help them relax and stay pain-free.
A sleeping dog ( isolated )

Final Thoughts

Dogs sleep on their backs when they feel safe and comfortable in their surroundings. If your dog sleeps in this position, take it as a sign that they are content and happy. A dog may also sleep on their back to cool off in the heat or simply because it's the position where they feel most relaxed. Dogs sleep approximately 10-12 hours a day. Not getting enough sleep can cause health problems for your dog, but you can keep track of their habits by using a sleep tracker. If you find that your dog isn't getting enough rest, it may be time to call the vet.

For more helpful articles about pet-parenting tips, check out the Off Leash blog at

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