What Your Dog's Sleeping Position Really Means

Does your dog's sleeping position baffle you? We've often looked at our own dogs, contorted into a half side-lying, two paws down, two paws in the air position and wondered, "How can that possibly be comfortable." Let's find out what your dog's sleeping position really means.

Your dog's sleeping position varies depending on their surroundings, level of fatigue, body temperature, and trust in the people around them at the time. A dog's sleeping posture can also give a per owner insight about the dog's health.


Side Sleeping: Safe, Comfy, Trusting

When dogs are laying on their side, legs outstretched, but relaxed, they are at their most chill. In this position, your dog is able to fall into a deep sleep. It is also the position in which a dog is likely to dream, which might be observable by twitching, whimpers, or a little paw tap. When your dog is in this position for sleeping, the are showing that they feel safe and trust the environment and the people around them.


Coil or Donut: Chilly or Anxious

Also known as "the circle" and "the bagel," a dog in this sleeping position is either cold or feeling a bit anxious. You will most often see a dog coiled like a cobra during cold-weather months. Think of huskies in the snow...this is how they sleep to keep warm. It is also a common position to see if you have brought your pet into new surroundings or when you bring a new pet home. They are a bit anxious and want to be in a position from which they can observe what's going on while still feeling protected.


Sphinx or Lion's Pose: Tired, but Need to be Aware

A dog that is sleeping in a pose that resembles an ancient sphinx or a resting lion indicates that the dog is tired, but feels the need to remain aware of the surroundings. They may close their eyes and relax their ears, but they perk-up at the slightest movement. It's as if they have a sense that something is going to happen and want to be "ready." In this position, your dog is relaxed but is not in a deep sleep. You might also consider this the "watchdog pose."


That's exactly what happened in this photo of Lexi. She had her eyes closed, resting by the front door. Her ears would twitch occasionally. Upon rising from my desk in the office, from which the photo was taken, her eyes opened--bright and alert--and her ears perked up.


Superman Pose: Restin' but Ready

This is the pose that makes many dog owners wonder if their dogs joints are overly flexible: on the belly, front legs reaching, back legs stretched behind them. Put on a cape and they might just take to the skies like Superman! In this resting pose a dog may fall asleep, but lightly. They're up for playtime at any moment.


Paws in the Air: Total Trust in My Surroundings

If your dog has complete trust in your and their surroundings, they will lay in this open and--in canine language--vulnerable position. When lying belly-up with paws in the air, the dog is not in a posture from which it can defend itself or make a quick escape (they have to flip over, first). This position is one of vulnerability because their vital organs are facing up. It's also a position from which your dog, when overheated, can quickly cool down.


Head Up Sleeping: Visit the Vet

Should you ever see your dog sleep with its head and neck elevated could be a sign of trouble breathing. Keep an eye on things; if this becomes a consistent way for your dog to sleep or rest, or should you hear any wheezing, bring Fido to the vet for a check-up.


There are many variations of dog sleeping positions. In the comments, we invite you to share a photo of your dog in her or his favorite --or funny-- sleeping pose!

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