Dog Sleeping Positions And What They Mean

Are you a side sleeper or a back sleeper?

Just like humans, dogs sleep in a variety of positions but usually have a favorite. Some prefer to sleep on their sides, others curled in a ball, and some with their paws in the air. There are 7 common sleeping positions with each meaning something different.

Your dog’s favorite sleeping position can give you insight into how they are feeling and their personality. Learn more about each position below.

Lion Pose

Photo: Pixabay

While this may sound like a yoga move, it actually means the dog is just resting with his head on his paws and is not in a deep sleep. Dogs who often sleep this way are protective. They can jump up at a moment’s notice from this position.

Side Sleeper

Photo: Pixabay

This is one of the most common positions. Lying on their sides with their legs stretched out shows they are comfortable and relaxed in their surroundings. Dr. Stanley Coren, a professor with the Psychology Department at the University of British Columbia, is an expert on dog sleeping habits and has written many books on the topic. He believes most dogs who start out in Lion’s Pose will change to their sides once they fall in a deep sleep. “As soon as the dog starts to dream, his muscles will relax and he will roll out of the lion pose into the normal sleeping position.”

Dogs who choose this position are often trusting and loyal.

The Donut

Photo: Pixabay

Another common sleeping position is when dogs curl up into a tight ball. Some sleep this way to conserve body heat and others choose it as a way to protect themselves. Dr. Katherine Houpt, professor emeritus of behavioral medicine at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, studied shelter dogs and found most sleep this way.

“I think that it makes them feel that they are less vulnerable,” she said.

Belly Up

Photo: Pixabay

Dogs who sleep with their paws in the air and belly exposed are said to be fully trusting of their humans and environment. Some dogs will choose this position on a hot day to cool off.


Photo: Pixabay

This is another position that dogs will resort to when hot. Often dogs will find a cool tile floor and spread out with their paws out in front and behind. Dr. Houpt said dogs 20-pounds and under are more likely to choose this position. “You see it often in Chihuahuas and Terriers,” she says. “I think that there may be some mechanical reason why if a dog gets to be over 20 pounds, it’s harder for them to do that.”

Cuddle Bug

Photo: Pixabay

Dogs who sleep back to back with their humans or other pets are extremely affectionate and just want to be close to the ones they love.

“As the dogs mature, sleeping that way against another living thing merely becomes a sort of learned feeling of comfort held over from puppyhood,” says Dr. Coren.


Photo: Pixabay

Dogs that love to burrow under blankets or pillows are thought to be affectionate but needy. They long for comfort and security.

Dogs may change their favorite position as they age and experts suggest a comfortable orthopedic bed for seniors to help ease their tired joints. There is a perfect bed for each position. Check out some options by clicking here.

Additional Resources

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