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Why Do Dogs Lay in the Sun? 5 Key Reasons

Gregory Iacono

By Gregory Iacono

a dog squinting his eyes from the bright sunlight

If you have a dog, you know they love sitting in the sun and will do so whenever they can. Many dogs stake out a particular spot where they take in the sunshine regularly. The question many dog fans have, though, is why? Do dogs lay in the sun because, like us humans, it feels so wonderful? Or is there something else that goes beyond comfort and warmth?

The good news is that we did the research and have all the answers and insights for you below! If you want to know why your darling dog loves laying in the sun, the five reasons below will shine some light on the subject!


The 5 Reasons Dogs Lay in the Sun

1. Sunshine Boosts Your Dog’s Serotonin Levels

Like humans, a dog’s body makes and uses the hormone serotonin. Serotonin is often referred to as the “feel good” hormone because, not surprisingly, it makes you feel good and does the same for dogs. Sitting in the sun helps raise the amount of serotonin produced in your dog’s body, which improves their mood and gives them a sense of well-being and tranquility.

German Malinois dogs outside
Image credit: OlgaOvcharenko, Shutterstock

2. Sunlight Regulates Your Dog’s Circadian Rhythm and Sleep-Wake Cycle

Another trait dogs share with humans is that they have what’s known as circadian rhythm. It is the 24-hour cycle that tells your dog’s body when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to get up and start their day (and many other functions also). The circadian rhythm is also known as the body’s “inner clock.”

What’s truly interesting is that the sun plays a significant role in your dog’s circadian rhythm. The light from the sun directly affects your pet’s sleep-wake cycle, influencing not only when to sleep and when to wake but also how well your dog sleeps. If a dog doesn’t get enough sunlight, it can lead to insomnia and other behavioral problems. In effect, your dog lies in the sun during the day to sleep better at night.

3. Sunlight Reduces Your Dog’s Production of Melatonin

We mentioned above that sunlight keeps your dog’s sleep-wake cycle regular. One of the major players in this cycle is melatonin. Melatonin is another hormone that dogs and humans make, but in this case, the sun helps your dog (or you) stay awake. That’s because when your dog sits in the sun, they reduce the amount of melatonin their body produces so that they remain awake and alert. In other words, sunlight helps your dog stay awake during the day (even if they might nap while they sunbathe).

black cockapoo dog lying down in a garden on a sunny morning
Image Credit: Chris JG White, Shutterstock

4. Sunlight Helps Your Dog Produce Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin, which means your dog’s body can’t make it on their own but needs outside help from something to produce it. That something, not surprisingly, is the UV rays of the sun. Without sunshine, your dog’s body can’t make Vitamin D, which is vital to its health and well-being. Of course, dogs don’t know this fact, per se, but after thousands of years, they instinctively know that sunshine is something their body needs, which is why they seek it out.

It’s important to note that Vitamin D plays a significant role in several areas of your dog’s body. For example, Vitamin D works with calcium and phosphorus to keep your pet’s bones strong and healthy. It’s also connected to heart health and has been linked to lower cancer rates. Lastly, Vitamin D helps prevent inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), making it vital that your dog gets enough sunshine throughout the year so that it produces plenty of this essential vitamin.

5. Sunshine Helps Your Dog Regulate Its Body Temperature

Ona cold morning (or any time of day), most people grab a jacket, cuddle under a blanket, or turn up the heat. Dogs can’t do any of these things independently but can find a sunny spot and warm up that way. If you see your dog searching for sunshine when it’s cold outside, it’s most likely that they’re trying to get warm and comfy. That’s why placing their bed in an optimal location for sunshine is a great idea in winter.

chocolate labrador retriever dog lying on grass
Image Credit: OutsidePhotos, Pixabay

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Is Too Much Sunshine Unhealthy for Dogs?

Like humans, too much sunshine can be unhealthy for your dog. One mistake many dog owners make is thinking that a dog’s skin can’t get sunburned because they’re covered in hair or fur. That’s not always true, however. Yes, hair will shield their body somewhat, but many species don’t have enough to protect them fully.

Even worse, all dogs have several body parts that aren’t covered in fur, including their bellies, nose, muzzles, armpits, and some parts of their faces. If those parts are exposed to the sun too often or for too many hours at once, they can get sunburned just as easily as you can if exposed to too much sunlight.

Too much of the sun’s UV rays can also cause several serious health issues for your dog, including cancer and blood vessel tumors, called hemangiomas.

How to Protect Your Dog from Getting Sunburned

As we’ve seen, sunshine is important for your dog’s health and well-being, but too much can be problematic. The methods below will help you prevent your canine companion from getting too much sun and reduce their risk of sun-related health issues.

dog outside in shade
Image Credit: ALEKSEI SEMYKIN, Shutterstock

Provide Plenty of Shade for Your Dog

If you have an outside dog or plan to stay outside for several hours, ensure you have a shady spot for your dog. If they aren’t using it, lead them to the shade and tell them to “stay.”

Use Vet-Recommended Sunscreen on Your Pet

Several brands of sunscreen made for dogs and cats do a good job of preventing sunburn. Alternatively, you could use sunscreen made for children with no zinc. Zinc is toxic to dogs and, if they lick it off their skin, can cause vomiting and diarrhea.

Don’t Let Your Dog Go Outside Between 10 AM and 4 PM

These hours are when the sun’s UV rays are the strongest. It’s better to go before or after to lower your dog’s sunburn risk.

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Final Thoughts

Like humans, dogs are sun worshippers because it feels good and warms their bodies. Dogs also instinctively know that sunshine is good for them. They might not understand what Vitamin D or serotonin is, but they innately know that their body needs them to stay healthy.

As with humans, preventing sunburn is highly recommended when your dog goes outside. We hope the tips and advice we’ve given to prevent sunburn help you keep your furry friend healthy and empower you both to enjoy the sun safely!

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Ryan_hoel, Shutterstock

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