Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Why Do Dogs Sleep on Their Backs? 5 Reasons & Alternative Positions

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

Bulldog sleeping soundly on bed

It’s no secret that dogs are the sweetest beings on earth. Many of us turn to them for entertainment and rely on their company to ease loneliness. They certainly know how to put a smile on our faces, even when they are sleeping.

Speaking of, have you ever wondered why dogs love spreading out on their backs while sleeping? You’d think a four-legged animal would prefer sleeping on its belly, but that’s not the case when it comes to our furry friends.

Some of the common causes are temperature regulation, comfort, feelings of security, need for affection, and lastly, potential health issues. Read on if you’d like to learn more.

Divider-Dog Paw and Bone- New

The 5 Reasons Why Dogs Sleep on Their Backs

Dogs are sort of like humans in that they have their own way of responding to various stimuli. And since back-sleeping is often regarded as a response to those stimuli, it can stem from a myriad of causes. Suffice it to say, most causes are relatively harmless and don’t usually require any medical intervention.

1. Comfort

Back-sleeping is one of the most comfortable positions. It helps relieve pressure on the spinal tissues, while at the same time giving more room for the muscles to relax. Since your dog’s body weight will be evenly distributed, they won’t have a problem falling into a deep slumber, thus leading to restful sleep.

2. Need for Affection

If your dog was resting on a side position, but then they turn onto their back, they may be trying to tell you that they are due for a belly rub! And they’ll stay that way for as long as they must until they get what’s rightly theirs. Even if it means falling asleep while in that position.

It’s up to you to decide if it’s okay to reinforce this behavior or nip it in the bud. We don’t see any problem with fostering it, as it’s a sign that they trust you.

Happy Sleep puppy corgi dog
Image Credit: CWR, Shutterstock

3. They Feel Secure

Several studies have reiterated that animals only sleep on their backs if they feel safe. That’s why this position is more prevalent among domesticated species as opposed to wild animals. Back-sleeping typically exposes all the vital organs in their bodies, making them susceptible to irreversible damage should a predator decide to attack.

Your dog trusts you to protect them while they are sleeping. They know their home is a safe and secure environment and that they’re not in any imminent danger.

4. Arthritis

Although this is a rare cause, Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) or osteoarthritis might be the reason why your pooch loves sleeping on its back. This condition predominantly affects larger breeds, as their excess weight stresses the cartilage and joints. As they grow older, the cartilage will slowly wear out, leaving the joint without a cushion.

Besides aging, DJD can also be caused by an injury or an undiagnosed illness. If your dog isn’t as active as they were before, or if they are hesitant to jump, chances are they have already developed the condition in some form. They may be sleeping on their back to release the pressure off their joints and muscles.

5. Body Temperature Regulation

People who live in areas that experience high temperatures will confirm their dogs sleep on their backs almost all the time. Because most canines have a very thin layer of fur on their tummy, they’ll have to expose that whole area to dissipate heat more efficiently. And the dogs will also have their paws facing up, to speed up the cooling process.

Then again that’s not to say that dogs that live in cold climates will never sleep on their backs. They still do, but mostly because they want sunlight, or the warmth generated by an artificial source to warm their belly.

two happy dogs in funny sleeping position
Image Credit: Mahmad, Freepik

Divider 3

Other Dog Sleeping Positions

It’s important to learn about your dog’s sleeping positions because they are indicative of not only their physical state but their mental aspect as well. Fortunately, experts have done all the groundwork and drafted the “cheat codes” to interpret the said positions.

The Burrower

dachshund dog burrowing under the blanket
Image Credit: SM-BG, Shutterstock

Dogs that are “burrowers” are those who love snuggling with pillows, blankets, or different pieces of clothing that have been produced using soft fabric.


pug dog sleeping in bed
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

9 times out of 10, a dog will sleep in the tummy position if it feels hot. The position is very similar to that of a lion posing, and the floor surface has to be cold. They won’t care if they are sleeping on the pavement or in the kitchen, as long as that surface is cold enough to alleviate the heat.

Raised Head or Neck

Dog Pillow
Image Credit By: CC0 Public Domain, pxfuel

They’ll sleep the same way we do, using a pillow, cushion, or the side of the bed, to ensure their heads and/or neck stays raised.

Cuddle Bug

Yes, they say it’s the most adorable position. And it’s so common among “Velcro” dogs. This is the type of breed that’s social in nature and loves being by its owner’s side every minute. There’s nothing to be worried about if your dog is a “cuddle bug,” as this is a sign that they want to bond with you more, show affection, or remind you of their love.

shiba inu dog sleeping in his owners lap
Image Credit: Elena Shvetsova, Shutterstock

The Donut

Dog sleeping on the carpet
Image Credit: Taras Verkhovynets, Shutterstock

It’s almost like the dog is trying to form the shape of a ball, seeing as its tail curls over the body, with the legs held close. Dogs love sleeping in this position if they are unfamiliar with the environment or if it’s too cold.

The Sphinx

Akita white dog on bed laying down
Image Credit: esmalen, Pixabay

Some experts like to call this the lion’s pose, as the dog usually sleeps while resting its head on its paws. It’s much easier for them to jump and run at a moment’s notice should they feel threatened by something or someone. In fact, this is the position that you’ll often find stray dogs in while they are resting.


pug dog sleeping on the floor

This position is exactly as you’d imagine it to be. The front legs are always pointed forward, while the hind limbs are pointed behind. Of course, the tummy will be resting on the floor, making the dog look like it’s in flight. It certainly looks like a lazy posture, but it’s not. Dogs will sleep in this position so they are ready to spring into action should they need to.

The Side Position

greyhound dog sleeping
Image: ando000 from Pixabay

This is the position they tend to go for if they need to get some deep sleep. The side position is actually a sign that the dog feels safe around you, to the point they have no problem exposing their vital organs. Your pooch will automatically become a side sleeper if they are too exhausted or in need of some restorative rest.

Divider-Dog Paw and Bone- New


Sleep is just as important to dogs as it is to humans. They deserve all the sleep that they can get, and they institutively know this. It’s important to remember that your dog’s sleeping position can be used as a barometer to gauge where their minds are at. If your dog doesn’t feel safe or secure, they’ll never expose their belly and sleep on their back—if your dog sleeps on their back often, they likely feel very safe around you.

Featured Image Credit: Vitaly Titov, Shutterstock

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database