Why Does My Dog Sleep On His Back?

Some pups just prefer chilling on their backs!
Photo of Stan & Charlie used with permission of Jen Wardle.
One thing all dog owners know is that dogs LOVE to sleep. Sleeping, eating, and playing, seem to be the favored activities of pet dogs. Studies have shown that dogs sleep around 16 hours a day as domesticated pets. Dogs which are working pets, or dogs in the wild, sleep less because they have to be much more alert. But a pet dog that is comfortable in its home and feels secure will have no qualms about sleeping its furry little life away. If you want to be lazy one day, your pooch will be right there next to you, completely enjoying the relaxation.

Our cockapoo Albi loves to sleep, too. It seems his favorite method of getting comfortable is to sleep belly up, exposing all his intimate parts to the breeze. I have had quite a few dogs over the years and not all of them have been back sleepers. So, I thought this would be an interesting addition to the “Why Does My Dog” series!

As usual, there are a few different thoughts in the research on this subject. Many think that dogs in the belly up sleeping position are the most relaxed. This is a position of submission. If a dog is willing to expose its stomach to someone it may mean it feels safe and secure. Now, this idea would need to be researched a bit more, since some dogs roll on their backs at the drop of a hat! But a dog that chooses to sleep on its back would likely need to feel very secure, since sleeping leaves them exposed as it is.

Others have the idea that a dog that rolls on its back to sleep does so to cool down. This seems plausible when you think about it. Dogs have a hard time cooling their bodies, since they mainly sweat through the pads of their feet and cool off by panting. Since a dog doesn't pant when they are sleeping heavily (and doesn't usually have all four paws in front of a fan) he may roll onto his back to get the cooler air to his less furry parts. A dog's stomach has the thinnest area of hair, so having the belly exposed would be very helpful in the cooling effort.

Lastly, is the thought that a dog laying on its back with front paws in a closed in or crossed position is a way of showing the outside world that they want to be left alone. If this is true, it means anyone, including their beloved owner, needs to use caution when waking the dog up that is laying in this position. This is not to say that any time your pooch is sleeping on its back, you should be nervous. But if you notice your dog is stressed out during the day, and you later see him sleeping on his back with paws held to his chest, give him some space for a bit...just in case! You don't want to risk issues of your dog growling or snapping at you, if this happens to be true.

In any case, a dog sleeping on its back indicates that he is comfortable. The deeper the sleep, the better the sleep, just like with humans. And if the dog likes to sleep belly up, it will be comfortable and cool through the night, so it will be well rested for all the eating and playing it is looking forward to tomorrow!


  1. So, I'm risking life and limb by giving my dog the raspberries on his tummy when he's sleeping? It's worth the risk ;)

  2. Nice position

  3. Your post is very helpful, thank you. Anyone who owns dogs has probably found themselves asking the question: why do dogs sleep so much? It seems like every time we turn around our fuzzy buddies are curled up in the corner asleep. The average dog can sleep anywhere up to 12 hours a day and that’s a lot of time in dreamland. See more http://dogsaholic.com/training/why-do-dogs-sleep-so-much.html