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13 Dog Sleeping Positions + What They REALLY Mean (2023)

Dog Sleeping Positions

Your dog sleeps in interesting and sometimes weird positions.

And you can’t help but wonder…

“What does it mean?”.

Well, I have great news for you.

Continue reading to discover:

  • 5 odd sleeping behaviors in canines (plus why they do that).
  • 13 weird dog sleeping positions (and what they really mean).
  • Whether dogs can dream and other interesting facts about their sleep. 
  • And that’s only the beginning…

13 dog sleeping positions & their meaning

#1: The Flat Side

Dog Sleeping Position The Flat Side

This is also known as “The Side Sleeper.”

And it’s the most common sleeping position in dogs. 

In this pose, they’re lying flatly on their side…

And their legs are extended at the front.  

Then, they have a calm expression on their face. 

With their ears and tail relaxed as well. 

What it means

When a dog sleeps in this position, it means they feel safe in their environment. 

And they trust everyone around them.

It also tells you the place’s temperature is right for Fido.

Plus, it’s a sign that Fido is in the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep cycle stage.

Which is the point where they undergo deep sleep…

Thus leading to peak comfort and relaxation.

#2: The King of the Jungle

Dog Sleeping Position The King Of The Jungle

People also call this “The Sphinx.” 

But it’s more commonly known as “The Lion’s Pose.”

Because when a dog sleeps in this position…

It looks like they’re the usual lion statue on buildings.

Or they’re sleeping the way the King of the Jungle does. Like what you see in wildlife pictures.

In this position, Fido rests their head on top of their paws. 

Then, their arms and legs are tucked in one side under their body’s weight. 

They also have a calm expression on their face. 

Their eyes seem pleased, and look like they’re smiling a bit.

However, their ears aren’t relaxed – they’re either standing up or folded.

What it means

This position is a sign that your dog is resting.

However, they’re not in a deep sleep yet.

So, you’ll see this most in napping dogs.

And as their muscles aren’t relaxed in this state…

They can jump quickly out of their rest.  

But if there are no interruptions during this position…

Your pooch can enter deep sleep.

From there, they let go of muscle tension… 

Which leads to them slumping on their side. 

With that, their sleeping position changes to the Flat Side.

#3: The Cuddle Bug

Dog Sleeping Position The Cuddle Bug

This is perhaps the most heartwarming sleeping position in dogs.

It’s when your pup snuggles on top of you or their fellow canine.

And it’s also known as “The Cuddler” position.

What this means

Sleeping this way is a practice they got from their puppyhood. 

As they used to sleep next to their mother or litter.

According to research, young canines do it to keep themself warm.

That’s because puppies can’t regulate their body temperature in their first month. 

So, they rely on their mom and siblings’ body heat.

However, sleeping next to their family becomes a habit as they age.

This gives your pupper a learned sense of comfort and safety. 

That said, when your adult dog sleeps in this position…

It means they feel safe enough to seek comfort from the one snuggled to them.

Lastly, cuddling is a positive interaction for dogs.

Based on a study, doing it urges a release of the hormone oxytocin in the body. 

And that hormone is linked to feeling good and loved. 

Which are great emotions to doze off to. Thus, leading to improved sleep.

Read also: 9 Pros And Cons Of Sleeping With Your Dog + 7 Dangers

#4: The Spoon

Dog Sleeping Position The Spoon

This looks similar to the previous sleeping position…

But here’s how it differs:

This mostly involves 2 dogs.

However, that’s not to say you can’t be your pup’s partner in The Spoon.

Moreover, this position is done side by side.

Where the pup’s back is against their sleeping partner’s belly. Or the other way around.

As one can either be the big spoon. Where they put one arm over the other.

Then, another is the little spoon or the receptor of the hug. 

What it means

Dogs spoon to get body heat from their sleeping partner.

Your pup also gets into this setup to enjoy hugging or being hugged.

And like the previous position, this also promotes the release of oxytocin.

Which can help your pooch sleep better as they feel comfortable and loved.

#5: The Back-to-Back

Dog Sleeping Position The Back To Back

In this position, your dog sleeps with their back against yours or another pup’s.

If it’s the latter, then consider it 2 dogs in the Flat Side position. 

What it means

Canines aren’t always in the mood for cuddling or spooning…

However, they’re still pack animals…

With that, they have an innate need to sleep close to you or their fellow doggo.

So when they feel that way, they’ll doze in the Back-to-Back position instead.

And among all the cuddly setups…

This shows the most trust.

Because it’s your dog’s way of saying they have their partner’s back.

As this posture enables Fido to protect their loved one from what’s behind them.

Then, they trust that their partner will do the same for them.

Learn more: 9 Amazing Reasons Why Your Dog Sleeps With Its Back To You

#6: The Belly Up

Dog Sleeping Position The Belly Up

Just as it sounds, your pup’s belly is up and exposed.

Because their back is laid flat against the ground in this position.

Sometimes, their arms rest at their sides. 

In other instances, one or both of them are raised up.

Lastly, their legs and tails are stretched out vertically on their body. Or they can be lifted as well.

What it means

Sleeping this way is a true sign of comfort and relaxation in them.

Because your canine is exposing their most vulnerable area.

As their vital organs directly lie under their belly. 

So it takes a lot of trust and security for Fido to sleep in this position.

Moreover, this also has something to do with temperature.

Their belly area has the thinnest and least fur…

So cold air can easily reach their skin if they bare this region.

Fact: You won’t observe this sleeping position much in older dogs. That’s because sleeping on their back is harder for senior canines. Which may be due to health conditions like arthritis.

#7: The Superman

Dog Sleeping Position The Superman

Your pup takes a superhero form in this sleeping position.

Because just like when Superman flies…

Your doggo has their arms stretched forward.

Then, their legs are extended behind them.

Moreover, they do this while their body is pressed to the ground.

In most cases, your pup’s ears rest sideways while folded.

And aside from the comical name, this is also referred to as “The Sploot.”

What it means

If you see your canine in this sleeping position, they’re a bit tired.

However, they won’t let that get in their way.

Because they might be resting at the moment…

But this sleeping position readies them for a possible play session.

As it enables them to hop up immediately.

That’s why this pose is common among puppies. As well as high-energy dogs.

#8: The ‘Keeping-it-Cool’

Dog Sleeping Position The 'Keeping-It-Cool'

This position has many odd-looking variations.

At first glance, your pooch looks like they’re in the Superman position…

But this time, their arms and legs are in different placements.

For example, instead of their arms extended forward…

They’re sitting on your pup’s side.  

Or if your doggo is on an elevated surface, say a stair step…

Some of their limbs might be hanging on the edge.

Then, their ears are either drooping down, folded, or standing up.

The only staple indication of this position is:

If your fur baby has their belly pressed on the ground.

What it means

By the name I’ve given it…

Your pooch sleeps in this pose to maintain a low body temperature.

As I mentioned, their belly touches the surface. Which needs to be cold.

So that their body heat is transferred to the floor. 

In return, the ground’s cool temperature is passed on their body.

And with a lower body temperature, your pupper can sleep better.

#9: The Shrimp Curl

Dog Sleeping Position The Shrimp Curl

Some also call it “The Donut.” 

While others simply refer to it as “The Curled Up” sleeping position.

By the terms used to describe it…

This pose is when Fido is coiled into a ball-like posture.

With their nose touching their legs…

And all their limbs are tucked close to their body. 

If they can, they might also drape their tail over them. 

As for their face, it holds a tension-less forehead. And your pup’s eyes are relaxed.

Then, their ears are standing upward or folded.

What it means

Sleep is already a vulnerable state for dogs…

That’s why if they’re not yet feeling safe or trusting their surroundings.

Your pooch sleeps in this position.

This lets them tuck and hide their vital organs.

Thus, it’s their way of protecting themself from an unfamiliar environment.

Moreover, it works like a hug for themself. Thus helping them calm down.

With that, this sleeping posture is common among these canines:

  • Stray.
  • Rescued.
  • Kenneled.
  • Newly-adopted.

But if you’re confident you’ve bonded with them already, don’t fret.

Because this position could also mean your pup is feeling cold.

And they’re twisted into a ball to preserve their body heat and keep themself warm.

#10: The Burrower

Dog Sleeping Position The Burrower

Talk about the coziest sleeping position for your pupper.

The Burrower is when your pup sleeps comfortably under the following:

What it means

According to AKC, this desire is an ancestral trait from when canines were born in dens.

So it’s something they’re used to instinctively.

Moreover, your dog would burrow under covers when feeling anxious.

That’s why you’ll notice this the most when there’s a thunderstorm. 

As this sleeping position gives Fido a sense of comfort and security.

Which they seek during stressful situations or times they’re not feeling well. 

Lastly, snuggling in this position keeps your dog warm and fuzzy.

Continue reading: 9 Astonishing Reasons Why Your Dog Sleeps Under The Covers

#11: The Chin Rest

Dog Sleeping Position The Chin Rest

The common term for this sleeping position is “The Head and Neck Raised.”

By that name, it describes a pose where:

Your dog is resting their chin on a surface. 

Which elevates their head and neck.

Moreover, their body touches the ground. And their limbs are laid flat on the floor.

What it means

Unfortunately, this position is a sign of a health issue in your dog. Particularly a breathing problem.

For example, this is normal among canines with illnesses like lung disease.

And by raising their head and neck while they sleep…

It helps relieve the pain they’re feeling in their air passages. Which are located in their throat.

#12: The Broken Dog

Dog Sleeping Position The Broken Dog

Most dog parents have difficulty figuring out this posture.

As your pooch takes the position of a broken canine in this display.

And it’s also usually referred to as “The Zombie.”

Which is where your pup either lies on their side or back.

Or they’re curled up into a ball.

Moreover, their limbs are all in different positions. 

Some are raised up straight…

While others are either resting on the side or only up halfway.

What it means

Although it’s a complicated one that takes many forms…

This position is cozy for your pooch.

To get into this pose, they must be comfortable and trusting with their surroundings.

And when they’re sleeping next to you in this weird posture…

It means your bond with your pup is so great…

They show you this side of them while they doze off.

#13: The Tetromino

Dog Sleeping Position The Tetromino

The name of this position is inspired by the 80s game called Tetris.

For a little background:

It’s a puzzle challenge where blocks called tetrominoes fall. 

And its objective is to strategically place the pieces to clear a level.

That said, I named this sleeping position The Tetromino.

Because your pup acts like a block in the game…

As they stick on the wall like they’re completing the puzzle.

For example, your dog would take the necessary pose to fit in a corner.

What it means

This sleeping position is a sign of comfort in dogs.

Apart from that, the wall can be a cold surface too.

And to maximize the cool feeling the area gives…

Your pup will do their best to cover it with their entire body.

Lastly, your canine isn’t in a deep sleep state in this pose.

As this position enables them to use the wall as leverage.

If they need to get up quickly, they just need to push themself against it.

Dog sleeping patterns and behaviors

Aside from strange positions, dogs also show odd sleeping patterns and behaviors. 

And learning about them help let you understand your canine’s:

  • Mental state.
  • Physical health.

So let me elaborate on that, starting with:

The relationship between dogs and sleep

Relationship Between Dogs And Sleep

According to PetMD, canines sleep away 50% of their day.

As they get 12 hours of sleep daily. 

Moreover, research says dogs have an entirely different set of sleep patterns.

Within 8 hours, they can have 23 sleep-wake episodes.

This means that they nap and wake up 23 times during that time span.

And if you multiply that by 3 to make 24 hours…

You’ll get a pooch that sleeps and gets up 69 times daily.

Then, another study reveals factors that affect your pup’s sleep. Which are:

  • Aging.
  • Development.
  • Sleep location.
  • Physical environment.

All of that can either increase or decrease your pup’s sleep quality.

As they can influence your dog’s sleeping patterns, which consist of 2 stages:

Stage 1: Light sleep

This involves 2 sub-stages, namely:

  • Slow-wave sleep (SWS).
  • Non-rapid eye movement (NREM).

Based on its name, this is the state where your dog is sleeping lightly.

And physiologically, they’re experiencing:

  • Quiet mental processes.
  • Decreasing blood pressure.
  • Slowing heart rate and breathing.

Those are their body’s attempts to get into a state of relaxation.

As they’re still attempting to settle…

Your pupper can wake up easily if there are sudden sleep disruptions.

Stage 2: Deep sleep

As I mentioned, your pup enters a deep sleep state in REM. Or Rapid Eye Movement stage

And according to VCA Hospitals, these happen during REM sleep in dogs:

  • Muscles being more relaxed.
  • Eyes are moving rapidly (hence the name).
  • Brain waves are getting faster and more irregular.

Moreover, unlike the previous stage…

REM sleep is the phase where your pup has heightened mental activity.

That’s why this is where scientists believe dogs run into their dreams.

“Dogs can dream?”

Vets confirm that the brains of canines and humans are similar during sleep.

For one, we have the same stages of electrical activity in our minds.

Plus, we demonstrate identical brain wave patterns.

Which makes it safe for experts to assume that dogs experience dreams.

“And what do they dream about?”

Based on research by MIT:

Animals can have complex thoughts in their sleep.

The findings reveal that they can recall their day while dreaming.

Moreover, animals can also evaluate detailed sequences of daily events.

Although researchers did the study in rats…

The similarities I mentioned before make this applicable to dogs as well.

That said, this is the point where your pooch shows some odd sleeping behaviors.

And you can learn more about them in the next section…

Sleeping behaviors of canines

#1: Digging

This is a pre-sleep behavior shown by dogs. 

It’s when they scratch their beds before lying down.

Which is an instinctual behavior of their ancestors.

Because a long time ago, canines didn’t sleep on cozy dog beds.

Instead, they needed to make their own in the dirt.

So they’d dig in the area where they want to lie down.

And they’ll rest and snuggle on a hollow where they fit perfectly.

For further reading: 17 Reasons Why Dogs Scratch Their Beds (Before Lying Down) 

#2: Twitching

In any sleeping position, your dog can twitch their head or limbs.

You’ll also see them having spasms in their abdominal area.

When they show this, you don’t have to worry…

As this is a behavior that indicates your dog is on their way to dreamland.

Because they’re moving between the first to the second stage of sleep.

#3: Running

Dogs in the Flat Side sleeping position exhibit this behavior the most.

Moreover, this is what follows twitching.

As your pooch enters the second stage of their sleep cycle…

Their paws will start to move in unison. Similar to when they’re running.

Which is a typical response to the dream they’re having.

Here’s a video of Bizkit, a sleepwalking dog. 

He started to twitch his limbs first. Until he entirely ran about in his dreams: 

#4: Vocalizing

Canines are always full of surprises.

They can be sleeping, yet you’ll hear them bark or whine.

When they do this, don’t get frightened…

It’s only your dog’s reaction toward something in their sleep.

For example, they could be dreaming of barking at a rodent. 

Or if they’re crying, they might recall when you left them at home.

#5: Snoring

Similar to humans, dogs snore due to a blocked nasal passage.

However, in some cases, they’ll also show it because of the following issues:

  • Rhinitis.
  • Obesity.
  • Allergies.
  • Sleep apnoea.
  • Fungal disease.
  • Dental problems.

Moreover, brachycephalic dog breeds are more common snorers. And louder, even.

That said, those are pups with flat faces and short snouts, like:

  • Pugs.
  • Boxers.
  • Bulldogs.
  • Shih Tzus.
“Should I be worried if my dog snores?”

According to PetMD, snoring is normal for some puppers.

But if your doggo suddenly began snoring

You need to check if they’re showing other signs of illnesses. 

Vets say these are the concerning symptoms to look out for are:

  • Panting.
  • Lethargy.
  • Coughing.
  • Swollen face.
  • Gasping for air.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Open mouth breathing.
  • Frequently choking on food.
  • Discharge from the eyes and nose.

But if they’re perfectly healthy despite being a snorer…

The only thing that you can do is buy a pair of earplugs to block their noises.