How does your dog sleep? 5 typical sleeping positions and their meanings

László Enikő

2023. April 30 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

The pose in which your pet goes to sleep tells you a lot about how he feels and his personality.


Anyone who has had several four-legged companions in their life may have noticed that dogs with different personalities sleep in different positions. There is no right or wrong, only different – we humans lie in bed differently. From your pet’s sleeping position you can deduce how your dog is currently feeling. Of course, this may also depend on where the dog sleeps and who is around. He doesn’t strike a pose in front of strangers where he feels exposed, but he stretches out in the middle of the bed. Here are the most common sleeping positions and their meanings!

Lying on their side

Dogs that sleep on their sides feel safe. They leave their most sensitive spot, their abdomen and other vital organs, free. This also shows that they are well, they trust us. Friendly, calm dogs usually go to sleep like this.

The donut

It is also a common position for the four-legged animal to curl up into a tiny little ball. When this happens, the nose almost touches the tail. They learned this from their ancestor, the wolf. In the wild, this pose was of great use. Firstly, it kept them warm, secondly, it protected their most important organs, and thirdly, it was the fastest way to get up in case of danger.

Many people think that a dog sleeps like this because it doesn’t feel safe, or anxious. But this is a misconception. It may simply be the most comfortable for your pet. In winter, when the weather is colder, dogs sleep more often. Of course, it’s also possible that your pet is a reserved type, and expresses it in this way.

Lying flat with legs stretched

Puppies are most often sleep in this way, so that they can assume the playing position as soon as possible after waking. Cooling their tummy on the cold tiles in the summer heat can also be a good feeling. This is usually the way that agile, energetic dogs sleep.

Lying on their back, feet to the sky

Even in the summer heat, they cool their bodies faster if they leave their bellies exposed. Of course, it’s also the easiest way to get a few belly scratch. Sleeping like this makes them feel safe, as they leave their vital organs free, and they like to snooze, as it is difficult to get up from this position.

Small and large

When your dog sleeps while snuggling up to you or a pet, you can be sure that he loves you and your other pet. He feels safe and needs the closeness of the other. An afternoon nap on the sofa is a great way to strengthen your relationship.

Not only position is important

You should also take note of how your pet sleeps. Is he making circles in front of it, snoring or restless? Which one means what?

Scratching, circling

An instinctive action inherited from wolves is for dogs to do a lap or two before they lie down. This is how their ancestors used to trample the ground underneath them, so that they could rest more comfortably. Scratching protects against the weather, digging themselves into the cold soil in summer and into the warmer soil in winter.
If your pet seems to be circling too much, it could have a neurological problem, so see a vet!

Taking a nap

Dogs also take a nap sometimes. They especially need it when they’ve played a lot, gone for a long walk or are just looking for something to do on a dull winter’s day. They don’t sleep deeply, as you can tell by the way their ears immediately perk up at the slightest noise.

Snoring, twitching

Like humans, dogs can snore and twitch in their sleep. They sleep very soundly, with no need to worry, and they are taking a healthy and restful sleep. Puppies often run in their sleep, kicking with their feet.
If you notice that your dog is shivering, cover him with a blanket because he might be cold. He may also have a bad dream, which is why he twitches. In such cases, you can reassure him with a gentle caress.

How much sleep does a dog get?

It may come as a surprise, but a dog sleeps more than a human. On average, an adult dog needs 12-14 hours of sleep, while a puppy needs 18-19 hours. Small pets sleep less than large pets, and age matters too. As your pet gets older, he needs more rest, so it’s not uncommon for him to sleep more often as he gets older.

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