A few weeks ago, I came into my bedroom to find my dog belly-up on the floor. I was immediately concerned. But is it bad if my dog sleeps on his back?
Not necessarily! According to my research, he might do it because he:
- Needs to cool down
- Feels particularly safe in my presence
- Wants me to pet his tummy
- Simply prefers sleeping on his back
Is It Bad If My Dog Sleeps on His Back? What I’ve Learned
Recently, I realized that I’ve never really seen the way my dog sleeps at night. I’ve had him for years, so I’ve caught plenty of glimpses of him napping throughout the day.
A few weeks ago, I started letting him spend his nights indoors with me and realized that he has a pretty odd sleeping position.
But is it bad if my dog sleeps on his back?
Was my concern warranted at all?
Obviously, I couldn’t know that until I finished doing my research. So now, if you have a similar question, I hope this article will ease your mind.
What Are the Most Common Dog Sleeping Positions?
Before I could get a conclusive answer to my question, I needed to establish a baseline.
How do dogs sleep, normally? Let’s find out.
On the Side
According to the professionals (and my own experience), most indoor dogs generally sleep on their side. That’s exactly what I’ve noticed in my pup.
But can that position tell us something about the slumbering mutt?
Well, there’s a reason we don’t often see street dogs sleeping in this position. With the dog on the side and its legs splayed out, the stomach is completely vulnerable.
As we’ll find out later on, exposing the tummy area could serve several functions.
For now, I’ll just note that most street dogs wouldn’t bare their stomach like that unless they felt safe.
After all, that’s where all their vital organs are stored. Even if they don’t know biology, they’ll instinctively want to protect that area.
Upon learning that, I immediately thought back to my original question. Is it bad if my dog sleeps on his back if that position leaves him open to attack?
How can he protect that area while he’s sleeping and is it necessary to do so at all?
The curled up position is a much safer one for street mutts and yard guard dogs alike.
The dog is still mostly on one side, but its head and hind legs are curled in a horseshoe shape to cover its belly.
However, protecting the belly from predators isn’t the only reason dogs evolved to sleep like this.
In addition to that function, this sleeping position can also help dogs maintain their body temperature, particularly during the winter.
Of course, many of us have seen our dogs sleeping in this position when it’s not cold. So what’s that about?
Well, according to some dog behavior experts, that might indicate that the dog is feeling a bit insecure.
Some of them even sleep like this because they fear waking up to a dangerous scene.
For example, if you have a small child who often bothers your dog while it’s sleeping, that might lead it to become more cautious, even while unconscious.
So you might have to work on making your dog feel safer.
Different dog owners have different policies when it comes to sleeping with their mutts. I, for one, am all for spending a lazy Saturday afternoon snuggled up with my pup.
However, if your dog can’t sleep unless it’s touching you in some way, that may be a problem.
On the one hand, it could be a perfectly normal sign of the dog’s affectionate nature.
Ultimately, some pups are more cuddly than others, and answering those needs is the dog owner’s duty.
If your dog is usually confident enough to move around without you, you probably have nothing to worry about.
On the other hand, that kind of clinginess might be a symptom of an insecure attachment.
So if your pooch is extremely shy and loath to leave you alone, you might have to address its separation anxiety.
That’s usually a big problem in rescue dogs, particularly those that have been abused.
Sprawled Out on Its Stomach
There are several kinds of stomach sleepers in the canine world. The small differences that exist between dogs can tell you a lot about a pup’s personality.
For example, some of them tuck their legs and paws in, similarly to cats. That’s usually a sign that the animal in question still feels on edge.
Alternatively, if your dog often sleeps on its stomach with its legs splayed out, it’s probably a fairly happy and overall confident pooch.
The “Superman” position is a pretty popular one in puppies. But then again, they’re generally pretty indiscriminate when it comes to their sleeping patterns and positions.
The reason most young canines love sleeping on their stomach is probably that the position is easy to get up from.
All they need to do is find their legs and they can start scrambling around again.
Even though I was worried about my dog sleeping on his back with his legs spread, I can now recognize the position as being patently ridiculous.
In fact, that’s probably the first reaction most people have to see their dogs spreadeagled on the floor.
But as we have already established, sleeping with the belly out in the open isn’t the most natural position for canines in the wild.
So let’s talk about why this happens and whether we ought to put a stop to it.
Is It Bad If My Dog Sleeps on His Back?
Most of the sleeping positions I’ve mentioned have both benefits and disadvantages. In that, dogs and humans seem to be on equal footing.
What’s more, in both species, some individuals prefer certain sleeping arrangements to others.
So that’s the next thing I focused on in my search — why would my dog want to sleep on his back?
What Could It Mean?
Since I’ve already mentioned some of the reasoning behind different sleeping positions, the benefits of sleeping paws-up should be apparent.
But let’s reiterate them for the sake of clarity.
As we have established, sleeping in a curled position helps dogs maintain heat where it matters most: around the belly.
After all, that’s where most of their vital organs are. Therefore, it would make sense that sleeping with the belly exposed has the opposite effect.
Namely, it lets the heat coming off the belly float away on a breeze.
Of course, I’ve also mentioned that some dogs simply don’t sleep on their back.
Because the position leaves the belly completely exposed, they have to feel completely safe before they feel comfortable enough to sleep like that.
That’s why you’ll never see a street dog sleeping on its back unless something is very wrong.
I’d even go as far as to say that, if you ever see a dog sleeping like that in the wild, you should probably bring it to someone capable of scanning chip implants.
It’s most likely a runaway house pet. What’s more, it must have felt very comfortable around its owners — which brings me to my roundup.
As far as I can tell, there are several reasons my dog might prefer sleeping belly-up.
- Needs to cool down
- Doesn’t see me as much of a threat and therefore feels comfortable exposing his belly
- Wants me to pet his belly
- Likes to sleep on his back in the same way I like sleeping on my stomach — just because
But that still doesn’t answer my original question: is it bad if my dog sleeps on his back?
Is There a Cause For Concern?
So far, I haven’t presented much evidence that supports the claim that dogs shouldn’t be sleeping on their backs.
Other than the fact that sleeping belly-up in the wild might expose a dog to attacks, the position itself seems to be safe.
Still, being the paranoid dog parent that I am, I tried to invent a scenario in which sleeping on his back might be harmful to my dog.
Keep in mind, this train of thought is the product of some serious mental gymnastics.
With that being said, I could come up with only one theory to explain why my dog might avoid sleeping on his side or stomach.
Namely, perhaps he was trying to avoid putting weight on those areas because he’s hurt. Of course, determining whether that is the problem would be pretty easy.
I’d simply give my little mutt a thorough massage and get in touch with the vet if I discovered a sore spot.
Is It Bad If My Dog Sleeps on His Back? Final Answer!
With everything we know now, let’s take it back to my original question. Is it bad if my dog sleeps on his back?
Well, according to my research, not really. It probably just means that he trusts me enough to turn his belly up in my presence.
However, in very rare cases, it may imply that the dog is trying to take its weight off its stomach or side.
Still, that’s nothing a visit to the vet wouldn’t fix.