- Dogs have a variety of sleeping habits — From side sleepers to pups who sleep with their bellies up, dogs sleep in as many different ways as humans do
- There are reasons why a dog sleeps the way they do — These reasons depend on your individual pup and sometimes their breed’s history. Reasons range from physical or mental needs to your dog’s personal preference
- Occasionally sleeping habits are cause for concern — Often the reasons your pup sleeps in a certain way is totally normal behavior. But it’s important to look out for signs that may need to be addressed with your veterinarian.
Dogs sleep in a wide variety of positions, just like humans do. The reasons for your pup’s sleeping habits or positions are also just as varied as their pet parents’. Why a dog may be sleeping in a certain way ranges from their ancestral instincts, a need to protect their owners, or even health or mental wellness issues. We’ve delved into the reasons why your pup may be sleeping in ways that seem strange to help dog parents know how to best understand and potentially help their dogs.
Why do dogs sleep with their bum facing me?
It would be amazing if we could ask our pups why to sleep in a certain position, like with their fuzzy bottoms against us and their bodies facing away. Unfortunately since we can’t communicate with our dogs, animal behaviorists and scientists have to make their best guesses. There are a few theories why dogs sleep with their bums facing us, including protection, comfort, or your pup’s personal preference.
Potential reasons why dogs sleep with their bum facing you
When your dog sleeps with their rump pointed in your direction, it may seem like your pup is snubbing you. However, usually pet parents don’t need to worry. Experts believe that is not the case. Even if our dogs can’t tell us what they’re thinking, they do exhibit canine body language that we can interpret to help determine why they are sleeping a certain way. Experts believe there are a number of reasons for this common behavior.
The simplest explanation for a dog’s butt facing you is that your dog finds this to be the most comfortable position for them. Just like people who prefer specific sleeping positions on their back or side, dogs also may prefer to sleep in one way or another.
Your dog may also be sleeping this way out of an instinct to protect their favorite humans. Keeping their body close to you allows them to be available at a moment’s notice. Dogs are pack animals. When dogs sleep in packs, they often sleep with their backs or bums to each other while their bodies face away. This allows the pack to have a total vantage point of what is going on around them. Sleeping in this way makes your dog feel secure and able to spring into action at any sign of trouble. Because your dog considers their humans to be their pack, when your dog sleeps with her back to you, she trusts you to be aware of one side while she’s on the other.
Canines have ways of communicating that they trust us and feel safe around us. The way your pup sleeps is one way they can show this. When a dog sleeps facing away from you rather than constantly keeping their eyes on you, it typically means they feel safe with you, a sign of trust and love.
Ventral contact is when animals (or people) sleep face-to-face or belly-to-belly. Dogs typically don’t enjoy sleeping this way. It’s much more instinctual for dogs to sleep butt-to-butt, so they are more comfortable doing so with their owners, too.
Avoiding eye contact
A dog who doesn’t constantly stare at you is usually a good sign that they’re comfortable. However, if you notice your pup seems to be intentionally avoiding eye contact, that may be cause for concern. If your dog’s bum is against you while sleeping and they are constantly avoiding your gaze in waking hours, they may be nervous or uncomfortable. This is a common problem with rescue dogs who are in a new home, particularly if they come from an abusive or neglectful background.
Exploring different dog sleeping positions
Like human beings, dogs have a number of different sleeping positions. Your dog may stick to the same position or switch it up every once in a while. There’s usually no cause for alarm – unless your pupper is exhibiting other symptoms.
Sleeping on their side with extended legs
A side sleeping pup is one who feels very comfy, safe and relaxed. Because they’re exposing their chests and tummies, your pup is comfortable enough to be in a very vulnerable position when on their side. A side sleeper is a dog that definitely knows they can trust their humans and other pets in the home. However, it’s important to be aware that if your dog sleeps on their side with their legs tucked in, that may be cause for concern. Your pup may be sleeping in this way because they are nervous or don’t feel safe, and tuck their legs up to keep their legs and belly from being exposed.
Sleeping curled up
When your dog is sleeping while curled up, they may be doing so because they don’t feel comfortable or safe. When a dog curls up, they might be protecting their vital organs from perceived harm. However, it could also just mean your pup is a little chilly, or they just feel more comfortable in this position. If your pup is sleeping in a dog bed, they often curl up because it feels cozy.
Sleeping on their back
Pups who sleep on their back are essentially doing the exact opposite of sleeping curled up, meaning they feel very comfortable in their surroundings. This might also be a sign that your dog is hot. If your pup is sleeping in this position and also panting, it might be a sign to turn on a fan or turn up the AC.
Factors influencing your dog's sleeping position
There are a number of factors that may influence or change why your dog chooses to sleep a certain way. Typically, these boil down to the environment your dog is in, or possible health and wellness-related issues.
Where you and your pooch are sleeping can have a huge impact on how your dog sleeps. If you’re at home with your dog in bed, typically you can expect your pup to sleep in the same positions they normally do. When traveling with your dog, you may notice their sleeping patterns change a bit. This is normal, as they may be more anxious in a new environment. When traveling with a dog, it’s a good idea to bring items with a familiar scent, like their favorite toys or a blanket. This will help your furry friend get more comfortable in a strange place.
Introducing new pets to the home or having guests in your house might influence how your dog sleeps. Training your dog to be comfortable around strangers is a good step to help with anxiety. Acting like an assertive, and confident pack leader will help your dog feel secure in their own home, even with strangers present. Just be mindful of how assertive you’re being, as you don’t want to stress your dog out.
Your pet’s health might be affecting their sleeping habits or positions. If dog owners notice their pooch’s sleeping behavior changing, be on the lookout for other symptoms your pup might be exhibiting while awake. For example, a dog that sleeps with their head elevated may start doing so because of respiratory issues. If your dog seems to be having trouble breathing normally, this is a health concern that should be evaluated by your veterinarian.
Another health-related concern for older dogs is cognitive dysfunction syndrome . This condition is similar to Alzheimer’s disease and affects a dog’s brain and mental state. This condition can be under-diagnosed as it commonly happens gradually, also not unlike Alzheimer’s in humans. One sign to look out for is changes in your dog’s sleeping behaviors. Your dog may start sleeping more during the day or sleep restlessly at night, waking up often during the night. Dogs with CDS are unable to maintain a deep sleep or reach a consistent REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep cycle. Typically these symptoms are a sign of advanced cognitive dysfunction syndrome, and other symptoms and strange behavior have presented themselves prior to these.
Always monitor your dog for major behavior changes
If your dog starts exhibiting unusual sleeping behavior, monitor their symptoms and get in contact with your veterinarian if the behavior persists for more than a couple of days. It could be a sign of a more concerning health issue that needs to be addressed.
Frequently asked questions
Do dogs protect you when you sleep?
Yes, dogs who trust and feel comfortable with their human companions protect them while sleeping. One of the reasons a dog may sleep facing away from you is a sign they are protecting you and looking out for potential danger.
Why does my dog sit in my spot when I get up?
Pups often move to their human’s sleeping spot if the human gets up as a sign of affection. They also might relocate because the spot you just left is now warm and cozy. However, if your dog doesn’t when you return to sleep, it could mean they don’t feel well, or this could be a sign they are trying to show dominance. Behavior modification training with positive reinforcement will help combat this. If your dog moves to comfortably sleep next to you, however, it just means they were showing affection and perhaps keeping the spot warm for you.
Why do dogs like to keep their head elevated while sleeping?
While this may simply be your dog’s most comfortable sleeping position, if your dog suddenly starts sleeping with their head elevated it may be cause for concern. It could be a sign your pup is having trouble breathing properly, or even a sign of a heart issue. If you notice this change, be sure to consult your veterinarian.