Sleep is a big part of any dog’s day, whether it’s the post walk nap, the cuddling with dad nap or the lazing in the sun nap. In fact, healthy adult dogs spend 12-14 hours a day asleep. Puppies, seniors or sick dogs may require more. But have you noticed that dogs don’t always sleep the same way? Like anything a dog does, sleeping positions don’t just happen, they reflect how a dog is feeling. Let’s take a look at some different sleeping positions that you may recognize:
The “Lion Pose”
As Dr Stanley Coren (Professor emeritus in the Psychology Department at the University of British Columbia and author of numerous books on dog behaviour) says: “If you see a dog in a lion pose—with his paws stretched forward and head resting on his paws like the statues of reclining lions in front of some government buildings—the dog is apt to be simply dozing and not in a deep sleep state.”
The “Side Sleeper”
The most common posture that dogs use to sleep is lying on their sides with their legs extended,” says Dr. Coren. This means that a dog is relaxed and comfortable and shows a level of trust with his surroundings. Dr. Coren explains that a dog will often start to dose in lion pose and then slump onto his side once he falls into a deeper sleep. As soon as the dog starts to dream, his muscles will relax and he will roll out of the lion pose into the normal sleeping position.
Dr. Katherine Houpt, professor emeritus of behavioral medicine at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, observes that a common dog sleeping position is when canines curl up into a little ball. Dr. Houpt explains that dogs do this to make themselves as small as possible, and that it also helps them regulate body temperature. “When dogs are really warm, they will stretch out on cool surfaces, but most of the time, they curl up,” she says. “I think that it makes them feel that they are less vulnerable.”
You may see some dogs stretched out with their legs in front of their heads and kicked back behind their butts. This is sometimes referred to as the “Superman position.” Dr. Coren believes that this position relates to temperature. “The fur on the dog’s underside is not as deep and insulating as the fur on the rest of his body,” he says. This position with limbs outstretched and belly against the floor is also a response to a warm environment, but usually occurs in situations where the surface that the dog is lying on is relatively cooler than the air around him.”
This position has your pup on their back with all four legs splayed up in the air.
Dogs that sleep like this are showing a combination of submission and vulnerability. With all four legs in the air, a dog’s stomach and organs are completely exposed, which means they are probably independent, laidback, and feeling very comfortable in their space.
So however your dog is sleeping, don’t forget to “let sleeping dogs lie”!