If you have a four-legged cuddle buddy in your life, you know that there’s nothing as comforting as snuggling up next to your furry friend on a cold rainy afternoon with a book in hand.
But in between the glorious puppy breath and looong stretches, you may have noticed that your dog insists on sleeping with its back turned towards you. What’s up with that?
Did you do anything to deserve the cold shoulder, or are you reading too much into your pups sleeping position?
As it turns out, you’re not alone. Many dog owners have noticed similar trends, with pooches nationwide turning their backs on their pet parents daily - gasp!
Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!
The Natural Sleep Habits of Dogs
Unlike their human counterparts, dogs sleep more than a few times a day.
That’s right; while we reserve daytime for getting our business done and use the darkness of night to get some sweet shut-eye, dogs snooze as often as they want during the day and night.
In fact, research has shown that dogs get around 12 hours of sleep within a 24-hour cycle. (1)
And that makes sense. Dogs don't get to sleep through the night as they are often up to check on their surroundings. Their naturally protective instincts simply don’t allow them to sleep for an 8 or 9-hour cycle.
During the day, they take naps as their bodies require them. And at night, they’ll be more prone to sleeping next to whichever pet parent will give them the most love and attention.
So let’s take a closer look at the different sleeping positions that you might have noticed from your dog and what they might mean…
Dog Sleeping Positions and Body Language
Whether a dog's sleeping position means anything is completely up for debate.
While I’d like to believe that they choose their sleeping poses in a random way, there is evidence to suggest that there’s a deeper meaning behind it.
Consider the following:
Sleeping On Its Back
The belly-up snoozer.
If your dog sleeps on its back, it is a good indicator that they’re really hot and need to cool down. Lying on their back exposes their soft (and less hairy) belly.
Even the slightest breeze will help them get rid of excess body heat. So if your dog always sleeps like this, you might want to take note of their grooming and give them a seasonal shave as needed.
Another reason for them to sleep on their back would be because they are trying to digest a heavy meal. A full belly will make them feel uncomfortable and sleeping ‘upside down’ will help with that discomfort.
As this position exposes their vital organs, it’s a clear sign that your dog is comfortable with its environment.
Curled Up In A Ball
When dogs curl up into a small ball of fur, they are likely guarding their soft tissue and internal organs. They might be sleeping outside, exposed to other dogs and predatory animals.
Most street dogs sleep like this as they find themselves in a vulnerable position, especially when night falls.
Another reason why dogs sleep in this position is to keep warm. By wrapping their body up in a small ball, they’re maximizing the warming effect their coats have on their internal organs, keeping them snug throughout cold winter nights.
You can deduce from this position that your pup is always ready to get up and play. Active dogs like to lay in this stretched-out position as it soothes their tired muscles and enables them to get up and go immediately.
So if your dog likes to sleep with its legs extended, don’t fear - it’s perfectly normal, especially if you have a high-energy dog like a French Bulldog.
Sleeping On Its Side
The Side Sleeper
This is a classic position for growing pups. And another sign that your dog is pretty comfortable and at ease with its surroundings.
You’ll often see dogs act out dreams when they’re on their side. They’ll grunt, growl, bark or even start running in their sleep. That’s because their mental faculties are totally rested and they’re unphased with what’s happening around them.
If you have more than one pup, you’ll often see them sleep on their side, either face to face or back to back, meaning that they get along with one another pretty well.
Sleeping Facing Away
The Cold Shoulder
This is the position that many of you will be familiar with - and traumatized by. How dare my puppy sleep with its back to me?!
Firstly, this position is super practical.
It allows your pup to stretch its legs without interfering with anything - or anyone in front of them. Not having to curl up with their legs underneath them might make it easier for them to breathe and give their legs a good opportunity to rest and recover from a long day's play.
A really good thing about this is that it shows a lot of trust on behalf of your dog. They’re exposing themselves completely to you. And being at someone else’s mercy, especially during the unguarded position of naptime, takes a lot of trust.
But more than that, it opens them up to affection. Lying with their back to you gives you the opportunity to display affection. Everybody likes a good back scratch, after all.
So rather than worry about why your dog sleeps facing in the other direction, be glad that it feels safe and comfortable with its surroundings.
Factors That May Influence The Way Your Dog Sleeps
Here are a few other reasons why your dog might choose to sleep in a specific way:
Health and Wellbeing
If your notice your dog changing from its natural sleeping position to a completely different style, it might be a telltale sign of underlying issues.
For example, a dog that frequently snoozes in The Superman but makes a sudden change to curling up in a tight ball may be suffering from digestive issues.
Curling up might help them cope with a sore, enflamed tummy or other vital organs. So if you notice a sudden change, why not give your pup an ad-hoc inspection at home? If you feel it’s necessary, see a vet and get an expert opinion.
Bonding and Trust
Dogs are pack animals. They crave the support of their own pack - human and canine - and thrive when they feel loved and cared for.
So if your dog sleeps facing away from you or just sleeps really well in your presence, it’s pretty obvious that it feels secure and comfortable around you. It’s also a good indication that you’ve been accepted as one of the pack.
Individual Differences and Personality
The way your dog sleeps is also just an extension of its own unique personality. Let’s face it, there are some really goofy characters in the dog world!
If you have a playful breed, like a French Bulldog, Bull Terrier, or Boxer, expect that lighthearted attitude to come out in their preferred sleeping positions too. There’s simply no need to worry about them; it’s what makes them so lovable and endearing in the first place!
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does my dog avoid eye contact and start sleeping facing away from me?
Dogs have their own unique sleep preferences, and facing away from their humans is one of them. This behavior doesn't mean your furry friend doesn't love you! In fact, it's quite the opposite. Dogs often sleep facing away to feel safe and secure, as they can keep an eye on the room while avoiding direct eye contact. It's their way of saying, "I trust you, but I also want my beauty sleep."
Is this behavior common among all dogs or just mine?
Rest assured, your pooch is not alone in this preference! Many dogs naturally choose to sleep facing away from their owners.
It's a common canine behavior ingrained in their instincts. So, if your four-legged friend is giving you the "bum facing" treatment at bedtime, know that it's a normal and widespread phenomenon in the doggy world.
Should I be concerned if my dog faces away from me while sleeping?
No need to worry!
Your dog's choice to sleep with their bums toward you is typically not a cause for concern. It's important to remember that dogs have their own unique ways of finding comfort and security.
However, if your dog suddenly changes their sleeping behavior, such as excessive licking or avoiding all contact, it's worth a visit to the vet to rule out any underlying health issues.
Otherwise, if your furry friend is happy, healthy, and still enjoying your company during the day, let them embrace their slumber!
Speaking of sleep, the Sparkpaws range now includes buttery soft, extra stretchy pajama onesies for dogs. Why not take a look?
1 - TheSleepDoctor