Why Do Dogs Sleep on Their Backs? You May Be Surprised

Written by Rebecca Bales
Updated: October 14, 2022
Share on:


Listen to Article

Key Points

  • Dogs sleep on their backs for comfort.
  • Dogs lay on their backs to help regulate their temperature.
  • Dogs may lay on their backs to express submission.

Dogs sleep in many different positions. Each position can tell you a lot about your canine companion. A dog that sleeps well in your home feels comfortable and safe.

Have you ever wondered why dogs sleep on their backs even if they look so uncomfortable doing it? Let’s study these questions and learn the essentials of a dog’s sleeping habits and positions.

Why Do Dogs Sleep on Their Backs?

Some pet owners find this position strange to look at. For others, it is completely adorable. There are several possible reasons why dogs choose this sleeping position. Your dog’s mood, sleeping area, and the general climate may have something to do with it.

Dogs will generally sleep on their backs to cool down. They exchange heat through their paws and this will allow them to cool themselves down. Cool air will then have a way to reach their bellies. This position also means they feel completely comfortable and fully trust you.

Here are some of the possible reasons why dogs sleep on their backs:

1. They Want to Be Comfortable

This position can provide comfort to dogs while sleeping. It may appear awkward but lying on their backs relaxes all of their muscles. There is no tension on any of your dog’s muscle groups or joints. If you see your dog sleeping this way, it could mean that he is just very relaxed.

Best for Calming Comfort
Best Friends by Sheri Calming Shag Fur Donut Cuddler
  • Calms anxiety-prone dogs
  • Soft, plush exterior
  • The raised rim provides head and neck support
  • 100% washable
  • Available in a variety of sizes and colors
Check Chewy Check Amazon

2. They Are Regulating Their Temperature

The temperature in your living environment can also influence your dog’s sleeping position. Your dog may just want to cool down if you live in a warm, tropical environment. Dogs have very thin fur on their stomachs. They can dissipate heat better by exposing this part of their bodies.

When dogs lie on their backs, their paws face up. This allows them to cool down even more. By sleeping in this position, dogs can enjoy the cool air, wind, or breeze. The thin underside fur allows more cool air to reach the skin.

Staying in a cold place can also make dogs lie on their backs while sleeping. Dogs can choose a sunny or warm place and then lie on their backs to nap. This exposes their belly. The warmth of the fireplace or sunlight hits their bellies and soothes them. This warms the blood vessels in their bellies. Warmed up blood then circulates throughout the body.

Older dogs and puppies tend to overheat right away in hpeot weather. They cannot regulate their temperature well like adult dogs. Short-nosed or flat-nosed breeds are also prone to overheating. The same applies to dogs that have lung or heart ailments and are obese or overweight.

3. They Feel Secure

Studies show that this sleeping position only happens in domesticated canines. Wild canines do not sleep on their backs at all. It would make them vulnerable to physical damage in case another animal attacked them while sleeping.

Pet dogs know that your home is a safe and secure environment. Domesticated canines know that they are away from any form of danger, especially since their pet parents are with them. They know that they do not need to stay alert. They do not need to spring into action because of imminent danger.

Our Top Pick
PETFUSION Ultimate Lounge Memory Foam Bolster Cat & Dog Bed
  • Waterproof memory foam barrier
  • Comes in various size and color options
  • The cover is removable and machine washable
  • Orthopedic design
Check Chewy Check Amazon

4. They Are Expressing Submission

Sleeping on your back is also known as the cockroach position. This is also common among dogs in a pack. Exposing their bellies and throats expresses that they are peaceful. It is also a play invitation. Certain breeds accompany the cockroach position with an escaped tongue syndrome or the derp expression.

5. They Are Showing Affection

Dogs also show affection when they sleep on their back. This position exposes their most vulnerable parts. Your dog trusts you enough to fall asleep this way.

6. They Have Arthritis

Your dog may be suffering from osteoarthritis or Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) if your dog prefers this sleeping position most of the time. In this condition, the cartilage breaks down, leaving the joint without a cushion. This can happen because of illness, aging, stress, or injury. Losing the cushion results in inflammation, pain, bone spur development, and reduced range of motion.

If your furry friend often lags behind and does not jump like before, arthritis may be the problem. You can give your dog a special bed, but there is more comfort in sleeping on their back. Dogs with this joint condition can have more relaxed muscles and joints when they sleep in this position.

Best Premium Option
JOYELF Memory Foam Orthopedic Dog Bed
  • The bottom is non-slip
  • Interior plush is soft and washable
  • Waterproof liner
  • Comes in five sizes
Check Amazon

Why You Should Not Disturb Your Dog’s Sleep

Your dog needs sleep to recover from the day’s activities. You should just let your dog rest and relax. Even if your dog is sleeping in a strange position, you should resist waking him up. Studies show that waking your dog even before he wakes up naturally can cause some issues.

Dogs that are woken up suddenly can end up being confused. There could also be serious disorientation. This can lead to a quick bout of aggression even in peaceful, well-behaved dogs. Many animals think that they are in danger, which is why they panic if they wake up suddenly. This is a natural response that helps them keep safe.

Should You Wake Up a Dreaming Dog?

It is not a good idea to do this, even if your dog seems to be having a nightmare. Sleep patterns in dogs are different than in humans. REM sleep in dogs is the stage where they get the most rest. This sleep stage happens in intervals. There is brain activity and rapid eye movement during this deep stage of sleep. REM sleep is also when your dog dreams.

If you wake up your dog, you pull them out of the essential REM sleep. It breaks the sleep cycle. This can result in dire consequences when it comes to your dog’s well-being and health. It is like a human woken up while in deep sleep. It is often difficult to fall asleep again after that. Refrain from waking up your dreaming dog.

Waking up your dog can even become dangerous. It could take many seconds before your dog realizes that they are already awake. Predicting how your dog will react is impossible. Even the most level-headed dog can become aggressive when woken up suddenly. This can happen, especially if a dog wakes up from a vivid dream.

Some dog owners wake up their dogs in the middle of kicking during sleep. This often results in snarling and, in some cases, biting. Most dogs recover and go back to sleep right away. But it can be a horrifying experience.

Best Overall
FurHaven Two-Tone Deluxe Chaise Orthopedic Dog Bed
  • Comes in five different sizes
  • Ultra-cozy, soft, plush, and comfortable
  • Features a two-sided lounge area
  • Cover can be removed and is washable
Check Chewy Check Amazon

Observe Your Dog Before Waking Him Up

Dogs can dream like humans. It is always best to observe your dog when there is body movement in this relaxing sleeping position. Dogs often dream about something that happened in the past or something in their present lives. A pampered dog will always have pleasant dreams.

Pay attention to your dreaming dog. Body language is everything. Tail wagging means that your dog is dreaming of something fun. Yipping and paddling the legs means that they are running while happy. A bad dream will involve distress cries, tension, and fear. If you think you must wake up your dog at this point, it is safe to place a piece of food beside his face. This will wake your dog in a very pleasant way.

Animals will always be unpredictable. You should think of your safety and the safety of the other people or pets around you. Refrain from touching your dog. Do not pet, prod, or poke either. Your voice is enough to wake your dog up. You can say your dog’s name in a loving and gentle tone. Your soft voice will calm your dog and break the bad dream without waking your dog. Your dog can even wake up slowly then.

Products That Can Help Your Dog Sleep Better

You can provide more comfort and health in your dog’s naptime or nighttime sleep. Get one of the best washable dog beds. You can run this type of bed through the washer and dryer, making it easier to care for. Your dog ends up with a fresh bed every week or so.

Now that summer is just around the corner, one of the best cooling dog beds can provide a more comfortable sleep area. This type of bed can maximize the cooling effects of sleeping on the back. If your dog has arthritis, then you should get an orthopedic dog bed available on the market. This bed can prevent pressure on your dog’s joints.

Powerful chewers need an indestructible dog bed. This will ensure that your dog will not ingest the dog bed’s stuffing in between naps. If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, get him one of the best calming dog beds. This bed can help your dog completely relax and achieve deep sleep.


Your dog deserves to get restful sleep. Back sleeping is an effective way for your dog to stay healthy and comfortable. This sleeping position also expresses your dog’s state of mind. Supporting your dog with a good bed and sleep accessories is the best way to go when you see him sleeping on his back.

Providing a quiet environment can encourage good sleep for your dog as well.

Next Up…

The photo featured at the top of this post is © WilleeCole Photography/Shutterstock.com

Ready to discover the top 10 cutest dog breeds in the entire world?

How about the fastest dogs, the largest dogs and those that are -- quite frankly -- just the kindest dogs on the planet? Each day, AZ Animals sends out lists just like this to our thousands of email subscribers. And the best part? It's FREE. Join today by entering your email below.

What's the right dog for you?

Dogs are our best friends but which breed is your perfect match?


If you have kids or existing dogs select:

Other Dogs

Should they be Hypoallergenic?

How important is health?
Which dog groups do you like?
How much exercise should your dog require?
What climate?
How much seperation anxiety?
How much yappiness/barking?

How much energy should they have?

The lower energy the better.
I want a cuddle buddy!
About average energy.
I want a dog that I have to chase after constantly!
All energy levels are great -- I just love dogs!
How much should they shed?
How trainable/obedient does the dog need to be?
How intelligent does the dog need to be?
How much chewing will allow?

Share on:
About the Author

Rebecca is an experienced Professional Freelancer with nearly a decade of expertise in writing SEO Content, Digital Illustrations, and Graphic Design. When not engrossed in her creative endeavors, Rebecca dedicates her time to cycling and filming her nature adventures. When not focused on her passion for creating and crafting optimized materials, she harbors a deep fascination and love for cats, jumping spiders, and pet rats.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.