What do my dog's sleeping positions mean?

Learn about dogs
Written by Pure Pet FoodPure Pet Food are the experts in healthy dog food and healthy dogs featured in media outlets such as BBC, Good Housekeeping and The Telegraph. Working with high profile veterinary professionals and nutritionists, Pure Pet Food are changing dog food for the better. - Our editorial process

Our dogs drift off to sleep in some very peculiar positions, some that’ll make you think to yourself, ‘that can’t be comfy!’.

We all want to know how our dogs are feeling, if they’re happy, sad, hot, cold and most of all, if they love us as much as we love them. The endless variety of sleeping positions our dogs take are great little snippets into how they feel both physically and mentally, so if you want an insight into your pet’s life, try and take note of the way they’re sleeping.

We’re going to give you a list of a few standard snoozing positions for dogs, and the potential meaning behind them, to help you get a further look into the confusing canine world.

Discover delicious food your dog deserves

Learn more

What are some of the common sleeping positions for dogs?

Watching our dogs sleep is definitely a universal experience that most dog owners do, mostly because it’s so adorable, so next time they’re drifting off to sleep, try and spot some of the sleeping positions on this list.

Side sleeper

Just like us humans, most dogs like to sleep on their side, often with their legs stretched out across the floor. If you’ve got a large dog, they’ll be taking up a lot of room sleeping like this, they might even start to resemble a rug you’d keep on the floor!

Sleeping on their side is the possibly the most common way for dogs to sleep, and it means that they’re feeling content and safe in their environment and they’re also at the perfect temperature. Dogs that sleep like this tend to have quite chilled out personalities.

In this position, you’ll probably spot that their paws moving in a running motion, which indicates that they’re dreaming. Puppies and seniors are most commonly spotted sleeping in this position, and these are also the two groups of dogs that are the most likely to dream.

Your dog will probably save this position for their naptimes during the day, rather than their full overnight sleep.


This position is also commonly referred to as the ‘lion’s pose’, due to its similarity to statues of lions you may see outside some large, fancy buildings. Your dog will be asleep with their head on top of their paws, and their back legs will either be neatly tucked under or sprawled out to one side.

Deep sleep is most definitely not occurring when your dog is sleeping like this, they’re just lying down for a quick breather and rest. Keep in mind that they might jump up at the slightest noise, even if you just walk past them. They might be resting but they’re still up for playing if the opportunity were to arise!

You could refer to this position as a ‘transitional pose’, as it allows your dog to move into a different position easily. For example, when training your dog, this position is often equipped to train them to lie down and stay, soon followed by a recall as it allows your dog to jump up fast and run to you.

This pose might be an indication of a slightly anxious dog, who isn’t that comfortable in their surroundings yet, as it allows them to react instantly if they think something is amiss. However, it’s much more likely to be utilised so that your dog can get up and continue playing immediately.


Reminiscent of the sphinx sleeping pose, the superman position refers to the dog being laid flat out on their belly with all 4 of their legs sprawled out. Their hind legs will be stretched out behind them, and their front stretched forward.

If you’ve got a young pup, or even just a very playful, high-energy dog, you might often find them in the superman position. Don’t be fooled into thinking these dogs are sound asleep though!

Despite the fact they’re sleepy, this position allows them to spring up from the floor to engage in playtime at any point, they’re just doing this for a recharge.

The little tiny dogs are more likely to be seen in this position over larger breeds, there’s some anatomical reasoning behind why bigger dogs might find this difficult. Other than the playful pups, a dog might opt for this position to regulate their temperature as pressing their stomachs on some cold tiles will help to cool them down on a hot day.


You’ll definitely have spotted your dog in this cosy little pose before, when they curl themselves up that small, they look like a little ball of fur. Even if you have a dog as huge as a Great Dane, they can make themselves look as small as a Chihuahua in this sleeping position. Well, maybe not that tiny…

In the adorable position you’ll notice every single one of their legs are tucked right into their body, sometimes they’ll even manage to wrap themselves that far round, their nose can touch their back legs. In the wild, dogs would adopt this sleeping position to trap in their body heat and keep their vital organs protected from any predators.

We may notice this position in our dogs if they’re anxious, maintaining the idea of protection from their ancestors. This means it’s a really common way to sleep for dogs that are adjusting to a new home, like new pups. In the chilly winter months, you might see your dog snoozing like this a lot to make sure they’re nice and toasty.

Don’t worry though if your dog always sleeps like this, it doesn’t always mean they’re anxious or cold, they just find it really comfy!

Cuddle buddy

Have you ever been unbearably uncomfortable while your precious pup is fast asleep on top of you, but you just can’t bring yourself to move them? Many dogs love the comfort of snuggling up next to (or on top of) their owner, or their other four-legged friend when they sleep.

Take it as a compliment, your dog simply wants to be close to you and show you that they love you, it’s a way of feeling secure while they sleep, knowing that the person who looks after them is right beside them.

It’ll warm your heart and increase the bond you have with your pup when you have a snuggle, you’ll just have to ignore the discomfort of having their legs, face or even tail up near your face as they shuffle around to get comfy. Nobody wants to wake their dog up when they’re sound asleep.

Hide and seek

Does your dog only really sleep when they’ve sourced a pillow, blanket, pile of clothes or whatever else they can find to snuggle under? If you’ve got a pocket-sicked pup, you might even lose them from time to time if they’re hiding under a blanket.

The most likely explanation for this way of sleeping is that your dog feels comfy and secure when they’re underneath something. Again, this is an instinct that’s derived from their ancestors as a method of hiding from predators in the wild.

Think of it as similar to how plenty of humans would never sleep without their quilt on top of them at night, no matter how hot they are, it’s like a security blanket to protect you while you sleep.

Again, this doesn’t mean your dog feels scared or unsafe in their environment, it’s just a nice feeling of comfort when there’s a warm, snuggly blanket on top of you.

On the other hand, if you’ve got a Terrier of some sort, like a Jack Russell, or even a breed like a Dachshund, you might notice this behaviour more. Historically, these breeds were bred as ratters, intended to burrow into tight spaces to flush out any vermin so this action of burrowing into tight spaces just comes naturally to them.

Dogs that like to sleep underneath something are probably the ones that are incredibly affectionate, possibly verging on needy! They’ll love to cuddle, snuggle and enjoy the ulti-mutt level of comfort.

Belly up

This one is a really cute one, but one that probably think looks really uncomfortable. However, when your dog is dozing on their back with their paws up in the air, they’re in total relaxation and comfort mode.

When your dog is sleeping like this, take comfort in the fact that it means they have complete trust in you and the environment they’re in.

When they’ve got their belly exposed for all to see, they’re putting themselves in a vulnerable position by exposing where their vital organs are. Unlike the doughnut pose, they don’t feel any need to protect themselves.

If the weather is on the warmer side, your dog may also be opting for this peculiar pose to keep cool. Just like the doughnut pose is used to preserve heat, this one is employed to lose heat.

Your dog sweats through their nose and paw pads, and their belly is the main source of heat, so having their stomach and paws up to the wind allows them to feel the cool breeze and prevent overheating.

If your dog is on the older side, don’t be dismayed if they don’t choose to sleep like this anymore. It doesn’t mean they no longer trust you, it’s just a position that’s common in younger dogs. Joint problems in senior dogs make this a more uncomfortable way to snooze.

Do my dog’s sleeping behaviours tell me anything?

You might notice that when your dog is sleeping, they’re twitching, tossing, turning, whimpering, making paddling motions with their legs and who knows what else. These are all signs that your dog is having a dream.

Don’t worry if you hear any of these noises while your dog is snoozing, they’re probably having a sweet dream about running in the park, tumbling around with their pal or even tucking into a delicious doggy dinner.

Another sleeping behaviour is snoring, and it can be a very annoying one of your dog sleeps in bed with you.

Dogs snore just the same as humans do, for the same reasons. Blocked nasal passages, obesity, allergies and simply just because that’s how they are. Also, if your dog is snoring and you notice that they’re sleeping on their back in the belly-up position, this pose could be the source of the noisy snores. Belly up snoozers naturally end up with their throat partially blocked due to their tongue flinging to the back of their throat, consequently triggering the snoring.

Breed can also play a part into why your dog snores, with brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds such as French Bulldogs, Pugs and Bulldogs being some of the predominant culprits. This is due to their facial structure.

Flat-faced breeds have squished up, wrinkly faces that are positively adorable, but they cause breathing issues. The anatomical structure of these breeds is that they have an elongated soft palate which can block the windpipe and they’ve got stenotic nares, meaning their nostrils are abnormally narrow, obstructing airflow.

All of these factors contribute to the snoring. Snoring usually isn’t anything to worry about, unless it’s started out of the blue, become excessive or you think there is something concerning that’s triggering it.

Should I let my dog sleep in my bed?

There isn’t a definitive answer for this one. Some people adamantly say you should never let your dog sleep in your bed and some people are all for it. At the end of the day, the answer to this is just what you think, you need to decide if the positives outweigh the negatives.

Allowing your dog to sleep in your bed is a great way to bond with your dog and essentially just have a snuggle together! We all love our dogs unconditionally, and everyone’s guilty of seeking them out for a cuddle, so having your dog in your bed with you is just taking this to the next level.

Having a snuggle with your dog is amazing, it just depends on your tolerance for snoring, wriggling and maybe even their hind end stuck in your face while you’re trying to sleep. Some dogs are big wrigglers.

In all honesty, your pup might not even want to sleep in bed with you, they might prefer sleeping on the bed when you’re not there. Don’t be offended though, they might just get too warm, or it might even be because you’re the one wriggling too much!

How long should my dog sleep for?

Again, this is one with no definitive answer. Every dog needs a different amount of snoozing time, but the average answer is that they need to sleep for around half of the day, around 12-14 hours of sleep overall. Puppies however can sleep for a whopping 20 hours a day! It might not seem that way though…

Older dogs will also require significantly more sleep than an adult dog, simply because they get tired easier, especially if they’ve got achy joints.

Bigger dogs tend to also be sleepier because they have to lug around much more weight with them on a daily basis, so more naps throughout the day are necessary to regain the energy they use simply just from walking around.

All this sleep means that your dog probably won’t always adopt the same position every single time they take a snooze. They’ll probably move into several of the positions on this list all in one night!


Dogs sleep in some weird and wonderful ways, some of which will make your dog look insanely cute, and some which will make your dog look, well, insane.

Next time they’re snoozing, see if you can spot any of the positions on this list and gain a little insight into how they’re feeling.