Dog Sleep Habits And Positions: Everything Pet Owners Should Know

dog sleeping near crib

Did you know that your pup’s sleep position can say a lot about their personality? Once you discover the basics of dog sleep habits and positions, you can better serve your own four-legged friend.

We share what you need to know about dog sleep, including how long dogs sleep, what your dog’s sleep position says about them, and what dog bed is best suited for your fur baby!

Table Of Contents

Dog Sleep Basics

dog laying under a crib where he gets his dog sleep

On average, dogs sleep about 12 to 14 hours per day. Puppies sleep about 18 to 19 hours per day with short bursts of energy in-between snooze sessions. Also, bigger dogs tend to take longer naps than smaller dogs.

Keep in mind, however, that these are average numbers. Every dog is unique!

If your dog is like most, though, chances are sleeping is what they do the most. Even if it seems like sleeping doesn’t really count as “doing” anything, you can actually learn a lot about your beloved pup’s psychology and health by observing their sleeping habits.

The positions and places your dog chooses to sleep in and the things they do when they’re getting ready to settle in for a nap provide insights into their personality, their mood, and the instincts that connect them to their feral ancestors.

That being said, it’s always a good idea to take your furry friend to the vet if you notice any changes in their sleep patterns, like if they’re sleeping longer during the day or if they’re not sleeping in their normal position.

Dog Sleep Positions

dog laying on a furniture box near the stairs

The position your pup sleeps in and their sleep habits can give you clues as to how they’re feeling emotionally and physically that day. It’s important to pay attention to their most common sleep position to see what it says about your four-legged friend.

Let’s take a look!

The Lion

In the lion position, your dog’s head rests on top of their paws, kind of like they’re a lion on the lookout. However, your pup is dozing off rather than actually sleeping in this position, making it more of a transitional position.

Dogs won’t reach the deep-sleep realm lying down like a lion. Instead, lying this way prepares them to settle into their normal sleep position.

Side

Just like humans, dogs like to lie on their sides. The only difference is that they have four paws completely stretched out!

Once your canine friend is fully relaxed, they will roll out of the lion pose and onto their side to doze off to sleep. This is a common position for naps and one that’s popular among medium to larger-sized dogs.

Leg twitching and kicking are totally normal and healthy while sleeping in this position! That just means your pup is having a dream, which indicates that they’re in a deep sleep.

Pillow beds and orthopedic beds are great options and give your side-sleeper the best support.

What It Means

When your dog sleeps on their side, it means they’re completely relaxed and comfortable. It’s a sign that your four-legged friend trusts their surroundings and most likely has a strong bond with their family.

Most dogs who sleep on their side have a laid-back and relaxed personality.

Superman

The Superman dog sleep position looks just like it sounds: your dog lies on their belly with their arms and legs stretched out. They look like Superman trying to save the day while they doze off to sleep!

Some people also call this position the “flying frog” because the dog’s legs resemble a frog mid-jump.

Smaller breeds tend to enjoy sleeping in this position because it’s easier to jump from sleeping to playing.

What It Means

Your dog’s belly has less hair, so if they’re sleeping in the Superman position, it could mean they’re hot and trying to cool down their body.

Most pups who sleep this way are playful and full of energy. After all, they have to save the world!

Tummy

Sleeping on their tummy is different from the Superman position. Instead of having their legs completely stretched out while laying on their belly, your dog will have their legs tucked under their body.

What It Means

This is not the most comfortable sleep position for dogs. If your dog is sleeping on their belly with their paws tucked under, they may not be fully relaxed and likely won’t reach the deep-sleep realm.

Pups who sleep in this position might be gentle, shy, or sweet.

dog in crib where he gets his dog sleep

Curled Up

Curling up into a ball is a common sleep position for dogs and is also known as the donut position.

You might notice your furry friend walking around in circles before settling into this position for the night. They’re trying to make themselves as little as possible, and this position is popular with smaller dogs.

A donut dog bed is the best option for pups who like to sleep curled up. They provide the perfect shape and a cushioned sidewall to meet your dog’s sleep needs.

What It Means

Sleeping curled up could mean a few things for your pet: they’re totally relaxed and undisturbed, they’re uncomfortable, or they’re cold. This position helps keep your dog warm and comforts them.

Cuddled Up

Maybe your four-legged friend likes to snuggle up next to you (or another pet!) during the day. If so, they probably like to sleep this way at night, too.

This can be a problem if you don’t want pets in bed with you. Try giving them their own bed if you need your space, but understand that your dog might require a bit of sleep training.

What It Means

Sleeping in the cuddled-up position exposes your dog’s need for comfort. They like being next to you, so take it as a compliment!

Paws Up

It’s all hands (or paws!) on deck.

In the paws-up sleep position, your dog lies on their back with all their paws in the air. This isn’t a typical sleep position for dogs because it adds a lot of pressure to their spine and leaves them vulnerable.

Use an orthopedic dog bed to give your pup the best support while they’re sleeping and ease some of the pressure on their spine.

What It Means

Usually, dogs don’t like to be left exposed and vulnerable the way they are when sleeping in the paws-up position.

If you find your dog in this position, it means that they’re comfortable with their surroundings. They feel safe, secure, and protected.

It could also mean they’re hot. Like the Superman position, the paws-up position helps your pup cool off. As we mentioned, dog bellies have less hair than the rest of their bodies. In the paws-up position, they’re keeping their belly in the air to bring down their body temperature.

This dog sleep position is a good indicator that your pet is independent.

Back-To-Back

You’ll find this to be a common dog sleep position if you have more than one animal in your home. However, this could also mean that they like sleeping back-to-back with their human friends.

Dogs like to huddle for protection and warmth, and sleeping this way can give them exactly what they’re looking for.

What It Means

The back-to-back position has to do a lot with your dog’s ancestors, who may have been part of a pack. If it’s in their nature — and in their blood — to stick together, this is the position they lean toward when they’re sleeping.

They’re showing signs of trust and comfort when they sleep back-to-back. It may also mean that they’re loving and affectionate.

Head Propped Up

Dog sleeping on a couch

Some dogs prefer to relax with their head elevated, perhaps on the edge of their dog bed, on a pillow, or the arm of the couch or chair if they’re on furniture.

Sometimes, dogs adopt this position if they’re only slightly dozing and still want to keep an eye on what’s going on around them as opposed to going into deep sleep.

What It Means

While this position can be extremely cute since it looks like they’re using a pillow in a very human-like way, keep an eye on your dog if they just started sleeping in this position.

If your dog is elevating his or her head during sleep, it could be a sign that they’re having difficulty breathing. This could be due to heart disease or other conditions.

Monitor your dog for noisy or rapid breathing or a sudden lethargy or shortness of breath that keeps them from participating in normal play and exercise. If you observe these symptoms, contact your veterinarian.

Burrowing

dog covered under a blanket

This isn’t so much about the position your dog sleeps in as where they situate themselves to sleep. Some dogs tend to burrow or “den” when they sleep — crawling under blankets or pillows or otherwise finding a way to wedge themselves into a small, dark, cozy space.

What It Means

Some dog breeds are more likely to find a burrow when taking a nap than others. It all goes back to the way their ancestors lived and worked.

Dachshunds and some Terriers, for example, were bred to flush vermin out of holes. And the forebears of modern Huskies dug burrows in the snow for insulation. Breeds like this may naturally feel comfortable nestled in a cozy den.

Dogs are pack animals, and they find comfort and security in curling up with pack members (as we discussed for the back-to-back sleeping position above). So, if your dog likes to sleep beneath the blankets on your bed, take it as a compliment!

Note: Small dogs, senior dogs, or flat-faced breeds, like Pugs, may have a difficult time extricating themselves from heavier blankets, so take care. Obsessive burrowing accompanied by panting or crying could also be a sign of anxiety.

With Toys

Some dogs can’t seem to settle down for a good night’s sleep without surrounding themselves with toys. You may notice your dog filling their bed up with so many tennis balls, squeaky toys, and tug-of-war ropes, it seems like there will barely be any room left for them to lie down!

What It Means

Most likely, it means that your dog simply loves their toys!

Bringing toys to bed with them may seem silly to us since it leaves less space to stretch out and snooze. But dogs don’t necessarily have the mental capacity to understand that their favorite things will be where they left them when they wake, so they prefer to keep them close by.

This behavior could also be a throwback to an ancient instinct to hunt and bury food. But it’s not a sign that your friend is insecure or underfed.

However, if your dog becomes excessively attached and territorial about their toys or one particular toy — to the point they’re acting aggressively toward anyone they think is trying to take the treasured object away — then this is a problem you will want to address.

Consult your vet or a behavioral expert.

Dog Sleep Behaviors

Dog standing up on rail of crib

Dreaming

We briefly touched on this earlier, but just like humans, dogs can have dreams while sleeping!

Researchers believe that much like humans, dogs often relive experiences they’ve had in their dreams. They’re most likely dreaming about what took place during the day, like when they chased a squirrel on your walk or when they ran to get the ball during your game of fetch.

Interestingly, not all dogs dream the same. Certain breeds may dream about the tasks they’re trained for. For example, if you have a Pointer, you might notice them adopting a position reminiscent of going on point while they’re asleep.

There’s also reason to believe that small dogs dream more often than large dogs and that puppies and senior dogs have dreams more often than middle-aged ones.

As in humans, dreaming in dogs is associated with REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, a particular phase of the sleep cycle.

If you look closely at your dog 10 to 20 minutes after they fall asleep and can see their eyes moving behind their eyelids, they’re in REM sleep, and there’s a good chance they’re dreaming. However, some dogs may make it easier to tell when they’re having a dream than others.

The following sleep habits are signs that your dog is dreaming:

  • Twitching
  • Whimpering
  • Barking
  • Walking around in circles
  • Digging

That being said, these signs could also mean other things.

Twitching

If your dog is twitching in their sleep, it could be a sign that they’re cold. Also, some dogs twitch in their sleep when transitioning into different sleep cycles.

Whimpering And Barking

While this is generally a type of reaction to what’s happening in their dream, your dog might be whimpering and barking in their sleep because they’re uncomfortable.

If your dog’s vocalizations during sleep seem like they’re uncomfortable or upset, feel free to gently wake them up and give them some soothing pets.

Snoring

Not all dogs snore, but if your dog’s snoring disrupts the family at night, they might be dealing with breathing problems. It’s also important to note that some dogs with short noses are more prone to snoring.

How do you tell the difference between normal snoring and signs of a problem? If your pup’s snores are steady and rhythmic, there’s no cause for alarm. But if it sounds like they’re struggling for air or like they’ve stopped breathing and suddenly start again, it could be a sign of sleep apnea.

Allergies, obesity, and blockages in the nose or throat can all cause sleep apnea. Dogs with short muzzles that are more prone to respiratory problems, in general, are also more likely to suffer from this condition as well.

If you’re concerned your dog may have sleep apnea, consult with your vet.

The solution might be as simple as making sure a plump pup gets more exercise. In addition, medications and eliminating allergen exposure can help dogs with allergy-related sleep apnea. But keep in mind that breathing obstructions might require surgery.

Dozing

Dozing in and out of sleep means your dog isn’t in the deep-sleep realm yet. It’s nothing to worry about!

This could also simply be a sign that your dog isn’t necessarily tired, but they’re bored. If you notice their ears perk up when they hear a sound, they might want to play or go for a walk.

Seizures

The most common cause of seizures in dogs is idiopathic epilepsy, an inherited genetic disorder. Some breeds are more predisposed to suffer from this condition than others. In dogs that suffer from epilepsy, seizures often occur during sleep.

There’s little need to worry about being able to distinguish a seizure from normal dream-associated sleep behavior, like twitching or “digging.” A seizure will often include drooling, urinating, defecating, and movement of all four legs.

If your dog has not been diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy or another condition that could lead to seizures but you believe you’ve observed them having one, try to record a video of the incident and then talk to your vet.

Clear the space around your dog while the seizure is occurring to make sure they can’t hurt themselves by thrashing against an object. And don’t put your hand or anything else in the dog’s mouth during an episode.

Typical epileptic seizures last only a couple of minutes and do not cause your dog pain or harm. However, your best friend may be confused after the episode ends, so make sure you’re there to reassure them.

The good news is most canine seizures can be managed with medication. And dogs diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy can live long, full, happy lives.

Helping Your Dog Sleep Well

Like humans, dogs sleep better when they can have a consistent nighttime routine and have time to wind down. Try to go to bed around the same time each night and keep the hour or so right before bedtime relaxed.

Having a nice, deep sleep interrupted by the call of nature is disruptive to rest for both you and your best friend.

Try to limit your dog’s water intake right before bedtime, and take them out to take care of business before it’s time to settle down for the night.

Keep in mind that energetic, athletic breeds may find it difficult to sleep if they’re not getting enough physical activity. Make sure your pup is getting enough walks and exercise time to work out the zoomies and feel pleasantly pooped at bedtime.

Just like with any other aspect of dog training, it’s important to communicate with consistent language. Say “Bedtime” or “Sleep time” or some other phrase that the pup will come to recognize to mean that the day’s activities are done.

Good Sleep For Good Dogs

dog laying in a nursery near a crib

Armed with the knowledge we’ve shared here, you now know what’s normal and what’s not when it comes to dog sleep habits. When you take note of your furry friend’s sleep positions, it can help you learn what kind of dog they are and how to give them quality sleep.

Choose the right kind of dog bed based on your pet’s unique personality and sleep positions, and pay attention to any changes in their behavior and sleep patterns. Don’t shy away from taking them to the vet if you feel something is off.

One last tip: Try a Newton Baby Crib Mattress as a bed for your canine companion! It’s just the right size, comfy, and completely washable.

Sweet dreams, sweet pup!

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