4 Dog Sleeping Positions & What They Can Tell You

Updated October 16, 2022
dog sleeping on cushion

Dogs can sleep at any time, whether they're in bed or sunbathing on the patio. Dogs like a good nap (or several) during the day, but sometimes they are equally content to sleep through the night. Their sleep appears to be different from ours, but there are some commonalities. Find out what the way your dog sleeps says about them, and what their position might be telling you about their state of mind.

Facts About Dogs' Sleep

  • Like people, dogs have different stages of sleep, including rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM.
  • Dogs sleep almost half their life, the equivalent to 16 hours a day.
  • The phrase, "Let sleeping dogs lie," holds a lot of truth, considering 60 percent of dog bites happen to children when they first wake a dog from a deep rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
  • It is important to always teach children not to approach or startle a sleeping dog.
  • Most dogs will generally circle round and round, nesting before they finally lie down.
  • Puppies and older dogs dream more than middle-aged dogs.
A cute British Bulldog sleeping in a dog bed

Four Types of Dog Sleep Positions

The position a dog sleeps in can tell you something about how deeply they are sleeping, and possibly if they are dreaming. Take note of how your dog positions themselves during sleep, and you might gain some insight into the quality of rest they are receiving.

Side and Belly Sleeper

Most of the time, when the dog is sleeping on their side or sleeping on their belly with all four paws out, they are simply dozing, although, sometimes they can go into a deep sleep on their side. This position means they feel safe enough to relax for a quick sleep.

Back Sleeper - Four Paws in the Air

This is the position where dogs go into a deep sleep. This is certainly one of the funniest of all sleep positions, with your dog is on their back, all four legs up in the air. There are two main reasons why this tends to be where the dog gets their most relaxed dream sleep: one, their stomach is exposed to the air, so they are able to keep cool, and two, by not being all curled up in a ball, none of their muscles are tense, and they are able to be completely relaxed.

In this position and the side positions, you will witness most of the funny dream movements happening, such as kicking, wagging their tail, nose and whiskers twitching, muffled barks, muffled cries, chewing motions, feet running, snoring, and general bliss.

Curled up in a Ball Sleeper

At first thought, you may believe this would be the deep sleep position, but this is actually a common napping position. If you watch a dog sleeping in this position, you're likely to notice they wake up very quickly when they sleep this way. Compare this position to those they take at night, in bed, when they are all spread out, and they appear to be in a heavier sleeping pattern.

Lying Back-to-Back Sleeper

When your dog lays back-to-back with another pet or with you, they are expressing their support and love for you. They feel safe in your presence and regard this time as "bonding time." Your dog could be napping or falling into a deep sleep in this sleeping position.

When there is a pack of dogs, they tend to sleep together, although sometimes the alpha dog will sleep apart or in a higher position.

Light Versus Heavy Sleepers

The sleep cycle of a dog is essentially identical to that of a human; they go through three phases during non-rapid eye movement (NREM), as well as the REM stage -- the dreaming period. However, a dog's sleep cycle is far shorter than a human's. A human goes through five cycles on average per night, whereas a dog can go through 15 to 20.

First Sleep Phase

Your dog's muscles relax during the first phase of NREM, which is why you may occasionally feel a little twitch; this stage is classified as a light slumber since your dog can easily be woken from it.

Second Sleep Phase

The second stage of NREM sleep is usually the longest of all the stages, accounting for up to 45 percent of the overall sleep time. Despite the fact that some brain activity is still going on at this stage, your dog is quite comfortable and relaxed, although they are still classified as lightly sleeping during this stage.

Woman Enjoying Morning With Dachshund in Bed

Third Sleep Phase

Slow wave sleep (SWS) is the third phase of NREM sleep, which lasts between 10 and 15 minutes every cycle. During this stage, your dog's heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature all drop, and breathing slows to a crawl; you may notice that your dog is unresponsive to noises or other stimuli. This is the stage where they are falling into a heavier sleep pattern.

Dogs Dream During REM Sleep

The brain is particularly active, processing memories and learning during REM sleep, which is when most dreams and unpredictable movements occur. This phase lasts only 10 to 15 percent of a dog's sleep cycle, yet a puppy spends more time in REM sleep because they are still in the developmental stages of their life. Dogs sleep heavily in this stage, and some dogs are heavier sleepers than others, with more of their sleep cycle being spent here than lighter-sleeping dogs.

Dog Sleep Requirements

It's important to understand your dog's sleeping habits, as dogs can get grouchy if they don't get enough sleep. Have you ever been playing with your puppy and they just pass out? They don't want to stop playing, but they just can't help but fall asleep. Similar to people, dogs need their sleep, though they do need more. Your dog should get at least eight to 14 hours of sleep each day.

Make Your Dog's Sleep Comfortable

The temperature in a room will influence how your dog sleeps. So, whether your dog sleeps inside or outside, ensure the temperature is comfortable at all times. As far as where your dog sleeps, the choice of beds and furnishings has increased drastically in the last several years. Whichever style bed you choose, it is most important to have a clean, comfortable sleeping area for your dog. The next time Fido or Feefee is twitching, barking, and running on the way to dreamland, consider the sleep cycle they are in to determine if they are sleeping lightly or heavily.

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4 Dog Sleeping Positions & What They Can Tell You