5 Surprising Reasons Your Dog Loves the Sun

Letting your pooch catch some rays can jazz up their coat and pep up their spirit, but remember, a little sun goes a long way.

Updated October 18, 2023
Dog On Meadow At Sunset

If your dog's like mine, they're probably a sun-seeker — following around the sunbeams from place to place, and soaking it all up. Maybe they find the sliver of light hitting your living room floor or they're outside with paws up in the air. No matter their location or position, you might be surprised to learn there's actually a lot more going on than meets the eye.

The most simple reason for dogs laying in the sun is a common reason we do the same — it provides heat, which makes us feel comfy and cozy. Try laying down next to your dog next time they're soaking up some rays; you will see why they love it so much! Sunlight is a natural source of warmth, and dogs have evolved to enjoy the benefits of that warmth. But some of the other reasons dogs love the sun are a bit less obvious.

Quick Tip

Let your pup enjoy the sun but keep an eye on them to make sure it's not too much. Know the signs of heatstroke and remember, a dog's body temp can raise to dangerous level in as little as 10 minutes.

1. Group Therapy

In their social groups, dogs often display their bond and affection by sunbathing together. This not only helps them keep cozy, especially when it's a bit nippy outside, but it also offers a sense of companionship, whether it's with you or other furry pals they're hanging out with. (It's also why your dog likes to sleep against you.)

2. Pain Relief or Relaxation

Dogs often enjoy basking in the sun because it offers comfort and relief to their bodies. Just as we enjoy a warm heating pad when we’re feeling achy, our furry friends find relief in the sun’s warming rays. The heat and UV light from the sun can help soothe sore muscles and joints. And, as we know, dogs often hide signs of pain so there might not be others. Interestingly, this therapeutic effect of UV light isn't unique to our pets; tanning salons use UV light therapy to aid conditions like arthritis and other joint issues. 

3. Help Sleeping at Night

When dogs soak up those rays, it actually helps set their internal "body clock," called the circadian rhythm. This body clock controls things like when they produce melatonin, that nifty sleep hormone. Basically, when it gets dark, if they've had their share of daylight, they'll produce more melatonin, helping them get a good night's sleep. It's kind of like how we feel sleepy after we've spent the day in the sun.

Basset Hound sunbathes on his back in the living room at home

4. Improved Bone Health

When your pup is soaking up the sun, it's not just them having a lazy moment; they're naturally caring for their bone health. While dogs might not be as efficient as us at drawing vitamin D from the sun, that sunbathing session still plays a part in their wellbeing. Vitamin D helps them absorb calcium — a vital mineral for us and our furry friends — which keeps their bones sturdy and healthy.

5. Prevent Depression

Just as with humans, sunlight can elevate a dog's mood and help them feel better mentally. In humans, sunlight increases serotonin levels in the brain, which helps relieve depression, and something similar may occur in dogs. Some experts believe that the effects of sunlight on serotonin levels are stronger than those produced by antidepressants.

Need to Know

Just like humans, dogs might feel the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, in the winter due to shorter daylight hours. 

Always Provide Options

Of course, limits are necessary. Too much time in the sun can lead to sunburn and even skin cancer — your dog’s skin is much thinner than yours and is more sensitive. Certain dogs, like those with white hair or short coats, can burn more easily. If you’re bringing your dog along on a trip to the beach or just hanging out under the sun with them while doing yard work, make sure they always have sufficient shade.

Moderation is Key

In short, dogs just love to lie in the sun. It's a great way for them to relax and enjoy themselves. They like the heat, they just like it, or they want something soft against their backsides, such as grass, when laying down outside. As a bonus, sunlight can aid in reducing the risk of many diseases and disorders associated with inflammation, vitamin, and mineral deficiency. Just make sure your dog always has a choice for enough shade and, remember, they're always better indoors in bad weather!

5 Surprising Reasons Your Dog Loves the Sun