Dreaming dogs move, kick and whine, which is very noticeable with their legs in the air.
Dogs spend a good bit of time sleeping, so it makes sense they would change up their positions periodically. While lying on their tummies or sides or curling into a ball are fairly common, it's usually the happiest and most secure dogs who go belly-up and sleep on their backs.
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Your pup's belly doesn't have as much fur as the rest of him, and exposing all that skin to the air helps keep him cool and comfy. Lying on his back when he sleeps opens his tummy to the cooling air flow, regulating his body temperature when he's sleeping -- he can't pant while he sleeps, after all.
Just like you sometimes sleep on your back, your pooch likes to experiment with different sleeping positions to relieve pressure points or just to change things up. He might start out on his side and roll over to his back, letting his legs dangle in the air or out to the sides. He likes this position for the same reason you do -- it's comfortable.
Sign Of Security
Regardless of how much your pup likes sleeping on his back, he won't do it if he doesn't feel secure. Dogs who sleep on their backs expose their most vulnerable area -- their soft bellies -- to predators, so it's only dogs who aren't worried about predators who sleep belly-up. This also can translate to other dogs in the house who might pounce on your pooch as he's sleeping. He might not feel so comfortable on his back if he's worried about getting caught off-guard. Sleeping legs-up is also a sign of a well-fed pup. Those who are worried about the next meal tend to sleep curled up or on their tummies so they can hop up on a moment's notice to chase prey or get to food before other pets.
Paws Over Chest
If your pooch is chilled and relaxed on his back, feel free to pet away. He's not likely to jump up aggressively and is likely to enjoy a nice belly rub. However, if he's on his back with his paws tucked in tight and his front paws crossed or held close to his chest, it's best to leave him be. That's a universal dog signal that he wants to be left alone. He might be trying to get away from an annoying puppy or he might have a tummy ache, but either way, he might snap if you pester him when he needs some private time.
By Rob Harris
Cleveland.com: Dogs Sleeping Belly Up are Happy and Secure: Ask Dog Lady
Vet Street: Why Does My Dog... Sleep Belly Up?
Arcamax: What Do You Really Know About Your Dog's Sleeping Behaviors?
Pet Tails: Sleeping Dogs
Sarah's Dogs: Why Do Dogs Sleep on Their Backs?
About the Author
While studying journalism in the Army and at the University of Missouri, Rob Harris developed a lifelong love of physical fitness and nutrition, contributing often to a dairy industry newsletter. He has also worked with and created blogs for several family businesses including a professional dog kennel and a flower shop, where he used his experience as an avid gardener to grow plants for sale.