The positions dogs sleep in, the way they twitch or move, and the amount of time they spend napping can reveal a lot about how they’re feeling.
Sleeping habits can give clues about a dog’s health and happiness that you can interpret if you know what to look for.
Here are a few things to take notice of when your dog is sleeping and what they might mean.
Pay attention to the position your dog sleeps in most frequently. Your dog’s favorite sleeping position might change based on where they’re snoozing, who they’re sleeping near, or if they’re feeling a certain way.
Injuries or soreness can also cause a dog’s sleeping position to change, so if you notice anything unusual in your pup’s sleeping position, keep an eye out for signs of pain.
Below are some common sleeping positions and what they may mean.
1. On The Side
A dog who sleeps on their side has to feel pretty safe and comfortable, as it leaves the vital organs exposed.
Dogs who favor this position tend to be pretty easy-going and relaxed, though they may switch to a different position if they are sleeping somewhere new or around someone they aren’t familiar with.
This position also leaves their limbs free to move during sleep, so you may see more twitching and leg kicks from a dog lying on their side.
2. Curled Up
A very common position dogs take when sleeping is to curl up in a ball, nose-to-tail. It’s a common position for animals to take in the wild, too, as it protects the vital organs, helps conserve warmth, and makes it easy to get up quickly.
This position restricts movement during sleep, so you may see less twitching from a dog who snoozes in a ball.
You might think that a dog that sleeps in this position would be uncomfortable in their surroundings, and while that may be the case, it’s not necessarily true. It’s a common position in fall and winter months when the weather is cool, or it may just simply feel better for a particular dog to sleep in that position.
3. Sprawled Out On The Tummy
This is sometimes called the “Superman” position. It allows for a dog to pop up and be on their feet right away.
You often see this position with puppies who need to nap frequently, but also want to be ready to jump up and play at a moment’s notice.
Dogs who sleep in this position don’t want to miss a chance to be in the action, even while they’re napping. It’s the position of choice for high-energy pups or pups who get sleepy during play and just want to plop down where they’re standing.
4. On The Back, Paws Up In The Air
In the same way curling in a ball conserves heat, sleeping with an exposed belly helps a dog cool off. Since the fur is thinner around the belly and the paws hold the sweat glands, exposing these areas is a great way to beat the heat.
It’s also a position that indicates a dog is very comfortable, leaving their most sensitive areas vulnerable and making it hard to get on their feet quickly.
A pup who’s sleeping in this position most likely doesn’t have a care in the world. It’s common in summer months.
5. Back-To-Back Or Snuggled Up
You may catch your dog sleeping back-to-back with your other pets or snuggling up to you, and it means the same thing. Your dog is bonding and showing that they want to get close to you.
A dog sleeping this way feels very loving and affectionate, and they’re completely comfortable with whoever they’re napping with.
Try showing your love, too, by taking a snooze with your pup.
Once your dog is napping, you may get some clues about the quality of their sleep from their behavior.
Sleep is important for healing and repairing the body, and REM sleep, which is the deepest stage of sleep, is the most restorative.
Pay attention to these signs and behaviors to make sure your dog is getting the best sleep possible.
1. Circling And Digging
It’s a normal behavior for dogs to circle their sleeping area or even dig a bit before lying down for sleep.
This is behavior that comes from dogs’ wolf ancestors who would often trample down grass, leaves, or snow to get comfortable. They might also dig a hole that would help keep them warm in winter or cool in summer.
Dogs tend to circle a few times before lying down, but doing it too much or having trouble settling in might be a sign of pain, arthritis, or a neurological issue. Consult a vet if you notice excessive circling.
2. Light Dozing
A dog might doze off during the day if they’re bored or just getting a rest. This is not a very restful sleep, and your dog may just be waiting for something more interesting to come along.
Watch your pup’s ears and see if they perk up at any movement or unusual noise. This probably means that your dog is still fairly alert and looking for something worth getting up for.
Maybe it’s time to do something fun like go for a walk or play fetch.
3. Twitching, Wagging, Or Soft Barks
Dogs tend to move a bit during REM sleep when they are most restful. They could very well be acting out their dreams, but they are getting a nice, deep sleep.
Twitching, tail wagging, leg kicks, and occasional barks or grunts are common. This is a good time to let sleeping dogs lie, as this stage of sleep is very restorative and good for their health.
Movement during sleep is actually more frequent in puppies and senior dogs, and no one can really explain why.
A less common reason for twitching during sleep is if a dog is cold. The twitches are the body’s way of warming up. If your dog is cold, get a blanket or move them to a warmer sleeping place.
4. Signs Of Distress
Like humans, dogs can have nightmares.
If your dog seems particularly agitated during sleep with more movement, barks, or whimpers than usual, you can try gently calming your pup down. Call their name softly and stroke their back or side. Use soothing tones.
Your pup may wake up or may just simply relax and continue on with a more pleasant dream after you’ve comforted them.
When twitching gets excessive, it could be a sign of a seizure that requires immediate medical attention.
Try calling your dog’s name and waking them up if you suspect that their movements are abnormal. If they wake, it may have just been an intense dream.
If they don’t respond to your calls, continue to shake, or feel stiff, get medical help right away.
You should pay attention to your dog’s usual sleeping habits so you know the difference and can tell when something is out of the ordinary.
Amount Of Sleep
Dogs sleep a lot more than people do. On average, dogs need about twelve to 14 hours of sleep a day.
Big dogs tend to take longer naps than smaller dogs, and puppies need about 18 to 19 hours of sleep a day, usually waking up for an hour after every few hours of sleep.
Take notice of your dog’s normal sleeping habits. If you notice a change in how long your dog sleeps, it could mean a lot of things from a dietary change to a thyroid problem.
If your dog is spending too much time napping, it could be time for a vet visit.
How does your dog sleep? Does your dog dream a lot? Does your pup take naps all day? Let us know in the comments below!