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Why Does My Dog Sleep on His Back? 4 Surprising Reasons, According to Pet Pros

Plus, when you should be concerned. 

It might just be one of the cutest things ever when you spy your pal snoozing away on his back, especially when his paws suddenly start twitching in the midst of a dream. While it’s certainly a sweet sight, seeing your buddy like this might also lead you to wonder, “Why does my dog sleep on his back?” Is this behavior normal? To answer those questions we sought out animal behaviorists and veterinarians to suss out exactly what it means when your pal slumbers in this position. 

Why does my dog sleep on his back?

The one thing the experts we spoke to agreed on is that dogs who are confident and trust their surroundings are much more likely to exhibit this behavior. “By exposing their bellies, these pups are showing a level of comfort and relaxation due to trust in the environment and the people around them,” says Erin Askeland, animal health and behavior expert for “Whenever a dog sleeps on its back, no matter the reason, it indicates that they feel secure in their environment.” But as it turns out, our beloved canine companions may end up sleeping on their backs for various reasons. Read on for some of the most common ones. 

1. Your bestie is super secure 

“When a dog chooses to sleep on their back, it’s often a sign that they feel exceptionally comfortable and safe in that posture,” says Amanda Nascimento, DVM, at NHV Natural Pet, and an adjunct faculty member at Kansas State College of Veterinary Medicine. So the most likely answer to the question: “Why does my dog sleep on his back?” is that a paws-up sleeping position — especially if your favorite furball is curled up right next to you — means he literally trusts you with his life.

“It’s a clear sign of trust and comfort when your pup does this,” adds Bethany Hsia, DVM and co-founder of “In doing so he exposes his vulnerable belly, so by sleeping in this position, your pup is showing that he feels completely safe and secure in your presence.”  

Related: Why Does My Dog Lick Me When I Pet Her? Animal Experts Share the Surprising Reasons

2. It’s too doggone hot

Why does my dog sleep on his back: Happy dog sunbathing on sun lounger
Justin Paget/Getty

Perhaps you only notice Rover lying on his back in the summertime? If this is the case, the answer to “Why does my dog sleep on his back?” is simply to cool down. This position aids in regulating your dog’s body temperature, particularly during warmer weather, explains Dr. Nascimento. “Some dogs sleep on their backs, as a behavior primarily linked to comfort and temperature regulation,” adds Sabrina Kong, DVM and founder of

“This is especially a good way for double coated breeds like Golden Retrievers and Labradors to cool off.” So in this way, a reclining position has a purpose; it keeps your pal cool in hot weather as it opens and exposes his belly to better get air moving across it — unlike when your pal sleeps on his belly, a position that traps and holds in heat. Since the fur is thinner on his abdomen, and has fewer sweat glands, exposing this area can help your love bug cool down more effectively, which explains why you might see him in this position most often in the summer. 

If you’re ever worried your pal is too overheated — signs to look out for include a bright red tongue, gums or the inside of ears or excessive drooling or panting — take a couple of cues from The American Kennel Club and be sure to offer him plenty of water to drink. You can also aim a fan in his direction, and spray his belly and paw pads with cool water to help bring his body temperature down STAT. 

3. It just feels comfortable

If your sweet boy is getting up there in age, another reason he might like snoozing on his back is because the position takes pressure off his aching joints. “Some dogs simply find this sleep position more comfortable than others,” says Dr. Hsia. One main reason that your four-legged bestie might find it more comfortable to sleep in these positions is because it allows him to stretch out more, adds Dwight Alleyne, DVM, veterinary advisor at This stretching might feel good on your pal’s hips or aging limbs.

Related: Why Do Dogs Put Their Paw on You? Experts Explain What Your Pup Is Trying to Tell You

4. He’s communicating that he’s harmless 

Why does my dog sleep on his back: Dog raising paw to surrender in wrestling competion with another dog

In the wild wolves often roll over on their back as a way to communicate to the pack leader that they are submissive — though they rarely ever sleep in this position. So if you’re ever scolding your pal for some naughty hijinks he’s been up to, he just might roll over on his back and close his eyes as a way of showing you he’s submissive. You might also notice this behavior at dog parks, where some dogs will roll over right away in the presence of other dogs — it’s basically their way of saying, “I come in peace!” Or if one dog is the aggressor the other pup might roll over as if to say, “I surrender!”

Related: Why Is My Dog Sneezing So Much? Vet Shares the Top Causes + When to Be Concerned

Should I ever worry if my dog sleeps on his back? 

Besides wondering “Why does my dog sleep on his back?” you might also want to know if your little buddy lying in this position is ever cause for alarm. “This is not typically a behavior that needs to be addressed unless a dog shows signs of pain or discomfort when lying on their back,” says Askeland. “Most dogs will not put themselves in that position in the first place if it’s painful for them.” 

Of course, there’s also no need to worry if your dog doesn’t sleep on his back. Surprisingly, much like humans, dogs also have their preferred sleeping positions! It might just be that he’s simply not comfortable sleeping on his back and instead prefers positions like curling up, being sprawled out on his side, or splaying his legs against the floor. Though no matter which position your little rascal sleeps in, we’re sure it’s adorable enough to elicit more than a few “Awwws!”

For more on dogs, click through the links below!

Why Does My Dog Stare at Me? Veterinarian Explains What They’re Trying to Tell You

Dog Poop on the Carpet? These Easy Pro Tricks Will Get It Deep-Down Clean Fast

Surprising Causes of Your Dog’s Bad Breath + Vet-Approved Ways to Get Rid of It Fast

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