Why Do Dogs Sleep on Their Backs? Here Are a Few Reasons

Dog lovers have a lot of fun with the strange ways that their pets sleep. Mid-toy-chomp? Head on the window? Half off, half on the couch? What happened to that good old-fashioned curl with the tail tucked over the nose, in the softest dog mattress? What is the reason dogs lay with their heads on the floor?

If the answer you get is “because they do,” you’re right! However, Travis McDermott, DVM, of Durango Animal Hospital in Las Vegas says there might be more to it than this. These are the most important reasons why your dog would rather take sleeping upside down.

1. They’re cooling off

It is possible that you will see your dog having their paws raised more often in the summer heat because this indicates they’re able to relax for a while. “Dogs typically rest on their backs for cooling down,” McDermott says. “Dogs transfer heat via their paws. This position allows them to get cool.”

The sweat glands of dogs are smaller than humans, however, the sweat glands have been concentrated on their paws. Dogs shed sweat there, but not elsewhere on their body. The natural oil production process is one of the reasons why dogs’ foot smells like Fritos–and when their feet are healthy and not cracked or dry the smell is generally normal.

The fur on their belly is smaller than the rest of their bodies, meaning it’s more suited for dogs to enjoy a breeze by exposing their bottom. It’s not necessary to be concerned if their tongue is out of their mouth and they’re panting because panting is a method for dogs to regulate their temperature and cool down.

2. They feel safe and secure.

If your dog is able to slip into this all-paws-up posture when you’re lying beside him on the couch, or snuggled together in bed, you’ll be doing the right thing! “Sleeping on their backs is very vulnerable and demonstrates trust and comfort in their surroundings,” McDermott says.

Sometimes viewed as a calm gesture of appeasement, this pose is a signal of communication used by domestic and wild dogs to signal that they’re not an imminent threat. But, this doesn’t mean that they’re looking for hugs or belly rubs by humans, however. Some dogs don’t like those kinds of pets and touch.

3. It’s Comfortable

Your dog might just love sitting on their back. When you’re sleeping the same amount as dogs (adult dogs typically sleep all day long and the growing puppies are able to sleep all day long, up to around 18 hours) Perhaps that curled-up place on the doggie couch may be a little restricting after a while.

However, there’s no reason to be worried when your dog isn’t sleeping on their backs. “This may be due to an old age issue or because you’re not feeling at ease,” McDermott says. It is always a good idea to consult your veterinarian to confirm that your pet’s ideal position is okay.


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