It’s very natural to want to know more about your dog. Alas, you’re dog’s not very likely to tell you directly about how he or she is feeling – at least, not in words. Instead, you’re going to have to look at your dog’s activities to learn more about his or her internal life.
One of the best ways to learn about your dog’s emotional state is by watching him or her as he or she is sleeping. The way your dog sleeps and naps can actually tell you an awful lot, at least if you know what to look for.
All of the various ways that dogs move about when they’re sleeping can tell you more about how your dog is feeling, how healthy your dog might be, and even whether or not your dog is happy. While almost every dog owner is familiar with how sleeping positions change when things go wrong, it’s a little harder to figure out what sleeping positions mean when your dog is doing well. Fortunately, we’re here to help.
Common Dog Sleeping Positions
If you’re really looking to learn more about your dog through observing his or her sleeping positions, you’re going to want to spend some time trying to figure out how your dog sleeps regularly. This is a great opportunity to make the most of your dog camera, so that you can fast forward through recordings. Don’t worry too much if your dog is sleeping oddly because he or she is on a new dog bed or if he or she is incredibly tired – you’re looking for normal sleeping patterns.
Fortunately, common sleeping positions do tend to fall into one of a small number of subcategories. Each of these positions has its own special type of meaning, so try to keep them in mind as your dog sleeps.
The Side Sleeper
The side sleeper is a dog who is incredibly comfortable and at peace with his or her world. When your dog sleeps on his or her side, he or she is leaving his or her vital organs exposed because there’s not much likelihood of a predator. Your dog, in short, feels safe.
Dogs who sleep in this position tend to be very relaxed, at least as long as they’re around people who they know. This is one of the first positions to change when a dog is in a strange place, especially if your dog isn’t with you.
The Ball Sleeping Position
This might be the go-to sleeping position when one considers the way that dogs are traditionally thought to sleep. Your dog will curl up into a ball, with his or her nose firmly lodged by his or her tail. This is a survival sleep position, increasing body heat, decreasing the possibility of getting hurt, and ensuring that you can get up and run more quickly.
The obvious assumption here is that a dog who curls up is a scared dog, but that’s not always true. In fact, it’s very likely that your dog is just a little cold. This position means less than you think because it’s obviously quite instinctual.
If your dog is sleeping on his or her tummy with his or her feet sprawled out, your dog may be getting ready to get up and run at a moment’s notice. This is the go-to sleeping position for many energetic puppies and even for older dogs who love to play. It’s not a sign that your dog is afraid of anything but rather a sign that your dog is just ready to have a good time.
In short, this is the position of a dog who is incredibly active. Your dog might be getting plenty of exercise during the day from running around in their invisible dog fence, but that doesn’t mean that he or she doesn’t want more. This is a great position because it means that your dog has played on his or her mind even while sleeping.
On The Back
This one is a silly-looking position, but it might have some very real benefits for your dog. Think of this as the opposite of the ball position – instead of helping your dog to keep warm, it’s going to help your dog to cool down. There’s a reason that you’re more likely to see this one during the summer or if you are in a warmer area.
With that said, this is also a sleeping position that most dog owners will love to see. Dogs who sleep like this feel incredibly safe and aren’t worried about having to drop everything in order to run away. They’re putting an awful lot of trust in their environment.
Some dogs love to cuddle up to others, whether this means another pet or even a human. Your dog loves to be touching, and he or she is showing you just how much he or she cares about his or her sleeping partner.
Dogs who snuggle are usually very affectionate and care quite a bit about their sleeping partners of choice. If you see a dog in this position, you’re definitely seeing an animal who has a lot of love to give.
Dog Sleeping Behaviors
Now that you know what it means when your dog sleeps in a specific position, you can start to look at what your dog does when he or she goes to sleep. These behaviors can tell you a lot not only about the quality of sleep that your dog is getting but also about your dog’s mood before he or she lays down to get some rest.
The Circling Digger
You’ve almost certainly seen this behavior before, especially if you pay attention to your dog’s habits at night time. This behavior involves a dog circling around and even digging at his or her bed before going to sleep. This may look odd, but there’s a reason why dogs scratch their beds – it likely had some fantastic benefits in generations past.
This is one of those dog behaviors that come from their ancestors. The ancestors of dogs probably spent time flattening out ground cover in order to make comfortable sleeping spaces, sometimes digging holes to get out of the elements before they went to sleep.
While this is generally not a behavior about which you need to worry, you should pay attention to your dog if he or she seems to have trouble laying down. This could be a sign that your dog is in pain or that he or she has a health issue that needs to be discussed with a vet.
Some dogs just seem to nod off during the day. It’s not a bad, thing, of course, but it may be a sign that your dog is tired or even a little bored. It’s always a good idea to watch this one, though, as you might learn something important.
As a rule, you can tell whether your dog is actually sleeping or just bored by watching his or her ears. If they move when there’s a sound, your dog is just dozing off because there’s nothing better to do. If that’s the case, it’s time for you to find a way to entertain your pup.
If you’ve ever watched your dog run in his or her sleep, you’ve been watching this behavior. When your dog is deep in REM sleep, he or she may move his or her body in response to his or her dreams. This is actually a great sign because it means that your dog is getting restful sleep.
Don’t worry if your puppy lets out a few little barks or even twitches around a bit. This is the part of sleep that actually matters most to your dog, so let him or her get it all out. You’ll notice this a lot more if you have an older or younger dog, but dogs of all ages go through this kind of sleep activity.
Unfortunately, even dogs can have nightmares. If your dog seems scared – moving suddenly, barking loudly, or whimpering – you do actually need to intervene. Your dog is having a bad time sleeping and you’ll want to help him or her as best you can.
So, what do you do if your dog has a nightmare? First and foremost, try to calm him or her down by gently saying his or her name. Keep making calming noises until your dog wakes up or relaxes. If you can’t get your dog to calm down or you notice that this has become a frequent problem, you’ll want to contact your vet.
This isn’t asleep behavior – this is a problem.
If your dog is twitching excessively while sleeping, he or she might be having a seizure. If this is the case, you’ll want to get your dog to a vet as soon as possible.
The best way to figure out if your dog is having a seizure is to call his or her name a few times. If your dog wakes up, he or she is likely just having an intense dream.
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 your dog keeps twitching, though, you should get him or her to the vet as soon as you possibly can.
How Much Should Dogs Sleep?
With all this talk about sleep, you might be wondering if the amount of sleep your dog gets is normal. The good news is that it’s very hard for your dog to get too much sleep – most of them will sleep at least twelve hours a day. Beyond that, though, there are some things to keep in mind while you observe your dog.
There are a few big truths about dog sleep patterns. The first is that little dogs sleep less than big dogs and napless frequently. The second is that puppies sleep more than adults (1), but they usually only do it a few hours at a time. Most important, though, is that every dog sleeps in his or her own unique way.
What’s important is that you understand how your dog sleeps, not how other dogs sleep. Keep an eye on your pup while he or she is dreaming – you might learn something new about your furry friend.