Find out what a veterinarian says.

By Jennifer Nelson
July 09, 2021
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If your pup ever lays on his back with his paws up in the air, you may be wondering what's up with that position. Isn't it adorable and doesn't it look funny?

It is and it does. But there's some interesting notes about why your dog sleeps on his back. We asked a leading veterinarian to weigh in on just what this paws up sleep position means.

Cooling Off

Opposite of the fetal position, on their back with paws in the air says your dog is looking for a little cooling off. "Dogs generally sleep on their back to cool down," says Dr. Travis McDermott, a vet at Durango Animal Hospital in Nevada. "Dogs exchange heat through their paws, and this allows them to cool down," says Dr. McDermott.

Plus, since fur is thinnest on the belly and the paws contain sweat glands exposing both their bellies and paws to the cool air in this upside-down sprawl may be comfy and cooling.

Safe and Secure

If your pup takes to this paw up position lying next to you on the couch or snuggled up with you in bed, you must be doing something right. "Sleeping on their back is a very vulnerable position and shows trust/comfort in their surroundings," says Dr. McDermott.

When dogs are lying on their backs, they don't have a care in the world and are completely relaxed. Obviously, your pup feels right at home. Experts think that when dogs expose their most vulnerable parts this way, they feel safe and secure.

Comfort 101

Another reason your pup might like snoozing on his back is because it's comfortable. Just like people, dogs have their preferred sleep positions too and some may love nothing better than to sprawl out on their back, hips splayed wide with feet in the air because, well, it's comfortable. And he may be looking for a little belly rub or stomach scratch.

It's a Wolf Holdover

In the wolf world, rolling over on your back shows the alpha that you're submissive so your dog rolling over on his back shows you he knows you're the boss. What's more, wolves also used the behavior to get out of trouble with an aggressor by peacefully showing them they are harmless. So, the next time your pup rolls over right to his back, it's like saying, mercy, you win. I surrender.

Should you Worry If you're Dog Doesn't Sleep on His Back?

You likely shouldn't read anything into it if your dog doesn't sleep on his back-- other than he's not comfy doing it. "This could be an aging issue or could be due to not feeling as secure," says Dr. McDermott. It may just be that your pup prefers positions like being coiled up, sprawled on his side, or laying with frog legs.

As always ask your veterinarian if something your dog does concerns you.