Some dogs just love to sleep on their backs, they might look like they just got shot or like a dead cockroach, but some find it super comfy.

Have you ever wondered why dogs sleep on their backs? Perhaps you’ve seen your puppy sleep in a pile with their siblings, and they’re lying on their backs, or you have an elderly dog that’s started sleeping on their back?

Lay back and relax as we take you through why dogs sleep on their backs, which dog breeds are more likely to sleep on their backs, and which dog breeds can’t sleep on their backs.

Download the Zigzag puppy training app today. We’ll give you a personalised puppy training programme that takes your pup from zero to hero, following their developmental periods and breed-specific needs. We even have our very own team of puppy trainers to help you with any burning questions you have along the way.  

small dog sleeping
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Why do dogs sleep on their backs?

Why do we choose particular ways to sleep in? Simple. Because it’s comfortable. And dogs are just the same! For dogs, sleeping on their backs can help them breathe better, give them room to stretch, helps cool themselves down, and signal that they feel safe and secure.

Sleeping on their back is comfortable

For some dogs sleeping on their back is just a comfortable way for them to lie. It can help them sleep better as they stretch out, and they can relax all of their muscles.

To help them breathe better

Depending on how they are lying, some dogs will find that they can breathe better by sleeping on their backs.

Sleeping on their back may alleviate pain

If you have an arthritic dog, or one with other joint or muscle problems, then sleeping on their back can help them sleep better without the pressure of having their bones on the ground.

To cool themselves down

Dogs don’t sweat in the same way that we do and struggle to cool themselves down, although they will often pant, so they’ll lay on their backs as a way of exposing their tummy (which has less fur on it). Even if it’s not a hot day, they just get a bit warm snuggling on their blankets, so they’ll roll over and sleep on their backs to help regulate their temperature.

To show you that they trust you

Sleeping on their back with total tummy exposure is a pretty vulnerable position for a dog to lie in, so if they do this, it often means they are relaxed and happy. What’s interesting is that wild canids (your Wolves, Coyotes, Hyenas etc) don’t sleep on their backs. It’s something that only domesticated dogs do, funny, huh?

Check out our article on canine body language to learn how they communicate with us.

bearded dog sitting down
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Which dog breeds sleep on their backs the most?

Different dog breeds have various sleeping habits. Breeds with longer coats will feel the heat more and may prefer to sleep on their backs to cool off, and different body shapes may mean that the breed finds it more comfortable sleeping on their backs.

1. Whippets

Whippets, greyhounds and other svelte and slinky sighthounds can find it more comfortable to sleep on their backs.

2. Huskies and Malamutes

These breeds have thick coats, so they often get hot when they sleep. To help with this, you’ll often see them sleeping on their backs.

Read our complete Husky training guide to get an 8-week guide to training a Husky puppy.

3. Brachycephalic Breeds – flat faces in case you were wondering.

Breeds such as Pugs, Boston Terriers, French Bulldogs, British Bulldogs, Boxers, and Shih Tzus can all have problems with breathing due to their skull shape, and sleeping on their backs may alleviate this and help them to breathe easier and sleep better. 

4. Poodle Crosses

Cockapoos, Maltipoos, Cavapoos, Labradoodles – insert your own poodle cross here, can all get very warm and lie on their back to help cool down and get some shut-eye.

dog lying on back outside
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Which dog breeds can’t sleep on their backs?

Short-nosed dogs and dogs with deep chests and short legs have physical characteristics that make it difficult for them to sleep on their backs. If you have one of the breeds mentioned below, some will still prefer to sleep on their back, so it’s not a hard and fast rule.

1. Dachshunds

Due to their body shape some Dachshunds will struggle to get comfortable lying on their backs and have trouble getting up. This leads to that ‘flipped turtle’ comedy moment!

2. French Bulldogs, Pugs and Boston Terriers

Despite what we said earlier about many brachycephalic breeds enjoying sleeping on their backs, others won’t find it comfortable at all as it can lead to a restricted airway. Bulldogs, Frenchies, Boxers and Pugs can all struggle to breathe due to their facial shape, and lying on their backs means their tongues can prevent them from getting enough air in.

3. Basset Hounds

Basset Hounds are heavy set and have big deep chests, long backs, and short legs. Some may find sleeping on their back uncomfortable.

In summary, there are several reasons why your dog might sleep on their back. It might be because they find it more comfortable to sleep this way, lying on their backs might help them cool down, or they’re feeling happy at home, so expose their tummies to show you just how happy and content they are!

While some breeds love to sleep on their backs, there are others you’ll rarely see sleeping that way, but don’t be surprised if your breed proves us wrong. Every dog is an individual, and just like us, they have their own particular way of sleeping. This is fine!

Read our full guides on dogs who scratch their beds and puppy sleeping habits explained to learn more. 

You’ll find information about dog sleeping habits, and how to get a puppy to sleep in their crate or through the night inside the Zigzag app. We have a step-by-step training programme for your puppy based on their developmental milestones and breed-specific behaviours, so you get the right lessons at the right time. Our team of professional dog trainers will talk to you any time of the day and night, so you never need to feel alone when training your pup.