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What Your Dog’s Sleeping Position Will Tell You

From your pup's health to their personality, the way they sleep can reveal a lot! Make sure you're paying attention to the signs.

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Sleeping beagle on sofaSolovyova/Getty Images

Sleepy puppy

Every dog is different. Some pups like to sleep under the blankets, others on a hard surface, and other snuggled up next to their sibling. If you’ve noticed your dog’s sleeping position, it turns out it can actually tell you a little bit about them. Keep reading to find out what your dog’s sleeping position reveals about them. Plus, find out the best type of bed for every type of dog.

What Your Dogs Sleeping Position Will Tell You Infographic, Getty Images (2)

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dog bedvia

“Donut” disturb

Curling up in a ball to sleep is a hard-wired instinct for some dogs. After all, their ancestors slept outside and curled up tightly for warmth, and also to protect their vital organs from attackers while they were vulnerable. But your dog may curl up for the sheer reason that it’s just comfy. Whatever the reason, Jeff Werber, DVM, says dogs who sleep in the donut position might prefer a cuddler or bolster type bed that surrounds them to feel a little more secure. Tempted to let your pup sleep on your bed? Here’s when that could be a bad idea.

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Loves to play

It’s comical to see your fur baby all sprawled out on her belly with her front legs extended out and hind legs relaxed. She looks as if she’s getting in a good stretch in after an active day at the dog park—and she just may be, as dogs who sleep in this “Superman” position are generally very active and playful. Dr. Werber suggests a mattress style bed for dogs who like to let it all hang out. Does your pup seem tired all the time? Find out why dogs yawn so much.

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Older dogs

If your aging pup has always slept in bed with you or on the sofa, it might be time to introduce him to a new bed that will age with him and is easier for him to get into, i.e. no jumping required. “Some dogs might require an orthopedic bed as they get older to help support their aging joints when lying down and getting up,” says Dr. Werber. Your dog’s nutritional needs change as they age, too. Find out what vets feed their own dogs.

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Furhaven Pet - Plush Ergonomic Contour Orthopedic Mattressvia

Following their instincts

Breeds like the Dachshund are genetically geared to burrow because they were originally bred to flush out tunneling critters like rabbits and foxes. If your dog likes to burrow and sleep under the blankets, a hooded dog bed might be a good choice to mimic her instinctual sleeping habitat. Hooded beds might also be a cozy and warm place to settle in for breeds like terriers or Chihuahuas who are a bit more sensitive to cold and favor cozy, warm places. Learn the best dog breed for your zodiac sign.

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The loner

Maybe your dog is fed up with your active sleep patterns and tired of getting pushed out of bed, or she’s got an independent streak. “Some dogs may prefer to have their own space that’s safely elevated and removed from the action,” says Lilian Wong, MS, DVM, Product Manager of Veterinary Experience at Banfield Pet Hospital. Find out the most affectionate dog breeds that love to cuddle.

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Dogs that mix it up

So you’ve observed your fur baby while he sleeps and discovered he doesn’t have a regular dog sleeping position. Sometimes he’s all cute and snuggly in a ball and other times he looks like a contortionist, all sprawled out on his back with his paws and body defying logic. A dog bed that folds out is a great choice for the nights he wants to spread out, and on the nights he wants to cozy it up, the bed transforms into a compact sofa cushion. No matter the dog sleeping position, sleeping dogs are always adorable, but what do dogs dream about?

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Dogs with arthritis

A cozy and comfy bed is a must for any dog, no matter what dog sleeping position they choose. But when your pooch has arthritis, it’s crucial to provide comfort for achy joints while they nap or sleep. Dr. Wong suggests an orthopedic mat or a memory foam bed. “Some dogs prefer a low-to-the-ground option that doesn’t require stepping up or over into a bed, so it may take some trial and error to find the best solution for your pet,” she says. “Given some arthritic pets may have a hard time going up and down stairs, accessibility to a comfortable dog bed on each floor of your home is ideal.” If your dog is in pain, find out what you can give them.

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Cool dogs

The dog days of summer are no picnic for dogs if they have a coat that is long, thick, or dark. It’s not always possible to find a cool spot in the shade, especially if your dog wants to be close to you. Elevated cooling cots are ideal for poolside, hanging out in the backyard, or taking your dog camping with the family. And if you don’t have air conditioning in your home, your dog will really appreciate a cool place to catch some zzz’s. Whichever bed you choose, you should familiarize yourself with the signs of heat stroke in dogs to make sure you’re keeping your pup healthy and safe.

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For siblings who spoon

Pet beds can take up a lot of space when you have a couple of dogs or a combo of cats and dogs. Wouldn’t it be nice if your fur babies could share a large bed? (Plus, it would undeniably be cute to see them spoon!) “In houses with multiple pets, see how they interact with one another,” suggests Dr. Wong. “If your pets are constantly by each other’s side, they may prefer to sleep next to each other.” When your fur family gets along, a large bed designed for multiple pets is a wise investment. Looking to add to your family? These are the cat breeds that get along best with dogs.

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When-Is-It-Not-OK-to-Let-Your-Dog-Sleep-In-Your-Bed Anna Hoychuk/shutterstock

Watch for these signs

“Pay attention to how your dog is getting up from their bed, especially as they age,” says Dr. Werber. Do you notice your pup getting up slower? Do they show signs of discomfort when they get up from a nap or overnight sleep? Do they linger more in the bed before getting up in the morning? “These all can be signs of an underlying problem. We can tell a lot more from how a dog gets up from their dog sleeping position than how they are actually positioned to sleep.” You should also keep an eye out for these silent signs your “healthy” dog is sick.

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pomeranian dog cute pets sleeping on white leather sofa furnitureSuti Stock Photo/Shutterstock

Sleep disturbances

It’s perfectly normal for dogs to talk and move in their sleep, just like people. We “ooh” and “aah” over the cute muffled barks of “puppy dreams” and giggle when we watch them “run” in their sleep. But Dr. Wong says to keep an eye out for changes in motions or disturbances in the times that pets are normally asleep (or awake), because they could be a sign that something is amiss, whether sleep-related or otherwise. “Moaning or groaning could also be a sign of pain or discomfort. If you notice changes in your pet’s vocalization, it could be a sign of underlying health issues,” says Dr. Wong. Now that you know what each dog sleeping position means, find out exactly how much dogs sleep per day!

If you want to cozy up with your dog while you both doze off, look no further than human dog beds.

Lisa Marie Conklin
Lisa Marie Conklin is a Baltimore-based writer who writes regularly about pets and home improvement for Reader's Digest. Her work has also been published in The Healthy, Family Handyman and Taste of Home, among other outlets. She's also a certified personal trainer and walking coach for a local senior center.