Dogs sleep about 12-14 hours in one day and just like their human friends, they sleep in different positions. Your dog might be curled up in a ball or sprawled out with his tummy on the floor and four paws stretched to the side. He might be sleeping on his side and you can watch his tummy rise and fall. If he’s lucky to share your bed, he might snuggle up with you or even sleep on top of you. But if he’s in his bed, sometimes you’ll catch him on his bed, tummy up and in the air, and his legs spread open. You have your preferences and so does your dog. Sleeping with on his back with his legs open tells us a lot about our four-legged bestie.
The Root of the Behavior
You might see your dog laying on his back with his legs bent in different directions and some call this position “Crazy Legs.” This is more obvious in larger dogs like Greyhounds, but little dogs can demonstrate Crazy Legs, even if they have short legs. The position a dog sleeps in can tell you a lot about their health, personality, and happiness. Sleeping is a vulnerable time and if you’re not comfortable in your environment, you might choose a different position. If you’re cold, you will curl up; if you don’t feel safe, you might want to snuggle with someone or sleep in the fetal position; if you’re hot, you spread out. Dogs have that same instinct too. When your dog lays on his back with his feet in the air, it most likely means he is confident, independent, and comfortable in his environment.
When a dog exposes his stomach, he is usually confident and feels safe. All of his organs are exposed, his anal glands where much of his scent comes from are exposed, and it’s hard to move to his feet from this position. You probably won’t see your dog sleep like this outside. This type of vulnerability is a compliment to you, as he is telling you how much he trusts you. This is also a relaxing position. Just like finding that position that makes you comfortable and your muscles relaxed, laying on his back does that for your dog. He’s not worried about positioning his muscles and he isn’t tensing any part of his body. Your dog might also be hot. In the summer, dogs choose this position because they can release a lot of heat through their stomach. The breeze feels good on their tummies and when they let their paws out, they’re opening their bodies to release more heat.
Encouraging the Behavior
You probably don’t like thinking about your sleeping position or adjusting it, and your dog probably doesn’t either. Unless there’s significant harm, like a breathing disorder, wearing the cone of shame after a vet visit, or a health condition, there’s no reason to stop your dog from sleeping paws up. Your canine chooses his sleep position based on his personality, and what’s available. In the winter, he’ll probably choose to curl up like a bagel. This helps him preserve his body heat. If you notice in the winter he is sleeping on his back, your house might be too warm, or he might just be very comfortable.
If your dog sleeps in your bed with his legs up, he might be hard to move. He is clearly content and happy and has settled in for a night of good rest. Choosing whether or not your dog sleeps in your bed is up to you. If you don’t want him in bed or in the middle of your bed, sprawled out with Crazy Legs, designate a spot on the corner of the bed for him. Your dog might be so comfy that he started dreaming, which sometimes comes along with whimpering, whining, little barks, and leg twitches. This might look silly with his legs open, but he’s fine and does not need to be bothered. If you wake him up, you will startle him and possibly scare him, which can cause a negative reaction.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Monitor your dog’s sleeping habits for anything unusual. A dog who sleeps on his back is more likely to snore because his tongue can partially block his airway. If he snores excessively or very loudly, take him to the vet. Snoring indicates that something is blocking his airway. Overweight dogs are prone to snoring, so if he sounds like a truck driver, his weight might be the problem. Get him to the vet for a new diet to help him shed some pounds. If your dog never snored and suddenly started, monitor him for any changes in daytime behavior. Usually snoring isn’t too concerning, so if he’s playing throughout the day, enjoying walks, and otherwise happy, his snoring is probably normal.
Your furry friend is confident and happy in his space and that is probably because you are a great owner and treat your best friend well. Next time you see his tummy up and legs open, give yourself a pat on the back for giving your four-legged friend such a great home.