Sleeping in an all-paws-up position looks adorable, but there could be a deeper meaning behind the cuteness.
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dog sleeping on his back
Credit: Przemyslaw Iciak / Adobe Stock

Dog lovers laugh a lot over the weird ways their furry friends snooze. Mid-toy-chomp? Head on a windowsill? Half on, half off the couch? What happened to a good ole' curl up, tail over the nose, on a plush dog bed? And why do dogs sleep on their backs?

If your first answer is "because they can," you're right! But Travis McDermott, DVM, of Durango Animal Hospital in Las Vegas says there might be a little more to it than that. Here are the primary reasons your sleeping dog prefers an upside-down nap.

1. They're Cooling Off

You might notice your pup with paws in the air more often during hot weather, as this means they need to chill out a little. "Dogs generally sleep on their back to cool down," McDermott says. "Dogs exchange heat through their paws, and this [position] allows them to cool off." 

Canines have fewer sweat glands than humans, but those they do have are mostly concentrated in their paws. Dogs release sweat there, but nowhere else on their body. This natural oil production is one reason why some dogs' feet smell like Fritos—and as long as their paws are healthy and not dry and cracked, this is usually normal.

Their belly fur is also thinner than on other parts of their body, so it's easier for pooches to catch a breeze by exposing their underside. And there's no need to worry if their tongue is hanging out and they're panting a bit, as panting is how dogs thermoregulate and cool off. 

2. They Feel Safe and Secure

If your doggo slips into this all-paws-up position while 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," McDermott says. 

Often considered a peaceful appeasement gesture, this posture is a communication signal shared by both wild and domestic dogs to show they're not a threat. However, it doesn't necessarily mean they want tickles or belly rubs from humans, though. Not all dogs enjoy those types of pets and touches. 

3. It's Just Comfortable

Your pup might simply enjoy being on their backside. And when you sleep as much as dogs do (adult dogs usually snooze 11 hours a day, and growing puppies sleep up to 18 hours), maybe that curl-up position on the doggie sofa is a tad restrictive after a while.

But there's no need to be concerned if your dog doesn't sleep on their back. "This could be an aging issue or could be due to not feeling as secure," McDermott says. You can always check with your vet to make sure your pup's dreamland positioning is OK.

Additional reporting by Jennifer Nelson.