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On average, dogs spend 50% of their day sleeping or between 12 and 14 hours per day. This is nearly twice as much as the average human. With all that time spent sleeping, you're bound to see a few different snoozing habits and positions. But why do dogs do these things and what do they mean? We detail that below:
One of the most adorable and amusing things is when your dog spins or circles before lying down. This behavior likely originates from the fact that dogs were once wild pack animals who slept in dens or hidden places. Spinning was a way to stomp down grass, leaves, dirt or snow to create a soft and level surface (almost like making a nest). Circling also was a way to make sure the spot was safe from pests and predators - walking in circles would create commotion, which would startle any animals in the area, such as rats or snakes.
You may also see your dog scratch the bed, ground or furniture before lying down. This behavior is instinctive as well, relating back to your dog's past as wild pack animals. Like spinning, scratching was a way to move debris to make the spot feel more comfortable, as well as create commotion to scare away any animals. And in extreme heat, canines would dig holes for shelter because it was cooler, which would help them regulate their body heat and reduce their body temperature. In addition, scratching is a way for dogs to mark their territory, as they have scent glands on their paws.
Some dogs love to bury themselves under blankets. This behavior is called and can be a little worrisome for dog owners but is actually safe (your dog will surface if he or she isn't comfortable or getting enough oxygen). Tunneling is also an instinctive behavior, dating back to when dogs would raise their puppies in small, dark dens. Burying themselves under blankets simulates these dark dens from their ancestry.
Many dog owners want to sleep in bed with their pups and fortunately, lots of dogs enjoy snuggling with their people. This is because dogs are pack animals and enjoy the companionship and security of sleeping next to another being (be it a dog or human). Some dogs will even make sure they're touching you throughout the entire night to feel extra safe and comfortable.
Now that we've covered common dog sleeping habits, we can move on to sleeping positions. Some dogs are particular about how they sleep, while others seem to be able to fall asleep anywhere in any way. How a dog chooses a sleep position depends on their personality, body temperature and comfort level with their surroundings. Here are a few of the most common positions and what they mean:
The most common sleeping position for dogs is lying on their side with their legs extended out from the body. This typically means that your dog is comfortable and relaxed, showing security in the environment and trust with those around him or her. Dogs often end up in this position after falling into a deeper sleep.
Another common sleeping position for dogs is curling up in a little ball with their nose facing their backside and tail. Canines originally slept this way to protect their organs when feeling vulnerable or to warm themselves up and conserve heat. In addition, dogs can easily and quickly get up from this position, which was useful in the wild. So if you see your pup sleeping like this, it might mean that they are cold and trying to warm up or perhaps they are apprehensive about something. Though usually, it's just a warm and comfortable way to snooze.
Sometimes you'll catch your dog sleeping on his or her back, legs sticking up and out in the air. Often you see this with dogs who are very comfortable, laidback and trusting of their people and surroundings. This is because dogs in this position are completely exposing their belly and organs, while also being unable to get back on their feet quickly. In addition, dogs can cool down more quickly in this position because of the air exposure to the thinner fur on their stomach and the sweat glands in their paw pads.
You may frequently catch your dog sleeping belly-down with his or her head on top of their extended paws. This is usually the position of a dog who is just resting or dozing, but not in a deep sleep nor trying to be.
This position involves your dog sleeping on his or her belly with their front legs outstretched in front of them and their back legs extending out behind them. Researchers aren't exactly sure why dogs sleep this way, but they believe it has to do with body temperature. It may be a way to cope with being too warm, as lying belly-down on the floor can cool down a dog more quickly (when the floor is cooler than the air).
Some dogs prefer to sleep while snuggling with you, another dog, or even a cat. This cuddling behavior is instinctive, related to your dog's past as a pack animal that would huddle with others for protection and warmth. Sleeping back-to-back is also a way for these cuddly pups to show affection and trust.