Did you know that the average dog sleeps 12 hours per day? It may not seem that way, but puppies can and will sleep even longer! Dogs are skillful at catching a few winks whenever they can. That form of napping is similar to Stage 1 sleep, where they are sleeping, but just barely.
Sleep is a vital part of the health, physical and emotional well-being of your dog’s life. It is during sleep that puppies grow, wounds heal and energy is stored for anything that lies ahead. In the case of Shelties, that means reserves for barking and zoomies!
Favorite Positions of a Sleeping Dog
The sleeping position of your dog tells you a lot about him or her. Some like to sleep on their stomachs, almost like in a “down” position. This allows them to jump up at the slightest perceived threat or fact they may be missing out on what you are doing.
Others prefer sleeping on their side. This is a restful position. Your dog is comfortable with their surroundings.
Then we have the “Superdog” sleeper. They choose sleeping stretched out, on their stomachs. They look like they are flying. They are in a restful sleep, but ready to go as soon as they hear you move!
The most inherent position for sleeping is curling up. You will see this as a favorite sleeping position of dogs kept outdoors. You will find them curled up into a ball, with their paws under their body and their tail wrapped around their face. It is the least vulnerable and least restful position for sleep. They are conserving body heat, they protecting limbs, face, throat and vital organs. This position gives them the advantage to be on their feet immediately. The dog’s muscles are tense and ready to spring into action, if need be. Dogs that sleep in this position rarely relax enough to drift into the REM stage.
Curling is the normal sleeping position for wild dogs and wolves packing together. It offers a sleeping position for awareness upon awakening as their senses are heightened to movements, sounds and scents. They conserve space in the den; protect their offspring and share body heat. You will notice even most domesticated puppies inherently curl up together or around their mother.
But Why Do Shelties Sleep on Their Backs?
Finally, we have what appears like the “dead roach” position. There are dogs that favor sleeping on their backs; with their legs in the air…looking just like a dead cockroach! This is the position found only in a very secure and confident indoor pet. Sleeping on their back is the most vulnerable position for a dog to sleep. It is thought to be the most comfortable and most restful position. Plus, it’s your dog’s way of cooling down quickly. Indoor dogs that have expended lots of energy and/or are over-heated will sleep on their backs.
There is something about watching your dog sleep that is comforting and sometimes even comical. Do you know, several of your dog’s sleep behaviors are similar to ours and others are inherent? but they do it with a certain pizzazz. Is it really that comfortable?
Unlike humans who sweat all through their skin, dogs can only sweat through the pads in their paws. This is why dogs pant with their tongues out to cool down. This position is another way of beating the heat. The furless belly region of the dog gets some cool air when it rests on its back with its legs in the air. This position is known to compensate for the insufficient body cooling mechanism in dogs.
Relaxed Sleep and the “I Feel Safe” Position
Lying sprawled out on their backs shows that a dog is super relaxed and has their guard down. In dog psychology, this position is submissive which means they’ve diverted to another pack leader. It also shows they are feeling fully safe and secure by allowing their vulnerable body parts (chest, throat, stomach) open to attack. This is still an important instinct for dogs who, although domesticated, still maintain many of their wild instincts at the gut level.
Most dogs that live in the wild sleep only in the curled-ball position, or lie back to back with other members of the pack. Lying on their backs is common only among domesticated dogs who find their homes to be safe zones. Unlike dogs in the wild that constantly stay alert to attacks from predators and other dangers, dogs living inside homes face no threat to their security and take up a more care-free position.
If your dog is fast asleep on his back, it’s best to adhere to the old saying “let sleeping dogs lie” – lest you disturb his blissful slumber. However, if your Sheltie is awake and playing, rolling on his back is often a request for a belly rub!
Bottom line: Comfort equals healthier, more and deeper sleep. Whatever sleeping position your dog prefers, make sure their sleeping accommodations are safe and comfortable. A dog that is well rested is generally a healthier and happier animal!
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