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Nothing is cuter than when a dog sleeps curled up. But why do they do it? We’ve all seen it: they’ll wait to be invited onto the bed, dig in the blankets to make a nest, and turn in circles until they’ve found the perfect spot to curl up in.
Some dogs sleep stretched out on their sides. Others contort themselves into uncomfortable-looking positions. But a lot of dogs love to curl up into a ball. And it’s not just a preference: curling up to sleep has practical benefits for dogs.
Read on to learn about dog sleeping positions, and why your dog sleeps curled up.
Before we get to why dogs curl up to sleep, let’s consider other canine sleeping positions. Like humans, dogs like to be comfortable when they sleep. Although some dogs’ sleeping positions look uncomfortable from the outside, for your pooch, they’re just perfect.
Common dog sleeping positions include:
- On their side
- On their tummy
- On their back with their paws up in the air
- Snuggled up with their favourite human or animal friend
- Curled up into a ball
All of the above sleeping positions have their benefits. For instance, sleeping sprawled out on their side or tummy can help dogs cool off in warmer months. In general, dogs fall asleep in positions that offer physical comfort and psychological safety.
The most obvious reason that dogs sleep curled up is for warmth. By curling tightly into a ball, and tucking their nose under their tail, they conserve body heat. Consider how you sleep when it’s cold: bundled up under warm blankets, possibly with your knees drawn up to your chest, or even snuggled into your sleeping dog.
Huddling up for warmth is an instinctual behaviour in mammals. You and your dog have a lot in common! If your little angel needs someone to cuddle up to while you’re away, don’t worry! You can find lots of amazing sitters who’d be happy to keep them company and who provide dog boarding on Rover.com.
The tendency to curl up to sleep goes back to dogs’ origins as wild animals
Your dog’s tendency to curl up to sleep goes back to their origins. Before they were domesticated, dogs slept in dens and made nests to keep warm at night. Even though your dog has a warm, dry shelter, they still have hardwired behaviours from their ancestors’ pre-domestic days. This may also explain why dogs “make the bed” by digging into blankets or the couch. They’re preparing their nest for the night.
Another reason dogs curl up when they sleep is to feel safe. You may have heard that dogs show their stomachs when they’re comfortable. Conversely, they curl up to protect their tummy in vulnerable situations. Curling up to sleep protects dogs’ vulnerable organs from would-be predators.
Even though your dog is safe at home, and faces no threat from predators, they retain the instinct to protect themselves.
Curling up to sleep can also offer psychological comfort to dogs who feel unsafe. Consider how often you see photos of dogs in animal shelters, huddled or curled up in the corner of their kennel. In a noisy, intimidating environment, curling up to sleep can help dogs feel protected and safe.
In truth, the main reason dogs choose one sleeping position over the other is simple: it’s comfortable!
When your dog curls up to sleep, whether it’s for warmth or protection, they’re mainly just trying to get comfortable. Even if they sleep in a crate, as long as they have space to stand up, stretch out, turn around, and lie down, they can get a great night’s sleep.
You can help make your dog more comfortable by providing space and soft surfaces for sleeping. Give them a soft blanket or pillow to use in their “nest.”
And for added cuteness, keep a teddy bear or other cuddly toy around. Curling up to sleep is always nicer with a friend to snuggle into!