5 Meanings of a Dog Lying on Its Back


Many dog owners are comforted by the sight of their beloved dogs lying on their backs with their bellies up. Although it may seem like a simple gesture, do you know the reasons behind why dogs sleep on their backs? Furthermore, when dogs sleep on their backs, it’s easier to provide them with care, so there are also benefits for the owners. In this instance, I will introduce the reasons why dogs naturally expose their bellies and things to be mindful of when teaching this posture.

What Does It Mean When a Dog Sleeps on Its Back?

Signs of Submission to the Owner

For dogs, showing their belly signifies surrender and submission. In a state of baring the belly, they assume a vulnerable posture in which they cannot attack immediately, so by exposing their belly, they convey the message “I bear no hostility. I will follow you.”

Furthermore, when being scolded by their owner or facing an overwhelmingly strong opponent, they exhibit tension by tucking their tail towards their belly and lowering their ears.

Signs You Want Your Owner To Touch

While showing their belly, which is a vulnerable spot for dogs, and looking at their owner, when they wag their tail or let it hang loosely, it’s a message saying “Please pet my belly” or “I want to be pampered.” Since it’s a pose they do out of love for their owner, gently stroke them.

Relaxed and Alert

Originally, dogs are cautious animals, so they don’t sleep on their backs in places other than their territory. In other words, if a dog starts sleeping on its back inside the house, it recognizes the house as its territory and it’s a sign that it’s truly relaxed. Since this is a pose they only show around people and places they trust, be careful not to do things that your beloved dog dislikes or to arouse any sense of distrust in those situations.


It’s Hot and I’m Regulating My Body Temperature

During the hot season, lying on a cold floor face up is a way of regulating body temperature. When a dog sticks out its tongue and breathes heavily, it’s a sign that the dog is feeling hot. So, please create a cool environment for them by using an air conditioner or a cool mat.

When the Dog Is Lying on Its Back and Wiggling?

After shampooing or when putting on clothes, many pet owners may have seen their beloved dogs lying on their backs and wriggling around. In this case, the dog is trying to rub its own scent onto its newly washed body, as it wants to reapply its own smell. This scent-marking behavior is important for dogs with a well-developed sense of smell, so it’s best to leave them be.

Additionally, dogs may also wriggle around when their backs are itchy. If it happens occasionally, there’s no need to worry too much. However, if they do it frequently, there’s a possibility of fleas, so it’s advisable to take them to an animal hospital.

Benefits of Sleeping on Your Dog’s Back

Up until now, I introduced the reasons for why a beloved dog assumes a supine posture. However, in reality, there are benefits for both the owner and the beloved dog when the dog becomes able to sleep on its back.


The pose in which a beloved dog lies on its owner’s legs with its belly up is referred to as “upside-down cuddling”. However, it’s actually also known as the “relaxation position” or “relaxation pose.” It’s considered one of the poses to teach dogs from when they are puppies. I will explain the reasons for this in the following sections.

Makes It Easier To Clean Your Dog’s Nails, Teeth and Hair

Dogs that are accustomed to being held on their backs often relax in a submissive state, making it easier for owners who usually have a hard time grooming their active dogs to trim their nails or brush their teeth.

Additionally, during the time when their fur is changing, the amount of belly hair shedding increases significantly. If left without brushing, dogs might forcefully pull out the loose hair themselves or scratch with their paws, which can lead to skin damage and skin issues.

Once your dog becomes comfortable with being held on their back, it might be a good idea to teach them for the benefit of their well-being. This way, belly brushing will also become easier.

Leads to Early Detection of Disease

Animals cannot speak even if they have a painful area, which often leads to delayed disease detection. However, when your beloved dog lies on its back, you can observe hard-to-see areas such as its armpits and belly more closely. This makes it easier to notice any abnormalities in its body.

You can also observe areas that are not easily noticed in its usual posture, such as checking for rashes or inflammations on its belly skin, or swelling in its mammary glands. Training your dog to lie on its back might be helpful in early disease detection.

You Can Have a Calm Examination at the Animal Hospital

Even healthy dogs sometimes visit the animal hospital for regular health check-ups and rabies vaccinations. During examinations, there are scenes where they need to lie on their backs and show their bellies for electrocardiograms or abdominal palpation.

Many dogs dislike animal hospitals and may become unruly, but training them to be comfortable lying on their backs at any time can make it easier for them to be handled smoothly when the need arises.

There Are Some Caveats to Sleeping on Your Dog’s Back!


While there are benefits to sleeping on your back, there are also important points to consider. Some children who are uncomfortable with sleeping on their backs and some who would be better off avoiding it due to their skeletal structure. Additionally, if you handle it incorrectly, your relationship with your beloved dog can be strained. Therefore, pet owners should thoroughly understand the points to be cautious about.

If Your Dog Doesn’t Like Sleeping on Its Back, Don’t Force It.

A while ago, there were cases where, in order to establish a master-subordinate relationship between the owner and the dog, the practice of making the dog lie on its back was forcibly done as part of training. However, recently, it has been recognized that this could instill fear in the dog towards humans and might even lead to aggressive behavior. Dogs might bark or bite out of the feeling of being scared, so if your beloved dog seems uncomfortable, let’s not force it and instead observe its behavior.

If Your Dog Doesn’t Like Sleeping on Its Back, Don’t Force It.

When your beloved dog tries to scold you for misbehaving and then lies down on its back all cute, letting you touch its belly and making you smile, have you, as a pet owner, ever experienced that?

However, this behavior might lead to the notion that “I’ll be forgiven if I show my belly. I won’t be subjected to unpleasant things.” This could disrupt the master-pet relationship, so it’s important not to let it continue. While it’s adorable when they seek affection, if this behavior is repeated too often, there’s a possibility they might stop listening over time. So, when scolding, approach with a firm attitude.

Do Not Force a Wary Dog To Lie on Its Back.

It takes time for a cautious dog to become comfortable sleeping on its back. Forcibly putting them on their back can lead to stress and may cause them to close their hearts to their owner. If you’re going to do back-carrying training, let’s approach it slowly and patiently.

Beware of Dog Breeds That Should Not Be Laid on Their Backs

Depending on the breed of dog, there are some dogs that you shouldn’t make lie on their backs. Depending on the situation, it could also put quite a strain on their bodies, so first, check if your beloved dog falls into the following breeds, and if they do, please be very careful.

Flat-faced breed with a short head like that

A dog that easily experiences strain on its lower back and is not suitable for being on its back.

Understand the Benefits and Precautions of Sleeping on Your Back

As introduced, there are several reasons for a dog’s back-up sleep position. Additionally, the upside-down posture is a useful pose to remember for the sake of your beloved dog. However, depending on the dog’s personality and skeletal structure, there are cases where it’s better not to force it, so please avoid pushing it at those times.