Why Does My German Shepherd Sleep On Its Back? (Sleeping Positions You Should Know)

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I love it when my German Shepherd sleeps on its back because she looks so happy and relaxed. But, there are actually many reasons that my German Shepherd could be sleeping on her back. 

If you’ve ever wondered why your German Shepherd sleeps on its back, then this post is for you!

You’ll learn all about why you might frequently find your German Shepherd asleep on its back and what to know about this relaxing position.

So, why does my German Shepherd sleep on its back? 

why does my german shepherd sleep on its back
This is Rada, my German Shepherd, sleeping on her back while propped up against a wall.

You might find your German Shepherd asleep on its back throughout the day or night. I know I’ve come downstairs many times to find my German Shepherd snoring her heart out while bearing her belly to the world!

That said, there are actually many reasons that your German Shepherd might choose to sleep on its back. And some of these reasons are helpful to your dog and show a lot about their personality. 

Reasons Why a German Shepherd Sleeps On Its Back

It feels comfortable

Let’s not overlook the obvious reason why I find my German Shepherd sleeping on her back a lot… it feels good! 

Think of lying on the floor and stretching out. It’s comfortable, right? Especially if you have a double layer of fur to rest upon (the GSD has a double coat of hair). Sleeping on its back gives your German Shepherd a feeling of relaxation, allowing them to rest more comfortably than lying on their stomach with their legs under their body in a tight position. 

It feels safe 

When your German Shepherd lies on its back to sleep it’s a healthy sign that your dog feels safe in this position. Sleeping on the back puts your German Shepherd in a vulnerable position since their soft stomach is exposed and they can’t pounce into action quickly. 

German Shepherds sleep upside down because they feel safe and this allows them to doze off without fear about an attack from predators or enemies. When my German Shepherd sleeps on her back I know that she feels secure and protected in her home and around me.

In the wild, dogs rarely sleep on their backs because they must be ready for any predators or to hunt their prey, and sleeping in a back position doesn’t allow them the safety of protecting themselves from an attack or the time to spring into action.

It shows submission

Speaking of my German Shepherds feeling safe, when she lies on her back she’s also showing me that she’s submissive. This means she’s not trying to challenge me or the other dogs in the house or be confrontational.

A German Shepherd will also lie on it’s back in a submissive, pleasing position when you walk by for a pet and to show they allow you to touch them in a vulnerable position. 

It feels colder

My German Shepherd has a plush coat, so she’s got long hair and it’s extra thick. She loves to sleep any place that’s cool – for example, the floor by the door, under the kitchen table on the cold tile, or even near a drafty window. When your German Shepherd is sleeping on its back it’s a good way for them to try to stay cool, especially on a hot day.

Lying on the back allows more air to circulate around the body, over the belly, and to move around the paws. These are all areas that help keep a German Shepherd cool when they’re too warm or hot.  

But, don’t think that your German Shepherd needs to be shaved! Read why you don’t want to shave a German Shepherd before you even pick up those clippers.

What other German Shepherd sleeping positions say about your dog

German Shepherds don’t ONLY sleep on their backs. They also sleep in many other positions that can tell you a little bit about their mindset.

Here are some of the most popular sleeping positions for a German Shepherd Dog.

Sleeping close to you

I love it when my German Shepherd sleeps next to me. She tends to like to sleep on the floor by my bed, close to me, but still with enough space to keep her cool.

German Shepherds love to be part of a pack and sleeping close to you lets them feel more secure and relaxed since they are with their group. Sleeping in a group allows greater protection since it’s more likely that someone in the group will awake when danger is near.

Curled up tightly 

I rarely see my German Shepherd sleeping curled up since curling up tightly allows a dog to maintain their heat more efficiently (and she loves the cold).

This ball shape position keeps your dog warmer in cooler weather and also serves as a position of protection since their stomach and neck aren’t exposed to any harmful attacks. Some dogs also find curling up in a ball comfortable. 

Tail covering its nose

Another way a German Shepherds sleeps is with their tails lying across their dark nose. This sleeping style mainly serves to keep their nose protected from the elements – such as snow, wind, or rain.

So, you’ll probably see this sleep position if your dog likes to sleep outdoors in the winter. 

On their side

german shepherd sleeping on its side
Here’s my German Shepherd sleeping on her side next to her little pal. See, they are almost attached at the hips?

From stretched out under the table to plopping themselves right in the middle of the floor with the legs becoming a trip hazard, this side position allows your German Shepherd the greatest amount of real estate to extend their bodies. 

A German Shepherd who sleeps on their side is a comfortable dog who is confident in their environment and isn’t wary of any unexpected encounters. They can focus on stretching and relaxing, as opposed to being ready to run or having to protect themselves.

german shepherd sleeping on her side
Here she is again sleeping on her side next to my other dog. Do you see him right above her head and neck blending in with the dark blanket?

They may also enjoy sleeping in the side position to lie next to something they enjoy – like another dog or cat they are friends with.

On their belly

This is one of the least common positions for a German Shepherd who is comfortable around you and their home.

Sleeping on its stomach means their feet are tucked under their body, which isn’t very comfortable or relaxing. It is, however, the most alert way for a dog to sleep since they can easily stand up or jump quickly. 

German Shepherd Sleeping Questions

Why does my German Shepherd sleep a lot?

german shepherd sleeping in a wicker dog bed
Sleep helps to keep your German Shepherd healthy and relaxed.

The German Shepherd motto is pretty simple, “When there’s nothing else to do… go to sleep!”

An adult German Shepherd sleeps as much as 14 hours a day, while a German Shepherd puppy can sleep upwards of 16 hours a day!

As your dog gets older and becomes a senior, they might also sleep longer and more deeply to make up for their lack of energy. And puppies need to rest so their bodies can have the energy to grow. Take care to let them have their downtime.

Sleeping also allows their body to heal and revive itself, much like sleeping for people does. If your dog has an especially long day of exercise and activity they need the extra sleep in order to recharge their energy and let their muscles rest and recover.

Wondering if you’re giving your German Shepherd the right type of exercise? Find all about the healthiest exercise routine for your German Shepherd now!

Should I wake my German Shepherd up? 

No. Never, ever wake a German Shepherd up if they’re sleeping, especially if they’re barking, whining, moaning, or making chirping sounds.

Waking a dog up can scare them and cause them to bite or nip you out of fear. And, how would you like someone to wake you up if you were sleeping soundly and having a wonderful dream?

Let your German Shepherd sleep and rest. If you simply MUST wake them up for any reason use a small bit of food treat and place this under their nose. Eventually, they’ll smell the treat and wake up more calmly than if you poke, pet, or shake them.

Why does my German Shepherd walk in circles before lying down to sleep?

Making circles is natural for a dog to place their bodies in a comfortable position before they lie down. It also allows them to feel the ground with their paws and see if the surface is to their liking for a nap or sleep.

Dogs tend to make circles to flatten the ground before the dog sleeps on the grass or dirt.

Why does my German Shepherd twitch its body when sleeping? 

Much like when people sleep German Shepherds experience different sleep cycles. One of the sleep cycles common to both German Shepherds and us is called REM sleep, or rapid eye movement.

During this phase of sleep, you may notice your German Shepherd moving their eyes back and forth under their closed eyelids, twitching their paws (sometimes wildly) and even hear a soft bark. Dogs actually only spend about 10% of their time in REM sleep (1).

It’s thought they are dreaming and they make body twitches and barking sounds during part of their dream. Perhaps they dream they really can catch that squirrel this time… finally!


So, why does my German Shepherd sleep on its back? Animal behaviorists believe dogs sleep this way to be more comfortable, relaxed, safe, and happy. 

It’s a natural sleeping position that many German Shepherds love. Remember, let them have their sleep and don’t wake them during their rest. You might cause them discomfort, fear, or interrupt their dream during deep sleep. 

Let them have their alone time so they’ll be recharged and ready for your company the moment they awake. 


(1) American Kennel Club, “Should I Let My Dog Sleep Late Every Day?”