Over the week- I will be reprising a few blog posts for your enjoyment.
This posting gets at least two or three hits a week since it’s was published.
Every dog I ever had slept either all curled up nose to tail, stretched out snout on paws, or laid out on his side, paws parallel, like an outline of a dog. I have never had a dog that slept on his back. I mean lying full on his spine with his legs splayed out, and his paws draped in a begging position. Opie is a very odd fellow, indeed. Michael says he looks dead! When I first saw him sleep like this, I’ll admit that I did look to make certain his chest was rising and falling in a normal manner. He doesn’t stay in this position, but he stays that way for a good 10-15 minutes of sleep and then moves to a more traditional side sleeping position.
Why does my dog sleep like this? Is it comfortable?
My grandmother had three Pekingese dogs when I was growing up. They lay briefly on their backs for belly rubs, but no more than a minute or two. They didn’t sleep like that. My poodle Zsa Zsa was no exception. Prince I and Prince II — the german shepherds — exposed their bellies only for belly rubs. No prolonged belly exposures for them! They all slept in a more normal doggy fashion.
I’ve been wondering why Opie does this. I read somewhere that dogs cool themselves when they lay on their bellies and splay out their feet. The ground is cool, and they can get some immediate relief from the heat. Has Opie struck upon an alternative method of doggy air conditioning? Right now, in L.A. the weather is cool. We live near the ocean and the breezes are always cool. Don’t hate us! It’s jacket or sweater weather in the morning and early evening. Maybe Opie likes the ocean breezes on his little doggy tummy. I wouldn’t be surprised. We’ve been dealing with doggy tummy issues for several days now. Perhaps, he needs a cooled off tummy.
I did a tiny bit of internet research on this issue. Looks like the air conditioning theory is sound. But one other looks promising too. Dogs, like people, have different phases of sleep. Just like humans , to reach that deepest REM sleep, dogs and people must be completely relaxed. When a dog sleeps on his back all of his muscles are relaxed. Nothing is tensed. The dream state is a sure sign of pure relaxation.
While Opie slept on his back last night, we all observed him paw the air, sniff some imaginary item, move his little mouth back and forth and even make a tiny “woof!” No doubt about it! He was dreaming! He was completely relaxed. Evidently, according to the internet dog experts, Opie is not all that unique. Indeed, his back sleeping is a sure sign of his comfort with the family. He is sleeping with his belly exposed. He doesn’t feel any anxiety. Researchers say that dogs living in the wild never sleep on their backs because they are always in danger from a predator. Obviously, Opie knows he’s not prey in this family, but those socks and sandals better watch out!
Some writers say that this position is also a submission position, that he’s acknowledging his low position in the household. We love Opie, but he is the low man on the totem pole. I’ll give Cesar Milan credit from instilling the pack leader mentality into most of the humans in the house. We have to be dominant. We know that. Opie’s a plucky little guy and has already demonstrated that he’ll take over the whole shebang if we let him. It’s not surprising that he demonstrates this status. However, we are not entirely sold on this submission idea.
Most of the reading refers to the submission positions as something the dog consciously does. To show submission a dog might raises one paw or flop down and turn his belly up to the dominant humans or dogs around. I saw this behavior last week at the dog park. A tiny little miniature poodlish Chihuahauish sort of dog flipped himself over and allowed a bunch of bigger dogs, Opie included, to sniff his soft underbelly. I could read the thought bubble over this dog’s head. ” I’m submissive. You guys are the bosses, Please don’t eat me!” That dog and every other dog I saw demonstrate similar behavior was wide awake. I don’t think that Opie’s back sleeping is a true submission position. He’s not doing it consciously or in response to us. He’s asleep. The experts may disagree with me. That’s okay. I’m no expert, but it doesn’t seem the same.
When he flops down for a belly rub, he may be acknowledging his low man status in our pack, but I think he may really just want his belly rubbed. I think he’s begging for “lovin'” We supply it! So, who’s dominant now? The dog demanding a belly rub or the humans supplying them?
I tend to believe that Opie has acclimated himself to us. He’s good and comfortable with his belly exposure. He’s safe and happy and relaxed. It’s so cool to see him resting so peacefully. We tip toe around him when he’s sleeping like this. His puppy dreams are fun to watch. No need to disturb him. After all we should “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie.”