Why Do Golden Retrievers Sleep on Their Back?

Do you ever look down at your Golden Retriever and see them sprawled out on their back? Back to the ground with their legs in the air and you wonder how they can possibly be comfortable? 

You might wonder why your Golden Retriever is choosing to lie like that, and there are several reasons why this could be. Including:

  • To cool down.
  • Because they feel safe and relaxed.
  • They find it comfy.
  • To ask for belly rubs.
  • To relieve pressure on their body.
  • A sign of submission.
  • To help them breathe easier.

Read on for a closer look at why Golden Retrievers lie on their backs, to find out other common sleeping positions, and more.

How Lying on Their Back Can Cool a Golden Retriever Down

When you’re hot, what’s your favourite way to cool down – ice cream? A cold drink? Relaxing in the shade? For a Golden Retriever, one of the fastest ways to cool down is to lie on their back with their belly up!

This is because Goldens have a thick double-coat of fur. When it’s warm they get a lot hotter as their body generates and holds heat. Imagine wearing a fur coat in the height of summer.

A Golden Retriever’s belly typically has less fur, making it a quick way to get some air on them and cool down. At the same time, they’ll be sweating through their paws and panting to assist their cooling. 

If you spot your Goldie on their back, don’t be worried. You can help them by making sure they are not in direct sunlight and making sure they have plenty of water to drink. You’ll also need to brush and groom them regularly to remove excess fur.

Fun fact: Dogs only have sweat glands in their paw pads, so that’s the only place they can sweat from to cool down. This is why they have other tactics to cool down.

Does Exposing Their Belly Mean They Feel Safe?

Exposing their belly is one of the most vulnerable positions any animal can be in. It’s instinctive for an animal to want to stay on their feet so they can react quickly to danger and be ready to run. Their belly also has a lot of important organs underneath, so exposing it could mean the difference in life or death.

So when you see your Golden Retriever lying on their back, you can expect that they feel totally at ease and safe with you. The trust is so strong that they can completely let their guard down and they don’t have to worry about how long it would take to get up.

How Is It Comfy to Lie Like That?

A very simple explanation is that it’s just comfortable. Maybe if we had four legs and a tail we’d see the appeal! Even with pillows, furniture, and beds specifically bought for your Golden Retriever, they might just prefer to choose a patch of floor and sprawl out.

A Golden Retriever who is relaxed will lie comfortably. If it wasn’t a comfortable position, they wouldn’t hesitate to move around until they found the perfect place and way to settle down. The best thing here is to leave them to it.

Lying on Their Back and Hoping for a Belly Rub

If you notice your Golden Retriever lying in front of you and exposing their belly, they may be hoping for a belly rub! By laying on their backs, they’re in a perfect position for some good belly scratches – and it would be rude not to indulge them.

A belly rub is what they’re angling for especially if they’re making eye contact and rolling right next to you. This is a clear signal for some attention. Every dog loves a big fuss and being stroked and Golden Retrievers are no exception!

To Relieve Pressure on Their Body

Sleeping on their back can relieve pressure off other joints, bones, and muscles in their body. This is particularly useful if they have an injury that is painful to bear weight on. For example, a Golden Retriever with a sore paw or arthritis would be better lying on their back than being upright and putting pressure on the sore spot.

Altogether, it’s a comfortable and low-impact way to sleep, some Goldies won’t naturally lie down on their back. If you think your Golden Retriever would benefit from sleeping like this, try to encourage them to lie on their back. Teaching them to roll and praising them when they do can help reinforce this. Before you know it they’ll be sleeping like that more often and be far more comfortable. 

A Sign of Submission

Baring their belly (one of their most vulnerable spots as it offers access to their organs) can also be a sign of submission. Your golden can be showing you that they understand and respect your authority. 

You may also see this tactic when your Golden Retriever feels threatened and chooses to avoid any conflict by waving a white flag and giving in to the other party. 

In the wild, an animal lying on their back is usually a show of respect to the pack leader. Or it’s a way to submit to a more powerful or intimidating foe by showing they aren’t a threat. This behaviour is instinctive and will show in certain situations where one is more dominant.

It’s Easier to Breathe on Their Back

When a Golden Retriever is lying on their back, they can get more air in their stomach and therefore into their lungs. This makes it easier to breathe than it would be in a different position.

You might notice this more after they’ve been exercising – if they’re out of breath and trying to catch it again. This overlaps with the fact that when they’re on their back it’s easier to cool down.

Other Ways Your Golden Retriever Might Sleep

There are some other typical positions you might see your Golden Retriever in, including curled up, on their side, and cuddled with someone or something. 

Depending on how many dogs you have, you may find this affects how your Golden Retriever lies compared to a Goldie living on their own. Every Golden Retriever is different, so what is the case for one may not be the same for another.

Golden Retriever Sleeping Curled Up

Curling up with their head and tail close together – so it looks like your Golden Retriever is in a ball, with all their limbs tucked in. This is a common way for Goldies to sleep and one you’ll probably see a lot.

This can be because they are simply comfortable like that or it can be a way to stay warm – you can often see wild dogs sleeping like this to retain heat.

Another reason is if they’re feeling anxious or in unfamiliar surroundings, they feel more secure protecting their organs. Do you ever curl up in bed to get warm or when you’re stressed? It’s just like that!

Golden Retriever Sleeping on Their Side

Lying on their side with their legs extended is very similar to when a Golden Retriever lies on their back. Both positions indicate a high level of trust and a strong feeling of security. 

Similarly, it would take longer to get up from lying on their side and back than in any other position. Your Goldie wouldn’t lie like this unless they knew they were safe.

Golden Retrievers Cuddling When Asleep

Puppies instinctively cuddle up to share body heat. The urge to cuddle is built-in behaviour from their puppy days and as they get older it becomes a way to show love and affection.

Your Golden Retriever can cuddle other pets, their owners, or even toys. It’s one of the cutest positions to lie in and gives comfort to your Goldie.

Does anyone else ever have their Goldie lay on them and their legs or arms start going numb but you don’t want to move and disturb them? I could sit for hours with my sweet Golden Retriever cuddling like this!

Golden Retrievers Sleeping in a ‘Superman’ Position

This is when your Golden Retriever is sleeping on their stomach with their paws out in front of them. Sleeping like this indicates that the Golden is relaxed but alert – they feel safe enough to lie down but can be on their feet the second that they hear a noise. 

Closing Thoughts

In conclusion, there can be several reasons why your Golden Retriever might be lying on their back. While we can’t communicate with them to ask them, we can usually guess from their body language how they are feeling. Sleeping and lying on their back isn’t normally a cause for concern.

Related Questions

How Much Sleep Do Golden Retrievers Need?

Puppies and elderly Golden Retrievers will need more sleep than adult Golden Retrievers. This can be up to 18 hours per day for seniors, and up to 20 per day for pups! Meanwhile, adult Goldens will usually sleep for 8-14 hours per day.

Young puppies are usually hyperactive and excited for bursts of time and then need to rest to recharge. While older Goldens don’t have as much energy and get tired far faster. Every Golden Retriever is different and their time asleep can vary for a bunch of reasons.

Why Do Golden Retrievers Sleep So Much?

Golden Retrievers need so much sleep for a number of reasons including their age, size, health, the weather, diet, and if they’re bored. A combination of these factors can affect their sleep or just one of them.

Why Does My Golden Retriever Only Sleep on Their Back?

If you notice that your Golden Retriever only sleeps on their back, it isn’t a problem. It might just be that it’s the most comfortable sleeping position for them. Every dog will have a preference for how they sleep, with some switching positions constantly and others sticking with one position that they know works.

Can Golden Retrievers Get Sleep Disorders?

Yes, Golden Retrievers can suffer from sleep disorders. Some common ones include restless leg syndrome, parasomnia, and narcolepsy. If your dog’s sleep is regularly disturbed, or something isn’t right with them, it’s always a good idea to make an appointment at your vet.

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