Why Do Shelties Sleep on Their Backs?

Why do Shelties sleep on their backs with all four paws in the air? A lot of dog breeds do this—and there are psychological reasons behind this very vulnerable posture.

Back Sleeping Shelties

Howard and Piper cosy up on their backs.

Shelties have an amusing trait of sleeping on their backs, legs akimbo. It's not a unique trait to the breed (plenty of dogs do it) but they do look extra hilarious with all the fur sticking up. Recently I asked Sheltie Planet readers to submit their Shelties sleeping on their backs and looking oh-so-relaxed.

Sheltie Sleeping on His Back

Shameless Kodi loves sleeping on his back from Barb Vaughan via Facebook

Shelties Sleeping on Their Backs

Bella and Amy snuggle up together from Tina Towers via Facebook

Why Do Shelties Sleep on Their Backs?

Shelties sleep in all different positions—on their sides, on their bellies, curled up with their nose in their tail and sometimes on their backs with all four paws sticking up in the air. So, why do they do it?

Typical Tilly

Typical Tilly from Robyn Anderson via Facebook

Sleepy Puppy

Sleepy puppy from Anke Vermulst via Facebook

Lying sprawled out on their backs shows they are super relaxed and have their guard down. In animal psychology, this position is submissive. It shows they are feeling safe and secure by allowing their vulnerable body parts (chest, throat, stomach) open to attack. This is still an important instinct for dogs who, although domesticated, still maintain many of their wild instincts at the gut level.

Sleepy Shetland Sheepdog

Sleepy Sheltie from Aurora Tyttebaer via Facebook


Furball alert from Matt Spindler via Facebook

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Let sleeping dogs lie from Esther Linssen via Facebook

Crashed Out

Crashed out from Jackie Powell via Facebook

Another reason Shelties sleep on their backs may be to cool down. Unlike humans who sweat all through their skin, dogs can only sweat through the pads in their paws. They also pant with their tongues out to cool down. Since the belly has the least amount of under coat, sleeping belly up can also expose the skin to cool air.

Lovely Sheltie

Belly up from Eugenie Lam via Facebook


Cuteness from Chrysti Hydeck-Nethercutt via Facebook

If your dog is fast asleep on his back, it's best to adhere to the old saying "let sleeping dogs lie" lest you disturb his blissful slumber. However, if your Sheltie is awake and playing, rolling on his back is often a request for a belly rub.


Not at all awkward from Jaelyn Hardy via Facebook

Riley Sheltie

Riley from Cindy Konkol Strittmatter via Facebook