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Canine Behavior/Sleeping/resting positions in dogs


I am looking at some resting positions in dogs. I am looking for the name to describe a dog who rests in a position where its paws are comfortably tucked away under its body and the tail is wrapped all the way round until it touches the face. I have been on numerous websites and it calls this position the Sleeping Fox or the Fox. Not sure if this is true or not!


ANSWER: Hello, Sam.

So, there are no formal studies that talk about sleep positions in dogs. There are no formal names for any position that dogs choose to sleep in. Most are simply descriptions of the body position - belly down with chin on floor, resting on side, on back with exposed belly.... The position you are asking about would simply be described as "curled up". It may be inferred that the position is taken because the dog is cold (tucking the feet and curling the tail around to the face keeps the entire under belly and feet warm), or it may be an indicator of the dog feeling somewhat vulnerable (protecting the belly). It's reasonable to describe it as "fox-like" in that we have all seen an image somewhere of a fox curled up like that. But there is no formal list of dog sleeping positions.

I've recently come across a few sites that suggest that sleeping position will shed all sorts of light on your dog's personality. I don't give much stalk to them as none of them have any citations to actual science - they are all just the opinion of the person writing that blog. I've only ever taken those positions to indicate whether or not the dog is cold or hot, and whether or not the dog feels safe enough to expose the belly while sleeping soundly.
NOTE: for cold/hot I also take note of physical location. For example, a dog who is hot is likely to choose to lie on hard flooring, on their side. The flooring is cool and laying on the side exposes the greatest surface area to the cool floor. Some dogs will choose the hard floor and then lie belly down with their rear legs splayed so the belly can make full contact to the cool floor. On the flip side, a dog who is cold will choose carpeting, blankets, near a heat source or other locations where they can get and/or retain some heat.

And, of course, the position a dog chooses to sleep in - just like humans - in the end comes down to what position is most comfortable to the dog in that moment. Some dogs simply prefer one position over another as it's just comfortable.

So, short answer, I'm sure some people do label that position as "the fox" but there is no formal labeling system for canine resting position. I, and most veterinary behaviorists and applied animal behaviorists would simply describe the position.

I hope that helps. Happy holidays!

Worcester, MA Behavior Specialist
Masters Candidate - Animals and Public Policy
Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Science

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks Jody
I thought just as much! Cant always rely on websites sometimes!!
I can actually come to some sort of accurate description by referring to Bonnie Beavers Canine Behaviour - Insights and Answers chapter on Canine Locomotive behaviour and resting behaviours where it talks about the sternal recumbency position where the sternum and ventral midline touch the ground. this posture is used most frequently where alertness is important.

In lateral recumbency the dog lies with either the left or right side touching the ground which allows for complete relaxation.

Thank you for your time in assisting my questions as always!

Happy Holidays to you too!

Yes, sternal recumbency and lateral recumbency are definitely the proper medical/scientific descriptive terms, while I was sticking with lay-person speak. I don't own that text book, but it looks like a quality book for canine behavior and an excellent resource. I may need to add it to my library.


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Jody Epstein, MS, CPDT-KA


IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR DOG IS ILL OR INJURED, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT THE FORUM TO ADDRESS URGENT MEDICAL ISSUES. I AM NOT A LICENSED VET AND HAVE NO DIAGNOSTIC SKILLS. ***I have been answering questions on All Experts for over 8 years now. I enjoy being able to offer assistance in this forum. I do need to be clear, though. If you’re looking for free advice about a specific behavior question, you MUST submit your question to me via All Experts. If you bypass All Experts and write to me directly through my website, I will ask you to submit via All Experts. On the flip side, if you’re local to Los Angeles and you wish to speak to me privately about an in person consultation, please go through my website. I appreciate your assistance in keeping my volunteer work on the volunteer site.*** I can answer questions about the following canine behavior issues: obedience, timid/fearful & fear-based aggression, nuisance behaviors, families that are expanding with either new human or new animal members and many other issues. If you have potty training questions please first read my trio of blogs at If you still have questions after reading the blogs you can post your specific questions here. PLEASE be as specific as possible when asking a question. Give me a detailed example of the situation - dog's behavior, body language, circumstances surrounding the issue, what the consequences are (another dog's response, your response), etc. I can only provide insight if I can get a picture of the whole scenario. If I ask for further details, please provide them. In person I would normally observe for at least 90 minutes to assess the situation and the dynamics before offering tools and suggestions to modify it. In writing it is ever so much more difficult. Thank you for your participation in the process.


I have been a professional obedience trainer for 9 years, and specializing in behavior modification for 8 years. I have owned dogs my entire life. I own my own dog training and behavior modification business called Nutz About Mutz.

I am a Certified Profession Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), #2133301 ; I am a member in good standing with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), #77763 ; I am an AKC certified Canine Good Citizen evaluator (CGC), #71253

Publications ; ; Multiple articles in the local pet magazine Pet Press (found across Southern California)

I have a masters degree (MS) in Animals and Public Policy, with a minor in Animal Behavior, from Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. I also have 3 years of graduate education in Animal Behavior and Learning from UM-Missoula and UL-Lafayette. I continue to educate myself to canine-specific behavior through extensive reading, online interactive workshops, vidoes and attending canine behavior conferences, workshops and seminars. Beginning in March, 2017, I will be the Behavior & Training Manager at Second Chance Center for Animals in Flagstaff, AZ.

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