Rottweilers are known to be strong, fierce, and fearless in protecting and guarding dogs. Or at least they are until they fall asleep.
More than a few first-time Rottweiler owners have noted how their dogs so easily switch off the “full alert” setting when they get sleepy.
How can a dog guard you and watch over you if they are rolled over on their back snoring?
In this article, we dig deeper to decode this truly strange canine behavior. Why do Rottweilers sleep on their back? Let’s find out now!
Why Do Rottweilers Sleep On Their Back?
Vetstreet explains that up to 10 percent of pet dogs sleep on their backs.
The informal theory is that a dog that feels secure in their surroundings is much more likely to sleep on their back. But this is not to say that if your Rottie doesn’t sleep on their back, they do not feel secure.
The simplest explanation is that some Rottweilers like this sleeping position and others do not.
Watch a Sleeping Rottweiler Laying On His Back
This precious YouTube video makes it clear that Rottweilers know how to relax.
This Rottie sleeps full-out on his back and side by side with his human carer on the couch.
Why Would a Protection Dog Like the Rottie Sleep on Their Back?
You would be hard-pressed to catch any wild canid sleeping on their back with their vulnerable belly exposed to predators.
Yet pet Rottweilers – arguably the fiercest of all dog breeds – often sleep on their backs. What could possibly explain this strange behavior?
As this Rottweiler owner Reddit thread highlights, lots of people have Rottweilers who like to sleep on their backs. And no one seems to really understand why.
Until there is formal research into different canine sleeping positions – or we develop a common language to clearly communicate and ask such questions of our dogs – the most we have is our best guess.
What Do Veterinarians Say About Rottweilers Sleeping On Their Backs?
According to PetMD, there are five main canine sleeping positions.
Four of the positions are protective of the belly region. But the fifth, the cuddle bug, is not.
This position is also the only position that is shared with a human carer. Perhaps this side to back sleep position feels okay to a Rottweiler since they are not sleeping alone but are with the being they trust most in the world – you.
Some canine researchers also believe that the cuddle bug type position where the dog’s belly is partially or fully exposed might be leftover from the puppy phase of life.
In puppyhood, each puppy in the litter may adjust their position to try to regulate body temperature.
Sleeping belly-up is a good way to stay cooler while sleeping belly-down is more warming since the relatively bare area of the belly is not exposed to the air.
Personality Insights About Rottweilers That Are “Back Sleepers”
According to Dr. Ron’s Animal Hospital, there could also be some personality trait elements as to why some Rottweilers sleep on their backs and others do not.
As Dr. Ron notes, these so-called “back sleepers” are also known to stick their legs and paws up in the air while they are sleeping.
The theory here is that the dog could be simply feeling very comfortable and safe but may also be feeling playful or submissive when falling asleep.
Animal Channel has a similar theory – that a dog who falls asleep with legs sticking up in the air and belly exposed feels independent, safe, and comfortable in their surroundings.
What Percentage of Pups Choose to Sleep On Their Backs?
Interestingly, according to VetDepot, only five to 10 percent of dogs in general typically sleep on their backs.
While we don’t have any statistics on this topic that are specific to Rottweiler dogs, we can infer that up to 10 percent of Rottweilers may also sleep this way.
VetDepot has an even more intriguing theory about why these dogs sleep belly-up. They are the dogs that are the least like their wild canid cousins temperamentally.
In other words, a wild wolf or another canid would likely never be caught sleeping belly up, so dogs that also sleep belly-down are more temperamentally like wild canids.
But a dog that sleeps with their belly exposed and legs in the air has evolved to the point where their temperament is quite different than that of a wild wolf.
Consider this: wild canids such as wolves and coyotes are quite shy around people in adulthood. This is true even for wild canids that have been socialized to people as pups. Once they hit puberty, they become “wild” again.
Dogs that are shyer or reserved may have retained more of that wild canid temperament.
In contrast, dogs that feel very confident around people, whether as a result of training and socialization or simple temperament, are more likely to fall asleep with exposed bellies.
Health Considerations When Your Rottweiler Sleeps On Their Back
While in most cases a Rottweiler that is sleeping with their belly exposed is probably just doing so to stay cool or because they feel safe, it is worth exploring whether there might ever be a medical reason for a dog to do this.
For example, let’s say your Rottweiler has always slept in another position with the belly protected. But all of a sudden, your Rottie starts to sleep with an exposed belly.
As the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) points out, there is a possibility this change to a different sleeping position could have a medical cause.
1. Your Rottweiler is in pain
Sleeping on the back could help your Rottweiler take the pressure off painful joints like the hips, shoulders, or elbows.
2. Your Rottweiler feels bloated
Rottweilers that are experiencing gastric distress may choose a sleeping position that takes the pressure off the stomach region.
3. Your Rottweiler is feeling stiff or unbalanced
A Rottweiler that is starting to develop arthritis or neurological issues might choose to sleep on their back because it is easier to just roll over than to arrange their legs into their favorite sleeping position.
4. Your Rottweiler has itchy skin
There is also an outside chance your Rottweiler has an itch and lays on the ground to try to scratch at it and then just falls asleep once they are comfortable.
Could There Be a Gender Component to Rottweilers Sleeping On Their Backs?
As Coalfire Rottweilers breeder explains, some people believe there is a very clear and reliable temperament difference between an adult male and female Rottweilers.
Other people disagree and say it is primarily just a difference in weight and height that distinguishes male Rottweilers from the females in adulthood.
But since there is so little formal data to explain why some Rottweilers sleep on their backs and others do not, it is worth considering whether there may be a gender component at work as well.
Male adult Rottweilers – especially those that have not been neutered – are often said to be more prone to aggression, stubbornness, and attachment to a single family member.
Female adult Rottweilers – whether spayed or not – are frequently said to be more affectionate, less aggressive, more prone to bond with multiple family members, and easier to train.
Could there be a link between these traits and the likelihood that your Rottweiler will grow up to sleep on their back?
It is hard to say since early socialization and training could play just as great a role in shaping temperament traits like trainability, affectionate nature, aggression, stubbornness, and family bonding.
Should You Worry If Your Rottweiler Sleeps On Their Back?
Ultimately, you just want your Rottweiler to be healthy and happy and feel safe and comfortable in their environment and home life.
Until we have hard data to offer more insight into why one out of every 10 or so dogs sleeps on their back and the others do not, we are left to trust our guts about our dog’s sleeping postures and what they might mean.
For the most part, it is probably not necessary to worry at all if your Rottie likes to sleep on their back.
This is especially true if you mainly see this behavior in the summer when it is warmer out or if your Rottie only sleeps on their back after a vigorous session of play.
But if your Rottweiler is showing any signs of lameness, pain, or itching, or if their sleeping position suddenly changes and you can’t pinpoint any reason why you might want to just talk with your dog’s veterinarian about it.
Your vet may want to see your dog for a health checkup just to be sure. Otherwise, chances are good your dog just feels happy, loved, and secure.