Why Do Dogs Lay in the Sun

Golden Retriever

Lying back, closing our eyes, and enjoying the sun’s warmth on our skin is a feeling we enjoy and find relaxing, but what about dogs?  Do they enjoy the sun for the same reasons we do?

Dogs lay in the sun because it is comfortable. Dogs will often enjoy the warm feeling of the sunshine and in addition, they are able to get an important helping of vitamin D, supporting their health as they grow.  

Who doesn’t enjoy a nice day on the beach? Read on to find out why dogs love laying out in the sunshine just as much as we do.


Why Your Dog Lays in the Sun

Besides that feeling of comfort and warmth, there are some other reasons why your dog may be laying in the sun. It gives them nutritional value by introducing vitamins to their bodies. The sunshine also can strengthen their immune system and even heal any minor wounds on their body. Because this behavior can be a combination of these things, let’s dive deeper into each one.

Dogs Lay In The Sun For Comfort

The most likely reason your dog is laying in the sun is that it is comfortable. The warmth of the sun will feel good to them just as much as it does for us. If your dog tends to lay in the sun for long periods of time it is probably because they have become lethargic. Just like us, what starts off as a comfortable lay in the sun turns into not having the strength to move.

Although your dog may feel relaxed enough not to move it is important that don’t stay in the sun too long. Just like humans they can overheat, get sunstroke and even burn. Darker coats will absorb more heat than lighter-coated dogs and so it’s important to be aware of the small things that make a difference to your dog when they lie in the sunshine.

Nutritional Value

The sun provides the same nutritional value for us as it does for dogs.  A healthy dose of Vitamin D.  Dog’s bodies, just like ours,  naturally know what we need to maintain health.   

Vitamin D is also absorbed after the dog lays in the sun by grooming itself and licking its fur.  Vitamin D reaches the dog’s bloodstream in more ways than one!

Not only does a good sun soak provide Vitamin D, but it provides phosphorus and calcium, two essential elements in also maintaining a healthy body. The sun regulates the nervous system with these ingredients.

This is why dogs and humans alike find relaxation in laying out on a nice sunny day.  It increases serotonin, the feel-good chemical in the brain responsible for enjoyment and that “alright” feeling.

Not only does sunshine increase serotonin and provide essential nutrients, but it increases melatonin in the dog’s body.  This is the chemical that regulates sleep, so don’t be surprised if you see your dog taking a nap while bathing in the sun.

Your dog obviously isn’t aware of these things; however, the nature of the feel-good chemicals running through its body will heighten its awareness that it is a good place to be. Dogs will naturally seek out anything that has a positive effect on their body or emotion. Dogs are survivors after all and anything that benefits them will be something to gain. 


Another great reason why your dog is laying in the sun is simply their environment. Think about what they are doing and what’s around them. They may feel that there is a cold wind and laying in the sun keeps them warm. A very common reason can be because they are wet after going in the sea, river or even having a bath.

Your dog knows they dry quickly when it’s warm and so they may be thinking of laying in the sun and tidying themselves up. If your dog has access to a pool or stream then they will also realize that if they get too hot they can go and cool off quickly.

The breed can have a massive influence on this. The environment your dogs breed is usually associated with can influence how they feel the cold. of course, they will have thicker coats if they originate from colder climates, but it is possible that dog breeds originating in hotter environments will enjoy the sun more than say husky’s. this also goes for the climate they have been brought up in, do you have a warm house, or do you live in a hot country, your dog may adapt to this as they have grown older.

dogs lay in sun

Additional Benefits a Dog Gets From Sunlight

Not only does the sun regulate the dog’s mood and provide tons of nutritional value to them, but it also has other capabilities too.  The sun strengthens the dog’s immune system, causing less sickness over the course of its life. 

So if you want to avoid all those trips to the veterinarian, then getting your dog some sun is a great idea as a health plan.

In addition to helping with the immune system, the sunlight helps heal any cuts or abrasions the dog may have.  Dogs love to play in the yard and get themselves into all sorts of trouble, and they get a little beat up from time to time.  Nothing like a little bit of sunlight to help aid in the healing process.

Another interesting concept is sunlight’s healing properties. Evidence suggests that sunlight can help to reduce the signs of skin irritations such as ringworm. In fact, a study by the University of Mansoura suggests that the sun plays a vital role in the healing of this disease. Check out the journal article here.

When Your Dog Needs Sunlight

Your dog needs sunlight more than you realize.  Early in the morning is a great time, so that the hot rays of the sun don’t give the dog a sunburn.  Therefore midafternoon and evening are great times also.  You don’t want your dog getting too hot.  

Remember that dogs have fur and can easily suffer from sunstroke if they are in the sun for too long.  They may seem like they are enjoying it, but sometimes dogs don’t know their limits as we do.

Exposing your dog to sunlight during these times of day helps regulate their circadian rhythm.  This goes hand in hand with the melatonin that the sun provides the dog in order to balance out the dog’s sleep patterns and ensure not only it, but you also, get a good night’s sleep.  

If your dog is having issues going to bed at night, a nice sunbathing during the day will help them out enormously when it comes time to hit the sack. Dogs don’t tend to sleep for a long period of time like humans, often you will find your dog waking up multiple times during the night. This behavior is natural and just something that most dogs do, as their sleep cycles are short in comparison to our 8 hours. Take a look at our article on why dogs wake you up early for more information on your dog’s sleep patterns and the reasons they may be waking up. “Why Does My Dog Wake Me Up So Early”.

A Dog’s Lack of Sunlight Will Show

So what happens if your dog doesn’t get an adequate amount of sunlight?  Let’s say you only let them outside to do their business and then let them right back inside.  They may strive for laying in the sunlight coming in from the windows in your house, but that isn’t enough.

Your dog may experience depression.  Dogs go through the same things that humans do when they don’t get enough of the essential things they need.  Sunlight is one of them.  Humans have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and dogs can experience the same type of traits if cooped up indoors for too long.

As an example, my dog tends to be a little lazier during the winter, this could be a contribution to the cold or the fact they are going out for adventures less often. Unfortunately, the winter comes with not only worse weather but shorter days, and with a busy life to juggle to adventures are less common.

During the summer, however, adventures are plenty and we will be off lead walking all over the moorland, the beaches, and everywhere else for long periods of the day. This comparison must be hard to take when you’re a dog, one minute you’re all going next it’s chill-out time, and this is why the sun provides such an amazing opportunity for not only your dog’s health but their lifestyle too.

As we discussed earlier, melatonin is a clear benefit from your dog being exposed to the sun.  However, a lack of this vitamin will result in your dog exhibiting poor sleeping habits.  

Dogs are exposed to many more forms of light than typical sunlight.  They also have to deal with blue light from the television at home.  Make sure to not place your dog near the television or other sources that emit blue light, as it can cause the opposite effect of sunlight’s benefits.

Just as it is recommended for humans to put down their cell phones before bed at night, the same can be said about a dog’s exposure.  It has an adverse reaction on all the melatonin they receive and therefore interrupts their circadian rhythm.  

You don’t want a dog waking up all hours of the night and thinking it is playtime in the night and thinking it’s bedtime during the day.

Your dog may venture out into unwanted areas in the middle of the night, cry or whine, and end up disrupting your sleep in the process.  All because they didn’t get their fair share of sunlight.

Can Dogs Get Sunburn?

While dogs need sunlight just the same as we do and gravitate to it naturally, there are caveats.

Dogs can get sunburn just like humans can. Overexposure can result in the same negative effects that are brought upon us after a long day in the sun.

There is nothing more refreshing than a nice day in the sun. Both dogs and humans are drawn to it because it feels good. But use caution when taking your dog outside in the sun and make sure you are using the same precautions you would for yourself.

It recommended not to put sun cream intended for humans on your dog, however, you can find dog-approved sun cream that will hopefully protect your dog. This is more important for short-haired dogs as access to the skin is easier and can be damaging if over-exposed. 

Taking your dog to the beach is often the place where dogs get the worst skin treatment. I must admit firstly that the beach is a must-visit if you have the opportunity as dogs absolutely love it, it’s like Disneyland to them. Think about it the beach is one big digging pit that you are allowed to dig, the sea is a body of water that actually plays back, and you’re often surrounded by lots of others dogs.

The negative effects are obvious, over-exposure from the sun and highly salted water. As discussed these elements are fine if exposure is not too long. However, we often spend most of the day at the beach, unless you live close by.

Wash your dog with fresh water after they have finished in the sea and make sure they are not in the sun all day. You use some empty bottles with tap water in to wash them off, shower attachments are quite inexpensive and easy to use. Another option is a mud daddy or Karcher portable shower. These are a tried and tested way of washing your dog. Check out our article on “How To wash Your Dog After A Walk” for more details on these. If your concerned about saltwater, another great article regarding saltwater pools covers some important facts about swimming in saltwater. “Can Dogs Swim in a Saltwater Pool”

When it comes to protection from the sun, it is often more difficult. If you have short-coated dogs, approved doggy sun cream is an option. This tends to be harder if your dog is double-coated, although some doggy suncream around their nose and face is a good idea. So you would rather not use doggy suncream, then take them out of the sun and let them rest under a parasol for a bit. If sitting in a particular spot, don’t let them lay in the sun, as another reason they love it is to dry off and this is a good opportunity to limit their exposure.

If you love going to the beach or you have never taken your dog, have a look at “Our Guide To Taking your Dog To The Beach”.

walking dogs together


Dogs enjoy the same things that we do as humans.  Asking why a dog lays in the sun is the same as asking a human the same thing.  We do it because it benefits ourselves and it downright feels good.  And we like to do what makes us feel good.  Dogs are no different.

Not only do you get the chance to enjoy yourself by taking your dog out to get some sun, but you get to enjoy the benefits of having an improved temperament from your dog.  Who doesn’t want a dog that sleeps all through the night and is in a good mood around the house?  A happy dog is a happy house.

Keep your dog happy and you as an owner will reap the benefits.  The sun is a friend to your dog, not an enemy. Let them enjoy themselves!

If you enjoyed this post then check out our homepage for more interesting articles all about getting outside with your dog, plus lots more topics on dog behaviors and tips for owners.

Dean Lissaman

As a child I grew up around dogs and have loved them ever since. I now have a beloved Golden Retriever who enjoys exploring the outside world. Being an outdoor enthusiast has inspired me to create the ultimate resource on relating both dogs and the outdoors. For more information on me check out my about page.

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