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He Wants a Belly Rub!

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How do I know if my dog wants a belly rub? Why does my dog lie on his back?

Why is my dog lying on his back? Does he want a belly rub?

When your dog rolls onto his back and exposes his belly many people exclaim how cute it is that he wants a belly rub.

Unfortunately, this is usually not the case. Most of the time when your dog rolls onto his back he is telling you that he would prefer you to not approach, it’s kind of like a “tap out.” Often if you look closely at your dog you can see this position accompanied by stress signals like tongue flicks, a tense jaw, whale eye, and ears back. Be very careful before approaching a dog who is lying on their back, especially if it is not your own dog.

If you are unsure if your dog is rolling onto his back because he wants petting or wants to be left alone, try doing a consent test with him. This allows you to interact with any dog in a more safe manner, and teaches your dog how to ask for attention appropriately. 

The Bottom Line:
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References:

Buttner, A. P., & Strasser, R. (2013). Contagious yawning, social cognition, and arousal: An investigation of the processes underlying shelter dogs’ responses to human yawns. Animal Cognition, 17(1), 95–104. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-013-0641-z

Casey, R., 2002. Fear and stress. In: Horwitz, D.F., Mills, D.S., Heath, S. (Eds.), BSAVA Manual of canine and feline behavioural medicine. British Small Animal Veternary Association, Dorset, UK, pp. 144–153.

Horowitz, A. (2009). Disambiguating the “guilty look”: Salient prompts to a familiar dog behaviour. Behavioural Processes, 81(3), 447–452. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2009.03.014

Kuhne, F., Hößler, J.C., Struwe, R., 2012. Effects of human–dog familiarity on dogs’ behavioural responses to petting. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 142, 176–181.

Kuhne, F., Hößler, J. C., & Struwe, R. (2014). Emotions in dogs being petted by a familiar or unfamiliar person: Validating behavioural indicators of emotional states using heart rate variability. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 161, 113–120. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2014.09.020

Overall, K.L., 1997. Normal canine behavior. In: Overall, K.L. (Ed.), Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals. Mosby, St. Louis, USA, pp. 9–44.

Silva, K., Bessa, J., & de Sousa, L. (2012). Auditory contagious yawning in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris): first evidence for social modulation. Animal Cognition, 15(4), 721–724. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-012-0473-2

Taylor, A. M., Reby, D., & McComb, K. (2009). Context-Related Variation in the Vocal Growling Behaviour of the Domestic Dog (Canis familiaris). Ethology, 115(10), 905–915. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1439-0310.2009.01681.x

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