Dog Articles: Training

Why Do Dogs Roll on Their Backs?  

What your pup is trying to tell you when he shows you his belly.  

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image of a dog rolling on his back

When a dog rolls over on his back, it often means he’s passive and trusts you completely. Dog translation: “Rub my belly, please!” However, not all dogs show their bellies because they want affection. Here are some important cues to watch for when you notice your pooch roll onto his back.   

A roll with a stiff body means: “No, thanks!”  

When a dog wants to be petted, he’ll flop over and throw his paws into the air to show he’s at ease. When a dog’s body is stiff, that’s when the rollover can mean he’s nervous and needs reassurance, not belly rubs. Aggressivedogs might even trick you by rolling over and appearing submissive until you try to pet them — then they may snap at you.  

Watch for stiff legs and a head cocked to one side. Dog translation: “Don’t touch me!”  

A roll and a shimmy means: “I’m itchy” or “I’m masking my smell.”  

Ever notice your pup roll over in the grass and wiggle around? He could be trying to scratch an itch he can’t reach. But some dogs — usually dogs with a prey drive like terriers, retrievers, shepherds, and hounds — have an instinct to mask their scent with a stronger scent. Unfortunately, that can sometimes mean rolling in something especially stinky! This may not be fun for Pet Parents, but it’s totally normal doggie behavior.   

A roll with ears back and wide eyes means: “Please don’t hurt me.”   

Your pal may roll over in situations where he’s feeling uneasy or threatened, like in a dog park with new dogs or with people he hasn’t met before. This can mean he’s anxious and uncertain and trying to make himself as non-threatening as possible.  

And …  what if your pup tends to (happily) roll on his back a lot?  

Some dogs are just born this way — the back roll is a behavior unique to them. If that’s the case with your canine, cue the belly rubs!  

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