Have you noticed that your dog tends to lay on his back when you see him? What does that behavior mean? Is it normal and healthy? Here’s all that you should know!
One of the main reasons for your dog to lay on his back as you approach him is because he is asking for your attention. Getting attention from you makes them happy and relaxes them, so they’re asking for love and attention.
Other reasons for laying on their back around you include playing, showing confidence or submissive behavior, regulating their temperature, or luring in prey. In rare cases, this behavior could signify that your dog is trying to alert you to an itch or a health problem.
Below, we’ll discuss how to differentiate your dog’s different communication methods and what to do about them!
What does it mean when a dog shows you its belly?
Let’s take a close look at all of the most expected reasons for your dog to be showing you its belly. Whether they do this daily or sporadically, it’s good to know what’s going on with your furry friend. This belly behavior means that your dog…
- Wants your attention
- Is showing confidence
- Is showing submissive behavior
- Is regulating their temperature
- Is luring prey
- Is scratching an itch
- Is alerting you to a health problem
Wants your attention
The most common reason is that they want your attention! They want a belly rub and cuddles, or they want to play with you. This is their way of showing that to you in actions! You’ll see this paired with other positive body language like panting, tail wagging, and wriggling back and forth.
Is showing confidence
When dogs lay on their back around you, it means that they trust you to protect them from whatever harm could possibly come to them and their vulnerable belly. It’s rather sweet when you think about it this way since it’ll make you feel like you’re doing an excellent job as a pet parent…which you are!
Is showing submissive behavior
Dogs will see you as the alpha of the pack. So fearful dogs will show submissive behavior to you, like showing their stomach. This is their way of proving that they are a worthwhile servant to you. Don’t like this? Don’t worry; you can address this as we talk about more later.
Is regulating their temperature
When a dog is too hot, they’ll expose their stomach in hopes of enjoying some cooler air on their overheated parts. This is similar to how humans will push up sleeves, take off hats, and so on. Exposing their stomach helps cool them down faster and easier.
Is luring prey
This is dominance, the opposite of submissive behavior. A dog will sometimes show their stomach and watch “prey” come in to be their friend. This shows subtle changes like a stiff tail, direct and unblinking eye contact, and a rigid body posture. Some dogs even bare their teeth!
It’s essential to see this as the potential risk it is, and you’ll want to pay special attention to addressing this behavior, as we talk about below.
Is scratching an itch
Dogs can’t reach their stomachs well to get the itch done. So, they’ll ask you to scratch and help them enjoy more comfort. They also might be scratching their back on the floor or carpet. Keep an eye on those itchy spots to make sure that there is no rash or something else brewing! This is primarily a good idea if the behavior is new.
Is alerting you to a health problem
Dogs don’t communicate the same way that we do. So laying on their back when you approach them could signify that they are trying to tell you about a health concern or condition that you otherwise don’t know about—for example, a flea infestation, ringworm, or an allergic reaction to something that they ate.
What to do when your dog lays on his back when he sees you
Perhaps some of those reasons surprised you since they seem varied and versatile. This is the truth. So, if you notice that your dog is acting this way and want to know how you should respond to it, here are some tips up help you out!
Take note of the cause
The first thing that you’ll want to do to ensure you focus on the best behavior is to understand what the cause is. Take a look at your dog’s body language and behavior before, during, and after the belly exposure. Does it seem like affection or play? Is it looking more like luring in prey? Perhaps it’s something like scratching an itch?
Don’t worry unless there’s reason to
If you’ve determined that it’s something like playing, affection, or temperature regulation, you don’t necessarily need to worry about it. You can choose to either give affection or play with them, but you don’t necessarily have to. It’s your decision based on personal preference. Your dog will learn what you like and don’t like and adjust their behavior accordingly.
If there’s a reason to worry, then worry
You knew this was coming, right? If you notice that your dog is acting this way and seems to be showing signs of either submission or dominance, or something like scratching an itch or showing off a medical issue on their stomach, then it’s a good idea to take a closer look at what’s going on.
Behavioral issues like submission and dominance can be retrained carefully (more on that shortly). Medical issues like scratching and a potential medical issue that you can see visually are as simple to deal with as taking them to the vet to check out what’s going on.
Get help if unsure
Whether you are dealing with a dog showing playfulness, fighting for dominance, or potential ringworm infection, it’s okay if you aren’t entirely sure what’s going on. If you need help understanding why your dog is showing this behavior. Ask for it! It could be a blend of reading this article and then asking a pet behaviorist or other professional to help. The right approach to this will be the one that most factors in your needs and those of your dog.
When the cause behind the behavior is addressed (for example, a flea infestation), the behavior itself will stop!
Should I stop this kind of behavior?
This brings us to an important question: is this kind of behavior a problem in the first place? If it’s for relaxation, temperature regulation, or affection/playtime behavior, then no! This is normal and biological behavior that you can simply accept. Just think of it as part of your dog’s charm. If this behavior does bother you, of course, you can redirect it! We’ll go over that more below.
How to stop my dog from laying on his back when he sees me
If the behavior of your dog lying on its back when you approach drives you crazy, you can retrain your dog’s behavior to something more enjoyable and suitable. The approach you take will depend mainly on the problem you’re trying to fix. Take a look:
Affection and playtime
When your dog is being affectionate and playful, you’re not going to cause any kind of adverse reaction if you ignore their belly behavior. They will simply understand that this kind of behavior doesn’t get them the reward they seek (your attention) and adjust their expectations. After all, a dog’s only goal in life is to please their humans.
If your dog is showing submissive behavior, you’re going to want to help them understand that it’s not required. While it’s expected that dogs will show submission in some cases (like following your obedience training and instructions), you can show your dog that they don’t need to show submission in that way.
You would do that by commanding your dog to come and play with a toy, or curl up with you on the couch, for example. When they obey this (and leave their submissive position), praise them for this behavior. Over time, this will lead to them skipping over the stage of getting on their backs when they see you and go straight to the behavior you want.
This is not a behavior to ever encourage, either directed at you or other household animals. To make sure that you address this properly, assert control over your dog by using a command like “sit” or otherwise. Use a firm voice and wait until they listen to you to do the command. This tells them that you are in charge, not them.
Stay consistent; any time you capitulate in allowing them to think they are dominant, it undermines whatever authority you were working on asserting!
In showing their stomach, dogs could be telling you that they love you and want cuddles or that they want to play. Other reasons include showing confidence, showing submission or dominance, adjusting their temperature, and even luring prey.
In certain circumstances, especially if it’s a new behavior, it could mean that your dog has a medical concern that they are bringing to your attention.
A dog who shows their stomach to you could be saying any number of things. Some are positive and no big deal. Others are neutral that require a bit of maintenance and monitoring, and others are negative and should be redirected.
Whatever it is that’s going on, understanding what’s happening will help you to address what’s needed, when it’s needed.