Indeed our dogs do a lot of cute little things to get our attention. Showing us their tummies by rolling on their back is one good example. Wonder why you can’t keep being angry with your dog for a long period of time, well this is one of them. It doesn’t matter what your dog’s tummy looks like, they can be skinny, pudgy, hairless, or full of hair but immediately your dog rolls over, you become vulnerable to their charm. So it would seem that this is the reason why your dog rolls on its back but is that so?
Dogs roll on their back for different reasons, getting a good belly rub is one of them but is not everything.
Here are the reasons why your dog is rolling on his back.
- To Get Your Attention.
- To Mask their Scent.
- To Show Submissiveness.
- To control their body temperature.
- To Show confidence.
- To Scratch an Itch.
- To Lure prey.
- An Obsessive Behaviour.
- To play with you.
Let’s address each in details
1.To Get Your Attention.
Your dog can resolve to lay on his or her back to gain your attention. This is usually the case when they might have been neglected for a while. It’s no secret that our dogs are the happiest when we give them our full attention, so, naturally, your dog will go to several lengths to get it. Depending on the level of training you have given to your dog, they may jump around your, sit and stare at you, sit near you, etc.
Your dog rolling on his or her back to get your attention is usually a desperate move. If you have been spending less time with your dog than you have been doing in the past, then your dog may be telling you by rolling on his back in front of you that he misses your company.
2.To Mask their Scent.
This habit goes way back to their ancestry. Back then dogs would roll in the mud or piles of dirt to mask their scents from possible predators. This way, a lion or a bear would not be able to perceive their odor when they are hiding hence there is a high probability that the predator would pass them by leaving them safe.
The same masking of scent can be used against their prey, smaller animals like geese, wild ducks, rabbits, etc, would not be able to perceive the dog’s smell in time and by then the probability of them become food for the dogs becomes high.
Fast forward to today, your dog may roll on some dirt or pile of mud all on instinct. This can happen especially for hunting dogs when they are going on a walk. The hunting instincts are still high in them and there is some possibility for them to chase after a prey if not properly kept on a leash, the masking of their scent comes in handy for them in this scenario.
For you as a dog parent, there cannot be any advantage to this. All you get is a dirty dog that would need a bath and grooming again. You are also feeding them with what you believe is the best food as verified by your vet so why this unsanctioned hunt.
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Anyway, putting your dog through a good obedience training program should help you control this scent masking problem.
3.To Show Submissiveness.
Also going back to the wolf ancestry, our dogs used to roll over their back with their bellies exposed as a sign of their submission to the authority of the alpha in the pack. This was usually done if it seemed like the alpha demanded it or was passing through. The submissive attitude also came into play when a larger stronger animal was passing by. They would roll on their back with their bellies up as a sign that they are harmless and the creature should not bother looking their way.
Fast forward to modern times, you are now the alpha of his pack. It is paramount for his survival that he submits to your authority, so if you are passing by and your dog suddenly rolls on his back, that can be a recognition of your authority.
Some dog parents, take this a step further and train their dogs to roll over on command, now there is nothing wrong with that, but if you seem to be having lots of issues getting your dog to roll over, then you should consider reviewing how you think your dog sees you.
4.To control their body temperature.
Apart from looking for a cool spot and panting, your dog also tries to regulate his body temperature by rolling over on his back once in a while. This is usually done when he is alone and trying to relax. You will note that this is for their own benefit as they are not doing it to get anything from you at that moment.
5.To Show confidence.
A dog rolling on his back can also be a sign of confidence, this confidence can cut across various spheres. For example, it can be a sign that your dog is confident of his or her safety in their current environment, it can mean that he or she is confident around you enough to expose their vulnerable parts without worries. It can be that he or she is confident that the people around at that time would look out for them if any pending danger comes up.
It is a major sign of trust and this is telling you that they feel secure with you.
6.To Scratch an Itch.
This is one of the most common reasons why a dog roll on his back. Your dog’s anatomy has been made in such a way that parts of his body are practically not reachable with his paws. When these places like his back start to itch him, there is literally no other option available to him than to roll over and scratch that part on the floor.
This problem is common with dogs that are prone to skin allergies. The itching spot when scratched leads to the spread of the itch to other parts of the body, some can scratch themselves up to the extent of getting wounds which can lead to more bacterial infections.
In situations like this, the best thing to do is to contact your vet doctor immediately, some medications can be prescribed especially at the early stages of the allergy which can soothe your dog and put them in a comfortable zone for more treatment. It is also important to understand and detect the source of the allergy in other to control its spread on your dogs skin.
7.To Lure prey.
If your dog is laying on his back body stiff and making direct eye contact, this position is not one of submissiveness or any of the gentler options mentioned. Your dog is using himself as bait in this instance. Approaching them in this state is not advised as they can get aggressive.
You see in ancient times, apart from masking their scent, another technique which our dogs used to hunt their prey was to feign helplessness. This way, the prey would not suspect any danger and would approach their inevitable doom.
Hunting dogs still carry this instinct with them. The giveaway sign is the body stiffness and the focus in their eyes. A dog that is being submissive would be in a relaxed state and not stiff. It is probably best to ignore your dog if you find them in this state.
8.An Obsessive Behaviour.
For some dogs rolling on their back can become an obsessive behavior, a bad habit formed from long periods of neglect and bad socialization. Stray dogs usually fall into this category when trying to please a prospective dog owner. They have learned quickly that their touch or active jumping can be misread and the next best option would be to roll over with the hope that they would be approachable.
If for some reason your dog is displaying this obsessive behavior, you may need to get the services of a canine behaviorist or a dog trainer and work together with them to solve this problem. It would likely entail trying to redirect your dog’s attention to some other activity or object.
9.To play with you.
This is often an overlooked aspect of your dog rolling on his back. It is likely that your dog just wants to play with you. You see this a lot with puppies as they play with each other. Even bigger dogs when they play with smaller dogs.
The whole idea is to make themselves receptive to the play and less scary to the other dog being invited to the play. In this situation, a good belly rub is always welcome as it puts them at ease and is very enjoyable.
Of course, you should be mindful that the play does not get out of hand, you should maintain a level of control at all moments. This is for your own safety as you cannot really chastise a dog who bites or scratches someone in the heat of excitement.
HOW TO MANAGE THE PROBLEM OF YOUR DOG ROLLING ON HIS BACK.
Basically, your dog will roll back due to itching or medical issues, some form of attention-seeking or behavioral challenges. We would first address the medical part and then the behavioral part.
Dealing with the problem of your dog rolling on his back due to some itching, allergy, or medical issue is not a complex thing.
i.)The first thing you should do is to take them to your vet doctor. There they would look at your dog and discover what is actually causing the itch. Is it fleas and ticks? Is it some form of allergy? Does he have some bacterial infection? No matter what it is, your vet doctor should be able to identify it and suggest the best treatment for them.
For example in the case of fleas and ticks, proper grooming is a must, the groomer will use the appropriate tools to remove the fleas or ticks that have attached themselves to the dog’s skin after which a calming solution is applied all over the dog to reduce the effect of the itch or pain.
Following the prescribed medication is key to treating this itching problem quickly.
ii.) At home, you will need to control the source of the external parasite (fleas, ticks, etc) and allergies which make your dog itch. This means removal of anything that can lead to an allergic reaction, proper cleaning of your household and immediate environment, application of flea and tick control products, and application of dog-safe pesticides.
iii.)Consider boosting your dog’s immunity by adding natural supplements to your dog’s diet. You can even take it a step further and discuss with your vet doctor about different ways of improving your dog’s diet or changing it if the cause of the allergic reaction is something your dog consumes.
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Dealing with your dog rolling over as a form of attention-seeking or behavioral challenges.
i.) Some of the reasons why your dog rolls on his back like controlling his body temperature or showing his submissiveness do not actually need any input from you. Basically, a good belly rub and some form of attention would be enough.
If you do not want your dog rolling on their back for you, call out to him in an upbeat tone, when he comes to your shower him with praise and continue whatever you were doing together.
Now, if it seems the behavior is becoming compulsive you can:
ii.)Start first by totally ignoring the behavior, it is likely that if your dog is not getting the attention he desires, he would find another means of getting the same attention. When and if he approaches you in another manner, shower them with praise and some treats if available.
Start some form of obedience training for your dog. This would help to give your dog some structure in their life and an idea of the ideal way to behave around you.
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iii.)When all fails, involve the professionals like a canine behaviorist or a pet trainer. Sometimes the issue runs deeper than just instincts or ancestral traits.
Your dog rolling on his or her back should not be a major issue. Understanding the context of why your dog is doing this is more important. This will help you bond better with your dog as your dog will start coming to an understanding that you can actually understand what he or she is experiencing making them more receptive to your suggestions and guidelines.
Hi, I am Charles Nwankwo Editor-in-Chief, Mydoggything.com. Gleaning from Professional Dog Trainers, behaviorist, Registered Veterinarians, and Breeders. We are passionate about making dog care easy for you. My job is to make sure that you get the best-updated dog care information to understand and take care of your dog or dogs.