Updated: Nov 9, 2020
Dogs have a way of teaching us so many things. As owners and dog lovers we also learn that not all dogs are the same and so how they behave and interact with different people can differ. So what does it mean when a dog displays their belly?
Some dogs enjoy having their bellies rubbed by people that they know. They may display their belly to have it rubbed if they are feeling comfortable and trusting of their surrounds. Some dogs will show this behaviour if they are feeling stressed or unease in a particular situation and some dogs will use this behaviour in both these types of situations. So it can be really hard to tell the difference especially if you don't know the dog.
The important thing to remember is that it’s not normal for a dog that doesn’t know you to expose their belly to you to have it rubbed. If they are it is more likely that they're feeling uncomfortable. For this reason it’s always a good idea to check with the owner before petting their dog. If you're approaching the dog and it rolls over and shows you it’s belly, stop, move back a step and crouch or squat down.
Encourage the dog to approach you and get a pat. If they approach you you have got the all clear and you can give them a pat. Pats on the chest are good for dogs who aren’t feeling particularly comfortable.
This article is a great source of information about how we can learn more about approaching animals through petting and belly rubs. It includes:
- Checking if you pet wants to be petted?
- Where they want to be petted
- How to check in on them or 'consent tests'
- Advice on how to check on their body language
- Individual differences
We encourage you to read through the full article to help you understand the needs of your pet.
Here we have Millie the Delta Therapy Dog while on duty. Millie was laying on her back and encouraging her owner to give her belly rubs. Doesn’t she look comfy?
Thanks to Brooke Foy of Positive Pet Project for providing insight into the complexity of belly rubs,