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Why Do Dogs Like Belly Rubs

A pet lover passionate about educating readers about animal health and care. Love reading studies and recent research.
Published on
Thursday 5 January 2023
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
Why Do Dogs Like Belly Rubs
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After a long day, dogs just like to lie down on their backs and expose their stomachs. In most cases, they will bat their puppy dog eyes at you, hoping that you’ll pet their bellies. Yet, why do dogs like belly rubs, anyway? There must be something special in that gesture. To find out, read this article.

Why Do Dogs Like Their Bellies Rubbed?

The reason why dogs like belly rubs are due to their attraction to praise. They simply just know that praising their good behavior includes head pets or belly rubs. That claim was supported by a study in canine social cognitive responses that stated that dogs prefer praises more than treats.

Dogs have compound hair follicles. It turns out those hair follicles grow fast when they’re stimulated by physical touch. Hence, that’s why dogs love belly rubs. In addition, petting your canine is like massaging their bodies which promotes their blood circulation.

Belly rubs have a soothing effect on dogs. Moreover, another study in 2009 stated that human and dog interaction promotes a positive relationship. As a result, both of them release a love hormone called oxytocin.

Meanwhile, when a dog shows his belly, it only means one thing: trust. According to another study published in 2013, dogs refer to their owners as their secure base. Also, it was found that canines prefer playing while being watched by their owners.

Further, rubbing a dog’s belly stimulates a grooming experience. It copies and gives off the same effect when they lick to clean themselves. Also, belly showing tendencies in dogs is a sign of playfulness. Hence, they like it when humans comply with their wishes. 

Each dog differs in traits. In some cases, a canine may show its belly not because of trust but because of submissiveness. Canines experience fear too. So, when dogs expose their bellies, they want their owners to know that they’re not a threat. 

6 Reasons Why Dogs Love Belly Rubs

Indeed, dogs don’t speak, but they still talk to us using their body language. For instance, when they can’t reach itchy body parts, they try to get their owners to pet them by rolling over. Yet, that’s not the only reason why dogs demand belly rubs. Find out more below.

It Is Calming

Canines, like any other animal, feel emotions. Also, they learned to incorporate that into their body language. For instance, they cower because they feel scared, and sometimes they roll on their backs because their stomachs’ are irritated. As owners, we take that as a chance to give them hugs or belly rubs.

Dogs like belly rub because it gives them comfort. It calms them down and promotes the secretion of a hormone called oxytocin. Dogs can’t reach their stomachs, so a belly rub for them feels good that they even stretch their backs to give their owners more space to scratch them.  

Stimulates the Hair Follicles

A canine’s hair needs stimulation to grow. Well, that could be in the form of brushing and sometimes even scratching a dog’s belly. A canine’s hair undergoes three common growing phases, namely: Anagen, Catagen, and Telogen. The Anagen phase is what promotes the most hair production and it’s easily stimulated through massage.

Most furry animals, including dogs, have light fur on their bellies. This was due to evolution, so they can blend in with their environment. Yet, in rare cases, very few hairs can be a cause of a disease called Congenital Hypotrichosis. Hence, the most natural way to restore a dog’s hair is by rubbing the hair follicles.

It Is a Grooming Session

Wolves, the direct descendants of what we call domesticated dogs, don’t have owners that take care of their basic needs. So, they used to lick, bite, and even scratch their bodies when grooming in the wild. Hence, modern-day dogs have adopted that behavior up until now.  

Moreover, for dogs, belly rubs feel like a grooming session. The sensation of skin-to-skin contact reminds them of their natural grooming instincts. Well, it also provides a sense of satisfaction to dogs. In addition, the belly rubbing activity produces endorphins which help combat stress and anxiety.

It Is a Form of Submission

In a dog’s language, not all rollovers require a belly rub. In some cases, dogs just do that because they want to relax in their alone time for themselves. Also, other times, they show their bellies as an indication to submit themselves that they’re not a threat.

Dr. Jill Mackay, an animal expert, said that some dogs don’t like having their bellies tickled. Also, according to her, canines only tolerate belly rubbing sessions because they want to please their owners. Plus, rubbing dogs’ bellies while they’re having their alone time could mean you’re invading their personal space.

It Gives Them Comfort

According to science, dogs identify positive and negative emotions from their owners’ faces. With that being said, they became the natural comfort friends of humans. Yet, little did we know that dogs need comforting as well.

When canines seek attention, they will follow you around or even roll over at your feet. That’s normal behavior that requires rubbing a dog’s belly. Moreover, that simple gesture gives them a sense of happiness and comfort that can ease their sadness or anxiety.

It Strengthens Your Bond

Other than tail wagging, the most common sign that a dog wants attention is when they roll over and show their bellies. Canines are both affectionate and playful creatures. As a result, they will incorporate their love for their owners by asking them to rub the precious spots on their bellies.

The meaning of dog belly rubs differs from each situation. Yet, most of the time, it shows a sign of trust and confidence. Take note that canines only act relaxed around people they’re comfortable with. Hence, when they lay on your feet showing their tummies, they want you to strengthen your bond together.

Why Do Dogs Roll Over When Belly Rubbed?

Dogs like the feeling of extra affection, and they will most likely do anything to prolong that. In terms of the display of adoration, dogs’ belly rubs are essential. Most likely, they roll over during belly rubs because they want their owners to have more space to scratch.

Also, for dogs, rolling over can be a prevalent sign of fear. It turns out that canines act timid when they’re around new people and the environment. As a result, they let people pet them to show they’re defenseless and that they mean no harm.

Meanwhile, a study in 2015 stated that rolling over has good benefits for dogs. According to scientists, other than the fact that it’s satisfying when combined with belly rubs, it also promotes core strength in dogs. It’s not related to any gastrointestinal obstructions, and it’s deemed a safe therapeutic exercise for canines.

On the contrary, another study in the same year 2015 reported that rolling over is not just an act. But, rather, it’s a defense position incorporated in playtime. Even though dogs like their bellies rubbed, they’re still natural hunters. Further, based on experts, dogs do that position to dodge neck bites or launch attacks.

How to Give Your Dog a Good Belly Rub

In giving your dog belly rubs, first, you must understand his different body language. Also, you have to ensure that you don’t give too few or too many of them. Moreover, there are ways that you can help your dog enjoy their belly rubbing sessions.

Watch Out For Signs

As an owner, the first thing that you should do is to carefully watch your dog’s actions. Dogs like a belly rub, but in some cases, it depends on their mood. However, if they come running at you and roll over at your feet, then most likely that situation requires a good belly rub.

Get The Right Spot

The key to giving dogs the best belly rub is to hit the right spot. Owners must pay attention to the parts dogs can’t scratch or lick. For example, canines can’t reach their chest and belly area, so they need someone to massage them.

Do It Lightly

The main reason why dogs like belly rubs are due to their soothing properties. Yet, it needs to be done lightly for a tummy scratch to be satisfying. Take note that a hard massage can lead to bites and dog attacks.

Do Not Pinch The Belly

Usually, dogs don’t show their bellies to anyone. So, when dogs do that in your presence, it only means they trust you. Moreover, just remember to never be carried away in giving dog belly rubs. Hence, don’t apply too much pressure that can pinch their stomachs,

Never Force Your Dog

A good rule of thumb is to never force an unwilling canine to play or rub his belly. Most of the time, dogs become aggressive when they’re forced to do something they don’t want to do. Also, that could lead to long-term anxiety and trauma.

Observe Whether Your Dog Likes It

Not all dogs like belly rubs, so it’s important to take note of whether your dog is up for it or not. Generally, dogs who love belly rubs will have a more relaxed posture. They will wag their tails, flop their tongues, and squint their eyes due to excitement.

How to Know If Your Dog Doesn’t Like Belly Rubs?

For most dogs, belly rubs are essential. Yet, for others, it can trigger bad memories or experiences. Forcing to rub a dog’s stomach area can lead to aggression and panic attacks. As owners, the main thing that you should look out for is posture.

Dogs that don’t like belly rubs will show tense body language. Well, that also includes a low growl or a fixed unblinking stare. Also, according to research, most humans fail to distinguish a play growl from an aggressive growl. As a result, many owners became victims of accidental aggression.

Moreover, excessive drooling, frequent yawns, and self-licking are signs of stress in dogs. Hence, when you notice your dog is like this, avoid petting him way too much. That is because physical contact can further irritate a moody dog.

Further, petting a very submissive dog may have its drawbacks. As owners, watch out for canines that tremble and hide behind furniture. Well, they’re usually the type of dogs that shy away from belly rubs.

Why Do Dogs Like Belly Rubs: FAQs

Not all dogs will roll over for some belly rubs. Yet, others are very enthusiastic about it. Hence, if you want to know more about the causes of why dogs like belly rubs, then read some of the frequently asked questions below.

How do you tell if a dog is enjoying a belly rub?

A dog that enjoys belly rubs will have relaxed body muscles. It will also have playful facial expressions. Moreover, the most important thing, dogs that demand belly rubs will not growl at their owners.

Why do dogs kick their legs when belly rubbed?

Dogs kick their legs due to their scratch reflex. This refers to their bodies’ attempts to subdue itching and irritation. To be more specific, a dog’s tummy has bundles of nerves that when touched, send a message to the spinal cord and make the hind legs kick.  

What’s the difference between belly rubs and submission?

Dogs that like belly rubs will show signs of tail wagging and even excited vocalizations. On the contrary, submissive dogs are those who show signs of fear and anxiety. Further, petting a submissive dog can make the animal more anxious.

Should I always rub my dog’s belly?

You should only do so if your dog permits you to. Well, rubbing a dog’s belly can calm them down, but too much of it can also cause problems. Take note that very long belly rubs can annoy or irritate a dog’s stomach area.

Is it a sign of trust when my dogs like belly rubs?

Yes, it is. Dogs don’t go around showing their bellies to everyone. For them, their stomach region is a sensitive part that can only be shown to trusted people. Moreover, for dogs not to get aggressive upon a single touch, it’s important to establish trust and confidence first.

Dogs are not just smart, they’re also meticulous beings. Indeed, most dogs like a belly rub, but that doesn’t stop them from being careful around people. Moreover, as owners, we must learn to understand different dog body languages. Hence, it’s important to note that tummy scratches should only be given to willing animals.

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