Your dog often flops on the ground when they see you coming.
Plus, they show you their belly too.
This is quite a sight to behold.
But it can also make you wonder…
“Is this always a good thing?
And are they trying to tell me something?”
Read on to find out:
- What makes your dog roll on their back.
- Why do they do this when they’re in trouble.
- Whether you should give them a belly rub or not.
- When you should be concerned about this behavior.
- 9 real reasons why your dog does this when you approach.
- And a lot more…
Table of contents
Why does my dog roll on his back when I approach him?
Your dog rolls on his back when you approach him because they’re asking for some belly rubs or inviting you to play. This can also be a sign of trust, submission, or refusal. As well as compulsive behavior if your dog does this at random times. But, their belly might be feeling hot or itchy too.
9 reasons why your dog rolls on his back when you approach him
#1: They trust you
You might be familiar with this postal acronym (or not) way back in World War II.
This is short for, “I Trust And Love You.”
And there’s a high chance that your dog only wants to tell you this. Especially if they have a relaxed facial expression while rolling over.
“Wait. What do you mean?”
When dogs roll on their backs, they’re exposing a vulnerable part of their body – their soft belly.
And it’s known that animals tend to protect this tender area from others. But, they’re doing the opposite and showing it to you.
Also, in this pose, canines are defenseless. As they couldn’t easily protect themselves against a nearby threat while lying on their backs.
So, dogs may only act like this to people they feel safe with. And for your pooch, that person is you.
Your dog’s comfortable when you’re by their side.
And they’ll likely sleep with their belly up too. Because they’re also confident in their surroundings.
In short, this is usually a sign of a strong bond.
So, pat yourself on the back since you’re doing well as a dog parent. 🙂
Interesting fact: Do all animals have tender bellies? Well, nope. Some of them have a set of bones named ‘gastralia’ that protect their abdomen. But, these are only found in dinosaurs. As well as certain reptiles, like tuataras and crocodiles.
#2: They want to play
“Uhm. You don’t know what this means?
It means I’m ready for some fun!”
Aside from showing their tummy…
Does your dog also have a wide smile and a wagging tail?
If so, it could be that they’re excited and initiating play.
So in this case, you may also see them running back and forth out of joy. And assuming a ‘play bow.’
“What is it?”
It’s a pose playful dogs do.
Wherein they’ll stretch their forelegs on the floor. While raising their behind in the air. Which can also be accompanied by a few barks which sounds like “Arr-rufff!”
This behavior reminds me of a report in 2018. Where a stray dog made a scene during a football pitch:
The dog in the video wanted to play so badly. And have their tummy rubbed.
Canines don’t only display this behavior to humans
Friendly dogs also roll on their backs when meeting other Fidos. And this is where they might have learned this.
One study says that they do this for the same reason – as an invitation to play.
And Scientific American adds that rolling over can also be a ‘self-handicapping behavior.’
Meaning, canines adjust themselves to their playmates to socialize.
Like when an older dog chooses to lay down on their back. So that other puppies could mouth and play with them for a bit.
Interesting fact: A wagging tail doesn’t always mean a happy dog. But, how can you tell if they’re in a good mood? Research found that it’s all about the direction.
Swinging their tail mostly to the left is connected to negative emotions. While wagging to the right means they’re joyful.
Don’t forget to check out: 19 Reasons Why Your Dog Winks (Back) At You With One Eye
#3: They like their belly rubbed
“Excuse me, hooman.
I’d love some belly rubs right now, pwease.”
Besides trust, this is also one of the common reasons why your dog rolls on their back when they see you.
They do this because they want to get their tummy rubbed.
Your pooch might be craving for some lovin’ and attention at the moment.
They simply like to be scratched there because it feels great.
So, when your dog notices you’re coming, they’ll immediately flop down on the ground. And gladly offer you their tummy. (Ta-dah!)
Their front legs will also be all folded up. As if they’re helpless and surrendering to you.
And canines know that this tactic works well for us. Because well, no one can’t resist a pooch who’s obviously asking for some belly scratches.
(Am I right?)
But, have you thought…
Why do dogs roll over for belly rubs?
Sure, these might be giving them some pleasurable sensations.
However, is that all?
A 2017 study discovered that when dogs are petted by their parents, their cortisol levels go up. As well as their oxytocin.
(Quick info: Cortisol is known as a ‘stress hormone.’ While oxytocin is a ‘love hormone.’ Which is responsible for creating deep bonds.)
So, physical touch and spending time with their humans make dogs happy. And the same also goes for us.
#4: They’re being submissive
“Hey, relax. I surrender.”
Dogs have ‘calming signals’ that they do to appease other canines. And your pooch might also show these to you to communicate.
Rudolf Schenkel, a zoologist, also suggested the same thing.
And he compared rolling over to showing a white flag. Which means surrender or ceasefire.
This is more likely if instead of wagging, your dog’s tail is tucked between their legs. While they’re displaying other signs of anxiety, such as:
- Licking of lips.
- Avoiding eye contact.
“But, why does my dog do this when I approach them?”
This submission doesn’t mean that you’re the ‘top dog’ in the house.
If your new pup often does this, it could be that they don’t trust you yet. And it’s understandable since they’re still in the adjustment period.
In this case, your pup will be anxious most of the time. And they may also skip their meals and refuse to drink water.
It can also be that your dog is uncomfortable with you or the situation at the moment.
Because they may have heard a sudden loud noise that startled them. Or you’ve scolded them or accidentally raised your voice.
Should I comfort a submissive dog?
Warning: Never attempt to pet an extremely anxious dog.
Because they might be intimated and snap at you right away.
- Avoid touching them.
- Don’t lean over or approach them from the front.
- Speak and talk to them in a soft voice. Reassure them that you mean no harm.
- Sit down (lower yourself) and call their name. Then wait for them to calm down and come to you.
Interesting fact: Can dogs tell if we’re in a bad mood or not? Oh yes, they can. Research shows that they know a positive emotion from a negative one. And they’ll also trust us less when they sense that we’re unhappy.
#5: They’re being stubborn
“I don’t want to!”
When does your dog often do this?
Because it might also be a sign of refusal. Or they think it’s some sort of a game.
If your dog doesn’t like putting a harness on. And then they see you walking towards them with one on hand, they may roll on their back.
My dog, Lissa, does this before a walk sometimes. It’s amusing to watch.
Dogs who act like this move a lot and refuse to get up. As a way of telling you, “I don’t like to wear it, Mom/Dad.”
This could also be the case before bath time (the thing most dogs dislike). Or when you’re about to get them to come inside the house.
They’re playing hard to get as they probably want more playtime outside.
Are you having some trouble with the harness?
Read this article next: The Ideal “Puppy Harness Age” (9 Benefits & 9 Tips)
#6: They surrender
“I’m just trying to be a good dog.”
I’m talking about a different kind of ‘surrender’ here. And it’s not being submissive or frightened.
In this case, your pooch might only be allowing you to do whatever you want. Unlike the previous reason.
And they’re only being a good boy or girl. (Praise them for this!)
For example, your dog knows that a harness means a walk or a fun time outside.
So they happily lay on their back and don’t move when you go to them. Which lets you put the harness with ease.
This is probable if your dog is already used to wearing one. Or you’ve successfully associated the harness with a positive experience.
Interesting fact: Some people say that rolling over your dog by yourself can cause bloat. But, a study claims that it’s not. Because none of the 90 dogs in the experiment experienced this. So rolling over your dog manually (if necessary) is considered safe.
#7: They feel hot
“My tummy’s so hot. I’m just gonna flip over.
I hope you don’t mind.”
Sometimes, this could also be a coincidence.
Your dog might only be trying to cool their belly because it’s warm.
You can tell if a canine is regulating their body temperature if they’re panting at rest. And finding cool spots.
Warning: Sudden panting in dogs can also be alarming. Because this could be due to pain or hormonal imbalances. And flat-faced dogs like Pugs may experience overheating.
You might also like: Why do dogs sleep with their tongues out?
#8: They have OCD
“I can’t stop myself from doing this.”
Does your dog always seem to have an urge to roll over?
Even though you’re sure that there’s no reason for them to do this at all?
Well, this might be a rare case…
But, it could also be that your dog has an obsessive-compulsive disorder a.k.a. OCD.
According to PetMD, this condition is characterized by repetitive actions. Such as:
“Oh no. What may have caused this?”
Vets say that OCD can be due to:
- A painful illness.
- Long confinement.
- Aging-related problems.
Note: This is usually treated by anti-anxiety medications. But these alone aren’t enough to solve this. So they’re also taken along with behavioral modification or therapy.
Check out also: Why does my dog rub itself on the carpet?
#9: They want you to scratch an itch
“Help! Over here, hooman.”
Aside from belly rubs, your dog might also be asking you a favor.
And it’s to scratch their itchy chest or tummy.
These are places that dogs may have trouble reaching. So if they feel an itch there, they definitely need a lending hand.
Speaking of itchiness…
Your dog can also rub their back on the grass, ground, or carpet. And they do this to somehow relieve the discomfort in the area.
Warning: Does your dog do this way too often? If so, inspect their skin and fur. They might have skin irritation from allergies, poor diet, or parasites.
For further reading: Why does my dog act like something is biting her?
#BONUS: They want some rewards
“Aha! I know just what to do.”
Lastly, is your dog a master of the ‘play dead’ command?
Well, because they may also be doing this to get some rewards from you.
Like a tasty snack (or high-value ones that you use in training). Or some cuddles and praises.