Why Does My Dog Like Belly Rubs So Much?

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Dog belly rubs

Does your dog flip onto his back every time you go to pet him?

It’s actually super common for dogs to show their bellies off to humans — literally begging you for a belly rub.

So you’re probably wondering: Why do dogs like belly rubs so much?

To find out more, The Dodo spoke with Lydia Hunter, a trainer at Dog Savvy Los Angeles.

It feels good for him

There are a few reasons why dogs like belly rubs,” Hunter told The Dodo. And since you can’t exactly ask your dog why he likes something, you can only speculate!

But an obvious answer is that “the sensation itself may feel good,” Hunter said.

When a human pets a dog, it creates a release of oxytocin (aka the love hormone) in his brain that makes it enjoyable for him. And if your dog really likes belly rubs, petting his belly might just release more oxytocin than petting other areas of his body.

Plus, rolling on his back might relieve any itchiness he has there. If your dog has allergies, for example, you might see him roll on his back more often than not.

If you have an itchy dog, he’ll love this “cactus” back scratcher for pets from Amazon for $12.99

And since your dog can take care of itching his back on his own (for the most part), it’s up to you to pet and itch his belly, since it’s a bit hard for him to reach.

It builds a bond with his human

Your dog might also like belly rubs because it brings him closer with his human.

Enjoyable physical touch can build trust and release endorphins, building your bond and making this behavior fun for both of you,” Hunter said.

Of course, any pets can build trust. But belly rubs are so special because dogs don’t just show their bellies to everyone. Since it’s such a sensitive area, exposing his belly can make him vulnerable.

So, take it as a compliment next time he goes belly-up. He’s telling you he trusts you and wants to strengthen that bond!

Do all dogs like belly rubs?

While it might seem like all dogs enjoy belly rubs, don’t be alarmed if you have a pup who’s just not that into them.

All dogs are individuals and, therefore, find different activities reinforcing,” Hunter said. “Like people, some dogs enjoy this ‘tickle’ or ‘scratching’ sensation, some don’t.”

You can find out if your dog likes (or dislikes) belly rubs by paying attention to his body language. “We should always look at our dogs’ body language for clues as to what they enjoy,” Hunter said.

How can you tell if your dog likes belly rubs?

“Those who like belly rubs will offer this to you on their own, their eyes will be relaxed and soft, with their mouth open and ... a wiggly body,” Hunter said.

Basically, if your dog looks like he’s enjoying himself while you’re rubbing his belly, he probably is!

You can also try something Hunter calls “the consent test” to find out if your dog truly enjoys his belly being rubbed.

“After giving your pup a belly rub for a while, calmly pull your hand away to see what they do next,” she said. “If your dog stretches toward you, nudges your arm or tries to get you to keep going, this is the green light for you to keep rubbing their belly!”

How can you tell if your dog doesn’t like belly rubs?

On the other hand, if your dog doesn’t like his belly being rubbed, his body language might seem more stressed-out.

“A dog who doesn't like belly rubs will show signs of stress or ‘tapping out,’” Hunter said.

Here are some signs that your dog isn’t enjoying his belly rub:

  • His body is tense
  • His ears are pinned back
  • He has whale eyes (you can see the whites of his eyes)
  • He’s licking his lips
  • His tail is tucked

“When in doubt, you can go back to ‘the consent test’ to see what they do next,” Hunter said. “If they get up, move slowly or show any of the stress signals, stop and find another fun way to interact with your pup!”

Does your dog actually want a belly rub, or is he being submissive?

“For some dogs, offering their belly is a sign of appeasement, particularly when accompanied by the stress signals mentioned above,” Hunter said.

A dog shows appeasement (or submissive) behaviors when he’s feeling intimidated or overwhelmed and wants others to know he comes in peace.

“They offer this when they are nervous, scared or are seeking space in an overwhelming situation,” Hunter said.

Lip licking, yawning and showing the belly are all examples of submissive behaviors in dogs.

“When we go ahead and rub their bellies in this context, we are doing the opposite of what they’re asking for,” Hunter said. “This results in more stress and is, ultimately, not a fun experience for them.”

To be sure your dog isn’t showing submissive behaviors when showing his belly, check his body language for stress signals. If he’s acting stressed, don’t rub his belly, and try to distract him with an activity he likes.

Why do dogs kick their feet when getting a belly rub?

“It’s a reflex!” Hunter said. “Dogs kick their feet during a belly rub as an involuntary response to the stimulation of sensory neurons on their skin.”

If your dog starts kicking his feet while rubbing his belly, you might have hit the right spot or found out where he’s ticklish.

“As always, it’s important to treat them as an individual and look to their body language to see if they’re having fun!” Hunter said.

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