It is no surprise that dogs enjoy a good belly rub now and then. It may even be something that they look forward to as some dogs are known to turn onto their back near you indicating that they want their belly rubbed. The reasoning behind this behavior is interesting, and it may be something you did not know before.
It may even be rewarding to have your dog demand belly rubs from you because it shows that they feel safe and comfortable with you since a dog’s stomach is a vulnerable area.
This article will provide you with everything you need to know about a dog’s fascination for belly rubs, and even look at some scientific points to ensure that you can understand your dog’s behavior better.
Why Do Dogs Like Belly Rubs?
1. It feels good
Dogs love belly rubs because it feels good. Giving your dog a belly rub feels enjoyable and calming. It shows that they feel safe by you touching an area that dogs will usually only show as an act of submission if they feel overpowered. It is basically like a massage for your dog and rubbing their belly can release the happiness hormone, serotonin which helps to improve their mood. This can also be why does seem to love it so much, sometimes to the point that they will roll over to show their stomach when they are near you, trying to demand a belly rub even if it is not the right time.
2. Stimulating hair follicles
The hair follicles on a dog’s stomach are sensitive. By rubbing them, you are stimulating a relaxing experience for your dog. Various nerves are located near your dog’s belly and by rubbing those areas your dog is getting massaged and a form of grooming. You may also notice that your dog’s leg moves in a fast motion when you hit a spot on their belly. This is a nerve reaction, however, it is unknown if it is an enjoyable feeling in dogs or not.
Most dogs love their owners, and better yet, they love getting attention from you. If your dog sees that you enjoy rubbing your belly and that it is one of the best ways to get your attention, then your dog will repeat this behavior several times throughout the day to feel your comfort. Interacting with your dog in a positive way that feels good will also provide them with comfort which is a good response for both you and your dog.
If you have ever scolded your dog for doing something naughty, or if you have walked in on your dog doing something they shouldn’t, your dog’s first reaction may be to roll over onto their back and show their belly. If you try to go near them or touch them, they may simply roll back over or move away from your touches. This can indicate that your dog does not want a rub, but they are rather showing you can act of submission and that they do not want any trouble from what they did wrong. Dogs are more intelligent than we think. Your dog may even associate exposing their bellies to make you feel sorry for them and think that they are cute, which may result in a less harsh punishment in their eyes.
When a puppy is born, their mother will clean them up by licking their stomachs and body to clean them. This is typically a puppy’s first bonding interaction with its mother. Grooming is a comfortable and loving interaction between siblings and their mother who will groom them several times throughout the day when they are still young. When you rub their belly or any other area like behind their ears, they are taken back to a memory when they felt safe and comforted by their mother’s touch. Since they associate you as their carer by feeding and providing for them, they naturally think that you may be grooming them in a parental way.
Dogs love to get an interaction out of you. Dogs are social creatures that thrive on attention, love, and care. Dogs can see how much you may like rubbing their belly and ogling over how cute they look in that position. This sparks a social response in dogs, and they feel that lying on their backs will get a response out of you to rub and cuddle them. This has a positive impact on dogs and allows them to get the interaction and attention they want from their owner while allowing the two of you to bond and form a deeper social connection.
A Scientific Explanation Behind Dogs and Belly Rubs
So, looking from a scientific point of view, why do dogs enjoy belly rubs so much? According to Dr. Peter Brown, a chief medical officer of a veterinarian service provider, explains that belly rubs are a comforting action. He also says that it is a good opportunity for bonding and forming a relationship with your dog. An anthrozoology instructor, Christine Case, says that the origin of belly rubs comes from the way humans have modified canine behavior over the thousands of years from domestication. Rolling on their backs is a sign of submission that they exhibit towards humans. So, it is difficult to say if they truly like it or if they have been trained to do so.
A dog showing their stomach to you does not always mean that they are searching for a belly rub or being playful. Some dogs may be showing submission to another dog nearby, perhaps trying to tell them that by being close to you that they do not want any trouble from the other dog. It is believed that other dogs in the household can get jealous seeing another dog near their owner.
Researchers from the University of South Africa and Alberta investigated the meaning of dogs rolling onto their backs to expose their bellies. They used 34 different dog breeds to complete this study. The researchers concluded that dogs may roll over when playing and that by doing so this position can be used to gain an advantage during play fighting. None of the dogs rolled over onto their backs in a submissive response to aggressive behavior, but they rather used it to playfully bite their component.
It is also thought that social grooming plays a role in the reasoning behind dogs wanting belly rubs from people. Not only that but it is widely believed by many experts that dogs do enjoy having their belly rubbed and it overall feels good for them.
What To Do If Your Dog Does Not Enjoy Belly Rubs
Dr. Peter Brown advises that some dogs who do not enjoy having their belly rubbed or get irritated by it over time may convey a different message outside of comfortability. This can include negative reactions such as biting, growling, or scratching their owner to say that they do not like this. Depending on your dog’s personality, some dogs may lick your hands first as a warning sign that they are not enjoying this activity. Some dogs will never show any interest in belly rubs, and it is something that must be respected. Although it is possible to train your dog to roll over for belly rubs, it should never be forced and there are many other ways to bond with your dog.
If your dog does not like its belly being rubbed, it is best to find another area that they feel comfortable being touched. Try and read your dog’s body language to determine if they truly enjoy their belly being rubbed, or if they are feeling scared and uncomfortable.
Christine Case says that past experiences can affect whether your dog will like or dislike the captivity. If your dog does not enjoy having its belly rubbed, it is not a cause for concern, and nothing is wrong with them. It is up to the individual animal to determine what they like. Most experts can agree that when dogs are asking for belly rubs, it shows how comfortable they feel within the family.
Should You Give Your Dog Belly Rubs?
There is no harm in giving your dog a belly rub if it seems like something they enjoy. If your dog is willing and comfortable to participate, you can give them a belly rub and see how they respond. If you do notice that they are in discomfort at any time, it is better to stop. Your dog does not need to have their belly rubbed, but it sure can be a good experience for them. Beware though, some dogs have been known to get almost ‘addicted’ to having their belly rubbed. Mainly in response to the release of serotonin and the massaging nature of the action. You may just have a dog that downright demands belly rubs from you while you are walking around the house, only to have your canine friend block your path with their belly up.
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Dogs like a belly rub for a variety of reasons and no one explanation applies to every dog. You know your dog best, so it is up to you to find the most acceptable reason your dog enjoys having its belly rubbed.
If done correctly and you both feel comfortable, then belly rubs can be fun and rewarding. Belly rubs are not harmful to your dogs and fortunately, most dogs enjoy having their belly rubbed very much.
Overall, dogs can benefit greatly from belly rubs and get the much-needed attention and comfort response from you, safely and easily.
What to read next:
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