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Expert reveals why dogs love belly rubs and what it actually means when they roll over


Dog behaviourist and trainer, Adem Fehmi, explains what the behaviour of rolling over really means and the interesting science behind a good old doggy belly rub

Man and dog
Adem has featured on Channel 4 and ITV showcasing his dog training skills

There are many ways you can show your dog how much you love them and an affectionate cuddle is one of them.

We often assume that when a dog rolls over and kicks their legs in the air, it means they’re asking for a tickle – but this isn’t always the case.

Dog behaviourist and trainer, Adem Fehmi, who works with natural dog food brand Barking Heads, explains what this behaviour actually means.

So now you’ll know when to go in for a belly rub and why your dog enjoys it so much.

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We often assume this position means they want a tickle


Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Why do dogs roll on their backs?

There are a variety of reasons why dogs lay on their backs and kick their legs in their air.

Adem explained: “The behaviour of rolling over and exposing their belly often starts from submission, as this stance is a submissive position in dog body language.

“Us humans often see this as an invitation to stroke a dog’s belly, as if the dog is ‘asking’ us by assuming this position.

“Many dogs enjoy being stroked in this area and, if they do, a dog will quickly learn that they receive affection by rolling over. As a result, the behaviour persists.

Why do dogs like belly rubs so much?

It’s all about happy hormones.

Adem said: “Petting and grooming our dogs can stimulate our dog’s feel-good hormones (and ours too!) and, in return, can increase the bond between dog and owner.

“Some dogs may only roll over for a belly rub with trusted family members, others may be more confident and repeat the same action expecting a belly rub from humans they do not know so well.”

Not all dogs enjoy having a belly rub


Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Do all dogs enjoy a belly rub?

While it’s common for dogs to love affection and make the most of your attention, not all canines enjoy a belly rub.

Some may feel uncomfortable being touched on the belly, and it’s important to read your dog’s body language and know their mood.

Adem explained: “It’s important to remember, however, that a dog rolling over should not be taken as a sign that a dog definitely wants to be stroked, it can also be a way of communicating that they are unsure or fearful, in which case petting should be avoided.

“This is worth keeping in mind if unhappy behaviour follows.”

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