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When Dogs Roll Over for “Belly Rubs,” What Does it Really Mean?



In my latest episode of the Dog Aggression Answers podcast, I delve into the complexities of canine aggression, focusing on the mixed signals dogs exhibit, like rolling over for a belly rub while simultaneously displaying aggression towards certain people. I explain that a dog’s decision to roll over is often a sign of fear or submission, not an invitation for affection. 

This behavior, known as ‘submissive rolling’ is classified as a ‘calming signal’ or ‘appeasing behavior’ and is one of the ways dogs indicate discomfort or fear, akin to a human’s gesture of raising hands in surrender. This is a misunderstanding where humans interpret this as a desire for physical contact, which can actually exacerbate the dog’s fear.

Further in the podcast, I explore the factors that influence a dog’s reaction to strangers, including the size and gender of the person, their movements, and how they engage with the dog. Dogs often find men more intimidating due to their size and their more mechanical types of movements. Interestingly, dogs may react more positively to people who show indifference or less interest in them, as their lack of engagement with the dog can be less threatening.

My advice to dog owners on how to manage interactions between their anxious dogs and strangers: my key recommendations include instructing people not to look at, touch, or talk to the dog and to maintain a distance, especially if the dog shows signs of fear or stress. This approach can significantly improve the dog’s comfort and behavior.

Don’t Forget to Explore & Subscribe to the Dog Aggression Answers Podcast!

If you find this episode enlightening, don’t forget to explore and subscribe to the Dog Aggression Answers Podcast so you won’t miss future episodes. Your subscription helps support the show and encourages the sharing of valuable knowledge that can make a world of difference in our interactions with dogs.

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