Why do dogs like belly rubs?

Every dog owner and dog lover has seen a dog go over the moon at having their belly rubbed.

Dogs seem to have a special love and need for belly rubs, and it is not only cute but also absolutely adorable.

If you have a dog that can’t resist a belly rub, it might interest you to know there are actual scientific and behavioral reasons behind it.

Read on for more belly rub facts.

What is Your Dog Showing when asking for a Belly Rub?

Your dog displays certain behavioral traits by asking for a belly rub.

It is actually amusing and heart-warming knowing what is going on behind this behavior. Here is what’s really happening:

  1. A Display of Ecstasy

Of course, you knew this but its always nice to know for sure.

The kicking of the legs, the goofy, funny expression on their face and the absolute bliss demonstrated by your dog spells it out clearly.

However, just like humans activate special nerves and neural connections while experiencing a massage, and hence experience physical pleasure, your dogs feel the same.

The act of belly rubbing stimulates special nerves and the hair follicles on a dog’s belly, causing them to experience absolute bliss and pleasure. This is why they come to you again and again for a belly rub. If that isn’t adorable we don’t know what is.

  1. They feel a connection with you

Not every dog will offer itself for a belly rub.

Dog owners and Dog lovers know this –a dog allowing you to rub their stomach is a dog showing they feel a special connection with you.

Dogs are generally vulnerable in the rolled over the position.

This position can cause them to compromise their authority among other animals, and allow others to take over.

So this is not a position a dog will easily lay in if they do not trust you.

When a dog allows you to rub their belly, they’re showing they trust you completely.It is also an offering of love and connection.

  1. They show their loyalty and submission

Everyone knows dogs are the most loyal friends you can ever have. And they display it in different ways. One of the ways a dog restates his loyalty to you is by asking for a belly rub.

Because a belly rub signifies a special connection and level of trust between a dog and its owner, asking for a belly rub is also a sign of loving submission and loyalty. They want you to know they trust you and are ready to be vulnerable with you.

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dog having belly rub


So Why Exactly do Dogs Like Belly Rubs so Much?

Dogs have an interesting neural makeup. For instance, did you know dogs have special neurons in their brains that are activated by the stimulation of hair follicles?

These neurons are only activated when the fine, small hair on a dog’s belly is stimulated through petting or a rub. When you rub a dog’s belly, the stimulation of the hair follicles on the belly fires up these special neurons in the brain- bringing on feelings of satisfaction and pleasure that a dog enjoys.

So the next time your dog offers you his belly, here is another reason not to resist –you are providing them with stimulation that is otherwise not possible.

How to Give Your Dog The Perfect Belly Rub

While a belly rub should always be administered if a dog is asking for one, there are some important dos and donts as well.

Here are some of the things you should take care of while rubbing a dog’s belly.

  1. Never be Too Forceful

If a dog is comfortable with belly rubs, he will offer his belly to you himself. And while you should oblige him at this point, never try to force a belly rub if a dog does not want it.

Studies show that if a dog rolls over on his back to offer you his belly, this is a sign of trust. But if a dog rolls over on his back instantly as soon as you walk closer, it is not a sign of trust but a sign submission which can be slightly different.

In such an instance, make the dog feel comfortable and regain his trust by talking to him –but don’t belly rub.

  1. Always Check if the Dog is Comfortable

It is important to check if your dog is enjoying the belly rub.

You will notice dogs often tend to viciously kick their legs while getting a belly rub. And this may lead you to believe this is an ecstatic response and increase your intensity of belly rubs.

However, this is not always true. Dogs kick their legs during a belly rub out of a physiological response that originates out of the tickling sensation they are experiencing. It is something involuntary and not in their control. So it is always important to check if the dog is still feeling comfortable with a belly rub and you are not over-doing it.

  1. Stop at Any Signs of Discomfort

Needless to say, if you see any signs of discomfort, stop immediately.

This is the appropriate, respectful response which should be practiced with the animal who chose to trust you and connect with you.

When you stop at signs of discomfort, it will further strengthen your bond with your dog and they will feel more comfortable with you in the future.

  1. Don’t Belly Rub if the Dog is Not Rolling Over

And lastly, if the dog is not rolling over on their own, don’t reach out to rub his belly in another position, or to coax him to flip over. Whenever they feels comfortable, your dog will roll over on their own and allow you to rub their lustrous belly!

We hope these were some interesting facts about dogs and belly rubs. Isn’t it fascinating to know the connection between these innocuous rubs and the neural and behavioral responses.

About the author

    Jenny Nolan

    Hey, I'm Jenny and along with Mom Sue the main contributor here at Cleaner Paws. As a mother-daughter partnership, we absolutely adore animals and together have over 40 plus years of pet grooming experience!

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