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Dog Behaviour: Why Does My Dog Roll on His Back When He Sees Other Dogs?

If you have spent time around dogs, you may have come to notice that all dogs communicate through body language. Understanding body language and the meanings behind their actions can help open your eyes to what our dogs are trying to tell us and others they meet. Many owners may have at some point encountered an interaction between dogs where one may behave in a somewhat peculiar way by lowering its body and rolling over. It may be seen when a dog encounters a new dog at a park or during a walk. It can also be common to see this between regular play mates.

Is it playing dead?

Is it letting the other dog examine it?

Is it terrified?

This particular behaviour that you may have witnessed is a non-threatening form of behaviour. It is your dog’s way of saying I am not a threat to you. Many interpret it as submission but often dogs are not submitting to a superior, but rather letting the other dog know they are not there to harm them.

What Is Appeasement Behaviour?

Appeasement behaviours will often be displayed when one dog is communicating that they are “non-threatening” or that they “come in peace”. To appease is to pacify and calm a situation which is essentially what our dogs are doing. If they are being reprimanded by their owner, you may have also noticed them roll over as if to prepare for belly rubs; this is pacifying the situation.

Appeasement behaviours can look like many things including licking of the muzzle, nose or tongue, licking the face, lowering body language, turning away, exposing its belly, and rolling over. This can be seen during introductions; one dog may lower its body and roll over around another dog to let them know their intentions and that they are not a genuine threat.

In some situations, your dog may display this behaviour to a dog that is displaying frustration towards them. Many dogs (not all) would rather avoid conflict, therefore they will use appeasement behaviour to avoid a confrontation with another dog.

You may also find that this behaviour happens a lot when they are younger but as they get older you don’t see them doing it as often as once before. As a dog grows into its prime of life you may notice that it is not as scared of conflict and is no longer prepared to do anything to avoid conflict as once before. Many owners notice this change around the age of 2 years in dogs.

Is Appeasement Behaviour A Bad Thing?

The short answer is no.

Just like humans, some dogs are introverts, extroverts, over-bearing, quiet, and shy. We are all unique and the same concept applies to our dogs.

We must remember that like us, our dogs have their own personality too and despite us wanting our dogs to be a certain way we cannot alter their personality. Some owners wish their dog was more outgoing or in others less outgoing, regardless of what you wish, your dog cannot be something they are not.

There are circumstances where certain behaviours are an indication of lack of confidence, poor socialisation or no clear boundaries and this comes with its own set of complex issues including fear, aggression, anxiety, and stress.

Should We Begin To Build Confidence?

Promoting calm, relaxed and confident behaviour in our dogs is something that should be implemented the moment you bring your puppy home and continue through the duration of their life.

Positive experiences in new environments, rewarding confident behaviour and ignoring fearful or anxious behaviour’s will shape a more resilient dog.

Found By The Hound specialise in trouble hooting problem behaviours and can work with you and your dog to help build their confidence. We can also help you identify which behaviours are related to your dog’s specific personality and genetics vs what is a learned behaviour that can be helped via training.

1 Comment

Dennis P. Ginther
Dennis P. Ginther
Jan 19

If you really want to get to know your dog. Talk to them all the time. I have talked to my dog and taught him so many things. When we go for walks. I stop him at every curb and tell him to look for cars. He does and won't enter the street on his own. It's like a river he can not cross. I always, when we turn a corner. Say, Go left, go right. Now it's natural to him. I talk to him about what his ears, nose, his paws, tail, chin, teeth, pee pee, butt. So if he should get hurt. I can run each by him to see any change in his demeanor. I'm now trying…

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