The bond that forms between you and your pet begins with a simple kiss and deepens as you continuously pet them. Your dog knows that when you pet them and sit with them, you are showing them that you care about them and that you love who they are. When your dog rolls over onto their back, they are asking for a deeper type of love and intimacy with you. Your animal is choosing to fully trust you, and they are choosing to fall into a vulnerable state. Yet, not all animals love their bellies being rubbed. It may be smart to understand the type of affection that your pet desires, so you can better take care of them.
The Root of the Behavior
Your dog knows that petting is one of the greatest form of love that they will receive from you, and their body reacts in ways that show that knowledge. The reason that pets tend to love you petting them is because their bodies will react in behavioral and neurological ways. When you stroke your dog, the movement of their hair follicles will stimulate a certain neuron in the brain, making the petting much more enjoyable. When your dog is on their back, the smaller hairs on their stomach will make that stimulation even more effective than normal. If your dog kicks their leg while you are rubbing their stomach, it may be a sign that they are enjoying your petting, and it may also be an automatic response to your petting, similar to a reflex response.
When your dog lays on their back to expose their belly, they are showing you that they absolutely trust you. Their position is of full vulnerability when you rub their belly. If you approach your animal and they immediately lay on their back, it may be a sign of submission, over desiring a deeper type of petting. Yet, if you are petting your dog and they roll over after a moment or two, it is probably for the purpose of having their belly rubbed. Your dog may not like his belly rubbed, and that may be due to behavioral characteristics. If your dog gives you permission to rub their belly, be gentle and see how they react and try not to overdo it, as that could upset the dog to a point of discomfort. Ultimately, you rubbing your dog’s belly is a bonding experience between you and your dog. When your dog feels loved and has a neurological response to your love, it makes his belly rubs more satisfying.
Encouraging the Behavior
Belly rubs can be a very important time for bonding with your pet. It can increase his trust in you and the love connection between you two will strengthen. If your animal enjoys belly rubs, there is no reason not to encourage it. It may be important to make sure they aren't always flopping on their back for health reasons, but if your dog enjoys your belly rubs, then rub away. It may be wise to also make sure that your animal isn't turning over on their back as a submissive response, where he may feel threatened or harmed in any way. Yet, you should be able to tell if this is the case.
When you rub your animal, start out with a gentle touch and watch how they react to the petting. Sometimes, if you pet their stomach too hard or too fast, they may feel uncomfortable and it can ruin the experience for them and for you. Don't push your dog to have belly rubs if they are not comfortable with it. This may be a sign of behavioral traits where they do not feel like they can fall into a vulnerable state of trusting. Working with your animal and connecting to their desires is important so you can strengthen your relationship.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Figuring out what works for you and your dog is what is best when it comes to petting. Your pet may love belly rubs, or they might not. Finding the type of petting or intimacy that they like is crucial, so both of you are having a good experience. If it feels as if your animal does not trust you or does not appreciate the petting, it may be because of behavioral traits or if they do not necessarily like that type of petting. If your dog shakes or twitches when you are petting them, it is a normal reflexive response, like a tickle, and you will know that they are enjoying the petting.