Some dogs run up to their owners and lick them all over their faces but other dogs do just the opposite. You may know or have a dog that runs up to you excitedly then turns right around and presents their backside to you. Licks aren’t the world’s cleanest greeting but they can be a little more preferable than a getting a dog’s rear end in your face. Some people find this behavior cute, but most find themselves annoyed or frustrated at frequently being shown a dog’s backside. Whether or not you like this behavior, your dog might be trying to tell you something by showing its backside to you. Here are some reasons your dog might be turning away from you and what that means for you.
The Root of the Behavior
When dogs greet one another for the first time, there is an unspoken ritual that takes place between the two dogs as they assert their dominance over one another. This comes in the iconic form of sniffing each other’s rear ends. Located at the rear end of a dog is their own personal, identifying scent. It is this information that dogs exchange with one another when they sniff each other’s rear ends, and the order of the sniffing matters. The dominant dog always sniffs first, while the submissive dog presents its rear to the dominant dog to be sniffed. When your dog presents its rear end to you, it probably doesn’t expect you to sniff its behind but the act itself is a sign of friendliness, submission, and greeting to you in its own language. The behavior most commonly associated with presenting the backside to a person is a hip nudge, where a dog will bump up against you with its backside after presenting it to you. Though most people aren’t sure what to make of this at first, the display is one of passivity. It is a sign of trust. Your dog is trying to tell you that it isn’t going to attack you and it is showing you this by keeping its teeth as far away from you as possible. It is also making itself vulnerable to you, showing you that it trusts you. Though some people misinterpret this sign as a sign of aggressiveness and dominance, nothing could be further from the truth. The display is one of peaceful intention and the utmost friendliness. Of course, as the relationship between you and your dog deepens, dogs may find themselves with a simpler reason to present their backside to you. You, with your opposable thumbs and extendable arms, might be able to reach an itch on their backside that they simply cannot reach easily. This is especially true in dogs with fleas, so be careful to watch for signs that your dog is experiencing unusual itchiness or sensitivity. That being said, most dogs simply like to be scratched in this area. Itch or no itch, if you regularly treat your dog with this type of scratching as a reward, your dog may be presenting its backside to you simply for a good scratching!
Encouraging the Behavior
No matter what the reason for this behavior, it comes from a place of love and affection. Your dog is much more likely to approach you this way if you crouch facing it and greet it with positive calls and a relaxed behavior. Most people enjoy a calm, submissive dog, and if your dog is responding to you in submission, it is important that you meet it there and display signs of friendliness and kindhearted dominance. If you don’t want your dog to approach you facing away from you, try repositioning yourself so that you approach the dog from the side. This, as opposed to facing your dog head-on, shows friendliness and assertiveness without making your dog think that you are making an aggressive move. Trainers used to believe that dogs presenting their rear ends to humans was a sign of aggression or dominance but this has long been proven outdated. Although some people feel that a dog is pushing them with a hip nudge, the behavior is purely friendly. The worst thing that you could do is become defensive or aggressive to a dog that isn’t facing you. It is in many ways a violation of the trust and vulnerability that a dog is showing you through the behavior and may lead to anxiety or fear when approaching you in the future.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Although some people prefer that their dogs face them when approaching them, this behavior is not always positive. If you are trying to get your dog to face you when approaching and it turns slightly away from you or seems to ignore you as it approaches, your dog may be communicating strong discomfort with you. A dog facing you head on and making eye contact with you is a display of dominance, especially if teeth are bared. If your dog has its ears down and head stretched out low as it approaches you, this is a display of fear. Don’t mistake forward approaches for the friendliness that a rump shows. Dogs just have a slightly different way of communicating than humans do.
In almost all cases, if your dog is prone to nudging you with its rear end, this is a great sign of friendliness of affection, and should be responded to as such. Once you recognize this behavior for the wonderful sign of friendliness and trust that it is, you will appreciate it when your dog does it to you. Just remember that it might not translate the same way with other humans!