What is Rolling on His Back?

Dogs communicate in many different ways. The most commonly recognized way for them to communicate is through vocalization; however, their body language speaks volumes as well. Your dog will use body language such as eye contact, facial expressions, tail wagging and positions and exposing their belly by rolling on their back.

Dogs will roll on their backs for different reasons and they will commonly roll onto their back with all four legs in the air as they wiggle or sway. When your dog rolls onto their back, you will need to evaluate the situation and try to determine the reason they are rolling on their back. There are several reasons why your dog is exhibiting this behavior including:

  • Attention seeking
  • Scratching an itch
  • Showing their confidence
  • Regulating body temperature
  • Submissiveness
  • Luring in prey
  • Obsessive behavior
  • Play

Why Rolling on His Back Occurs in Dogs

Attention Seeking

Your dog will roll onto their back when they are seeking your attention or approval. They are happiest when you are giving them attention and they will relax when you give them a quick tummy rub or spend time with them. 

Scratching an Itch

There are certain places on a dog’s body that they simply cannot reach. Your dog may be trying to convince you to scratch an itch on their belly or chest that they cannot reach. They may also roll onto their back out in the grass or on a textured surface to reach an itch on their back. Skin irritation, allergies, external parasites and dry skin can cause your dog to try to scratch an itch by rolling on their back.

Regulate Body Temperature

People recognise  that dogs regulate their body temperature by panting and finding cool spots to rest. On top of this, dogs will also roll onto their backs and expose their belly to cool off. 

Show Confidence

Many times, dogs that are comfortable and confident will roll on their backs to sleep. This shows their owners that they feel safe and secure and know that they will be taken care of while they sleep.

Submissiveness

Dogs that lack confidence or have a submissive nature will show respect to a person or another dog by rolling on their back. This behavior communicates to the dominant person or dog that they are not going to challenge their authority. 

Luring Prey

If you notice your dog roll on his back and then make direct eye contact with you or stare with their body tense, beware and do not approach them. They are waiting to show their dominance and will most likely growl or snap at you when you approach. They may even bite you. This type of anxious dog will benefit from obedience school and/or a consult with a veterinary behaviourist.

Obsessive Behavior

Some dogs will exhibit a constant desire to roll on their back and this could be a sign of an obsessive disorder. You may need to work with a canine behaviorist to show you how to redirect your dog’s attention and keep them from focusing or obsessing on rolling onto their back. This is are.

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What to do if your Dog is Rolling on His Back

Most times when your dog is rolling on his back it is nothing to be concerned about. When you notice your dog rolling on his back, take note of the situation to determine what caused them to roll. Ask yourself if they are seeking your attention, wanting to cool off, sleeping, submitting to your authority or trying to scratch an inch they cannot reach. If your dog is exhibiting signs of trying to be dominant do not approach them. Instead, redirect them to a different activity where they are not trying to challenge you. Seek the advice of a canine behaviorist or a professional dog trainer for dogs trying to challenge your authority and for dogs that are exhibiting obsessive behavior.

 

 

Dogs that seem to be itching constantly will need to be examined by your veterinarian. Skin irritations or allergies can become painful for your dog and will need to be properly treated. External parasites are more than just an annoyance; they can cause your dog to become sick. Your veterinarian will discuss treatment plans with you and help you choose the right one for your dog.

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Prevention of Rolling on His Back

Your dog rolling on his back is usually more of a behavior issue rather than a medical issue. Your dog will give you signals as to why they are rolling on their back and will communicate with you in this manner. If your dog is submissive, do not approach them when they roll on their back. Instead, call them to you using an upbeat tone to your voice and give them praise when they obey.

 

 

Skin irritation and allergies cannot always be prevented but as soon as you notice the irritation to the skin you should contact your veterinarian. If you know what your dog got into, let your veterinarian know. A gentle bath to remove any irritants or allergens will help alleviate the itch. Allergy medicine and a topical ointment are generally prescribed.

 

 

External parasites can be prevented by using a flea, mite and tick control product and spraying your yard with a pet safe pesticide for parasites. Most flea and tick preventatives are given monthly. Be sure to stay on schedule so they are fully protected. You can also add natural supplements to your dog’s diet to deter external parasites, though the efficacy of this is questionable.

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Cost of Rolling on His Back

Skin irritations and allergies can be costly to diagnose and treat. Depending on your location, it could cost from $300 to $2500 depending on the severity of the condition. Dogs suffering from an external parasite infestation will need to have the parasites eradicated, their yard and home environment thoroughly cleaned and sprayed with a pet safe pesticide that targets the parasites and your dog treated with a monthly preventative medication. Overall, the total cost will range from $90 to $200.

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Rolling on His Back Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Jack Russell

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Fourteen Years

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Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Itching

I have a 14 year old jack Russell for the past few days she keeps rolling on her back like every 10min. She is also biting around bum area. What could this be a skin infection? Or something more?

Sept. 24, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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2 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. I hope that your pet is okay. She could have a skin infection, or parasites. If they are still having problems, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment that might be needed.

Oct. 24, 2020

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Annie

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Shih Tzu

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8 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Whiney
Obsessive
Itchy
Depressed

Annie runs around anxious and rolls on her back when I take her on walka to itch but it's excessive. Recently we found fleas on her and shes been whining constantly and frantically running around and itching. We applied flea meds and even shaved her but annie still is keeping us awake by crying/itching. We tried combing fleas out too but she's still struggling. I saw that dawn dish soap works well but haven't had the chance yet. I feel so bad. What should I do? Also, annie was fine two days ago, we took her to a dog park and she stayed with my grandparents and then all the sudden there's fleas and shes going crazy. I'm trying to help my baby. What should I do?

Aug. 6, 2018

Annie's Owner

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1 Recommendations

You should bathe Annie with a medicated flea shampoo and then apply a topical spot on medication against fleas from your Veterinarian (pet shop products may not be fully effective). You should also check around your home to ensure that there isn’t a source of fleas which are getting to Annie, you can use a fipronil spray for this. You should also speak with your Veterinarian about Annie’s hypersensitivity to flea bites. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 6, 2018

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