Why Do Dogs Like Belly Rubs?

By Aviram K.
Published in Training & Behavior
November 4, 2020
2 min read

Belly rubs are amazing. We love seeing our beloved dog gets enjoyment from the scratching. The act of belly rubbing builds trust and is enjoyable for all parties involved - both the human and the dog. Why do dogs like their belly rubbed, though? There are a couple possible reasons.

It Simply Feels Good

Belly rubs and pets, in general, are incredibly satisfying. Even as a human.

Research has shown that human-dogs interaction promotes an increased level of the love and bonding hormone, also known as oxytocin . This is the same hormone released when two lovers gaze into each other’s eyes or when a mother cuddles her baby. Its benefits are numerous, including an elevated mood for both parties.

Dogs also have a particular neuron in their brains that responds positively when the small hairs on their tummy are being gently touched.

…My Dog Is Kicking His Legs, It Must Mean He Is Enjoying Himself, Right?

Not necessarily. Leg kicking is cute and funny, but it isn’t necessarily a sign of enjoyment. Most of the time, it’s actually an uncontrollable scratch reflex. The same reflex that is activated when the doctor performs a knee reflex test on you.

They Can’t Scratch Their Own Belly

How wonderful is when somebody scratches your back, huh? You don’t want it to never end, and you wish it to continue when it does. We can’t reach our backs, and therefore can’t satisfy an itch on there. Dogs are the same, except their limbs can’t physically get to their bellies as well. They need an external object for that, namely you, the human in this case.

Sometimes It’s a Submissive Gesture

Sometimes it only seems that the dog is enjoying himself. In reality, if the dog’s body language isn’t compatible with enjoyment, he could be in a fearful state instead. Dogs will sometimes lie on their back and become vulnerable by presenting their bellies as a submissive gesture. In that case, it doesn’t mean they want a belly rub. Instead, they try to make themselves look harmless to avoid physical confrontation with you, the leader.

Don’t rub their bellies when they are in this state. If you do, it could make them more anxious.

Not All Dogs Like Belly Rubs

Some dogs seem to love belly rubs! But as good as belly rubs are, some other dogs don’t seem to like them much. If your dog doesn’t like belly rubs, it’s not a sign to be worried about. Sometimes it’s an individual preference, and sometimes it’s just a sign of a lack of trust. Try building more trust with your dog, and with time, he may start to like those belly rubs.

Don’t force it, though. Always let your dog come to you to ask for them or happily expose his belly on his own.


Dog Behaviors

Related Posts

Why Do Dogs Nibble?
March 2, 2021
4 min

Aviram K.

Dog Behaviorist & Founder

Related Posts

Why Do Dogs Nibble?
March 2, 2021
4 min
© 2021, All Rights Reserved.

Quick Links


Social Media