Not to appear arrogant or boastful, but we at Holiday Barn consider ourselves to be experts on belly rubbing. Yeah… we pretty much wrote the book! When consented, our guests enjoy regular belly rubbings while they’re here on vacation. It’s kind of like us enjoying a good massage when we go on vacation!
Did you know that some dogs hate their belly’s rubbed? Unlike our massage, a belly rub can be very stressful to our canine guests. As always in a dog’s world, there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.
When a Belly Rub Welcomed
Okay, it’s true, for most dogs, belly rubbing is the most wonderful thing EVER! Scientifically explained, each hair follicle on a dog’s body is attached to neurons in the brain. When the belly hairs are rubbed and follicles incited, it is stimulating a part of his brain. Some believe that the skin in this area is more sensitive than other parts of the body. We do know that it’s difficult for our dogs to scratch or rub that area, so when we do it for them, it’s blissfully satisfying. Downright intoxicating.
When a Belly Rub Unwelcomed
On the flip side (no pun intended), some dogs just don’t like to have their belly’s rubbed. In a dog’s world, laying on their back is putting themselves in a vulnerable position. It’s a sign of submission and sometimes a sign of fear. This vulnerability may cause anxiety or stress. Another reason a dog may not like to have their belly rubbed is because they are uncomfortable with their surroundings (including people). If he does not feel safe, he will not feel relaxed enough to lay on his back.
So you approach a dog and he flips over and exposes his belly to you. What do you do?
Watch Your Dogs Body Language
Look for signals. Are his eyes soft and calm? Mouth open…tongue hanging out maybe? Is his body losey-gosey? Are his legs relaxed? Then he probably would welcome a nice belly rub. What if he’s on his back but his tail is tucked, their body is rigid, neck and face are stiff and his ears are lowered? These are not “welcoming” signs. He is probably asking you to “back off”. Additionally, if he does a quick flip to his back, that in itself is a warning sign. He is letting you know that he wants no interaction. Give him his space.
That’s NOT the spot!
Here is something interesting… Have you ever seen a dog enjoying a belly rub when all the sudden his leg starts twitching or kicking? People will say, “That’s the spot, huh Fido?” Guess what? That is an involuntary scratch reflex and it is very unpleasant and irritating to him! When this happens, your belly rub is activating nerves under his skin that feels kind of like he has a flea, or something else irritating. The body’s “kicking” response is in an attempt to rid itself of the irritant. Poor Fido!
Okay, now you approach a cat and he flips on his back and exposes his belly to you… Oh, that’s a subject for a whole other blog… But here’s a hint: Don’t rub that belly!