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Do all dogs enjoy belly rubs?

The common belief is that whenever a dog flops on its back and exposes its belly, it’s inviting you to rub its belly.
In reality, this is not always the case. Dogs will expose their bellies to us for two main reasons:
  1. It is taking a submissive stance (also known as an appeasement display)
  2. Begging for a belly rub
It’s important to read your dog's cues before you go in for a vigorous belly rub - particularly if it’s a new pet and you are still getting to know each other.
When dogs are adopting an appeasement display, they are generally experiencing social tension and will try to diffuse the situation by showing that they are not a threat. Exposing their belly shows the ‘aggressor’ the most vulnerable parts of their body and therefore neutralises any perceived threat that may be posed. For this reason, if you rub a dog's belly during this display it can make them nervous and anxious and can even result in the dog becoming aggressive towards you.
Here are the signs of a dog in submissive display:

-        Tense body language including low body posture, crouching, freezing or tensing up
-        Lips pulled back and grimaced, or hard closed lips. Looks like they are smiling
-        Suddenly showing the whites of their eyes (often called ‘whale eye’) or squinty and tense eyes
-        Soft or subtle whining

Dogs who are cueing you to rub their belly have markedly different body language. Look out for:

-        Loose body posture
-        Relaxed and/or open mouth, usually with a floppy tongue
-        Bright relaxed eyes
-        Relaxed wagging tail

It’s also important to note that not all dogs enjoy belly rubs even once they accept you as their best mate (there’s no right or wrong either way). Learn to read your dog’s body language and continue to get to know each other. The most important thing to learn is to engage with your dog in a way that they enjoy and understand not just how you think they should be loved.