I get asked “why do dogs do that? Roll on their backs?” a lot!
I guess my dogs do it…a lot.
Since I’m trying to build a positive image of the Dog, I didn’t have the heart to tell these innocent people that my dog is rolling on something nasty!
To be honest, my dogs don’t always scent-roll. In fact there are many reasons why dogs roll on their backs.
I guess the most basic answer is they’re getting an itch. Animals rub against trees, furniture, people, and the ground to relieve an itch. And yes my dogs also rub their wet heads on my bed cover, towels, couch, my pant leg, etc to dry themselves too.
What can I say? Animals are smart.
What about scent-rolling? People say this is a left-over behaviour from their ancestral links with the Wolf. It could be territorial or for practical reasons like scent-camouflaging for hunting. As far as the territorial theory goes, the Dog is transferring his/her own scent onto the object, marking it their own and it’s done on anything unusual (“not supposed to be there”).
The second reason is to cover up their own scent with something (usually) pungent so their prey won’t detect being preyed upon.
Many behaviours are instinctive, rather than for a modern-day purpose, as far as us humans can discern anyway.
Dogs lying on their back, ie showing their tummy, are displaying a sign of submission. Exposing their most vulnerable part of their body is like saying “hey, I’m no threat”. This is how Creamy actually sleeps but I think it’s for cooling down. Her body runs hot (and luckily for her, she has a thin coat for a Goldie). I chalk it up to a high metabolic rate.
Or she knows she’s darn cute. Either way, I’m happy that she feels secure enough to let it all hang.
But often Creamy will be off running and rolling around, wiggling like a crazy dog, all by herself. Far off from me, another dog, or anyone else for that matter. So I doubt that’s to show submission.
I did have someone thinking their dog was having a seizure, when she was enjoying a nice after-dinner relaxing roll around. A seizure looks very different.
Generally I reply to those who ask that my dogs are happy. And they are playing. In all honesty, I just don’t know. I tried asking my dogs but they were too busy rolling around to pay me any heed. And sometimes I just don’t want to know, because I’ll have to wash it off after.