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Why Do Dogs Love Belly Rubs? Vet-Approved Interaction Facts & FAQ

Written by: Jordyn Alger

Last Updated on June 20, 2024 by Dogster Team

Dog Owner Belly Rub Couch

Why Do Dogs Love Belly Rubs? Vet-Approved Interaction Facts & FAQ


Dr. Luqman Javed Photo


Dr. Luqman Javed

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Our dogs have us wrapped around their paws. You know it’s time for a belly rub when your dog flops on their back and looks at you with those big, pleading eyes. What’s so appealing about belly rubs? What makes their tails wag, and their tongues loll with excitement? In short, it just feels good both physically and mentally!

In this article, we’ll discuss why belly rubs are so special to dogs and answer other burning questions about your dog and their tummy.

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Why Dogs Love Belly Rubs

Belly rubs hold a special place in your furry friend’s heart. In 2015, a study discovered that dogs experienced health benefits when being petted by their favorite humans.1 Just 3 minutes of physical contact can increase oxytocin (happiness hormones), decrease cortisol (stress hormones), and even alter a dog’s heart rate. Even better, the human doing the petting experiences similar benefits!

While most dogs prefer to be petted by their favorite human, many benefit even when other people pet them. One study found that shelter dogs who were petted for as little as 15 minutes were much more easily calmed.2

Basically, dogs love belly rubs because it makes them feel good!

Image Credit: Bogdan Sonjachnyj, Shutterstock

Does Your Dog Want a Belly Rub? Here’s How You Can Tell

Most dogs love belly rubs, but that doesn’t mean they want one every second of the day. Many owners have an intuitive sense of when their dog wants a belly rub, and dogs have learned how to ask for what they want by grabbing their owner’s attention.

If your dog is exposing their tummy, it’s a pretty good sign that they want a belly rub. However, that’s not always the case. Sometimes, dogs roll on their back not for belly rubs but to show submission and prove that they aren’t a threat. In that instance, it isn’t likely that your dog is looking for physical affection.

Keep an eye on your dog’s body language to determine whether or not they are requesting a belly rub. If your dog doesn’t want to be touched, you may notice the following:

  • Shying away from your hand or otherwise avoiding your touch
  • Flattened ears pointed backward
  • Tense muscles
  • Closed mouth
  • Tail tucked between legs
  • Refusal to meet your gaze

Once you notice any of these signs, back away from your dog and give them space. When they are feeling up to a tummy rub, they’ll look much more relaxed and happier.

If your dog continues to avoid your touch for more than a day, it may indicate that they are in pain. You can contact your vet to rule out an injury or illness and schedule an appointment.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Does talking about dogs and belly rubs ever get old? Not likely! If you want to learn more about your dog and their tummy, look at these frequently asked questions below.

Do All Dogs Love Belly Rubs?

While belly rubs are popular among dogs, not all dogs enjoy them. The tummy is a vulnerable spot for dogs, and some may view a harmless belly rub as a threatening attack. If your dog never seems to enjoy belly rubs, it’s best to avoid them.

If your dog is among those who shy away from belly rubs, there are plenty of other ways to express your affection for them. You can give them ear scratches, head pats, and other forms of physical affection they enjoy.

dog being tickled by owner
Image Credit: aminahus, Shutterstock

What Do Belly Rubs Feel Like for Dogs?

Belly rubs are generally considered a pleasant experience for dogs, assuming that they enjoy that sort of affection. But what do they feel like? That’s a question we may never have the answer to since we can’t ask our dogs and have a conversation about it. However, we can make some educated guesses on the subject.

The fact that many dogs get excited about belly rubs suggests that gentle touches on their tummies feel good. Some dogs may even look half asleep partway through a belly rub, leading some to believe that the experience is like a massage for humans.

How Do You Give Your Dog a Perfect Belly Rub?

Sadly, there is no perfect belly-rubbing tactic. However, as your dog’s caretaker and best friend, you know more about them than anyone else. With enough time, you can learn how to give them the best belly rub possible by hitting their favorite spots.

While giving your dog a belly rub, remember to use gentle motions. The stomach is sensitive, and rough touches may not sit well with your dog. Stay away from the nipples to avoid snagging them, and don’t focus on one spot for too long. Other than that, you will know your dog’s preferences best, so trust in your instincts and focus on the areas you think they’ll like having rubbed.

dog lying on the grass showing its belly
Image Credit: Daxiao Productions, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

Belly rubs are a favorite among many dogs. They feel good, and they come from their beloved human, so what’s not to love? If belly rubs aren’t your dog’s thing, there are plenty of other ways to express your love.

Playtime, treats, and verbal praise are all great ways to show your dog how much they mean to you. In the end, if your dog feels loved, the gesture of affection is a success.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Evelyn Chou, Shutterstock

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