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The sweet, simple reason why dogs like belly rubs so much

Our dogs have us well trained. They roll onto their backs with all four paws in the air, prompting us to run our fingers along their soft, warm bellies. They wiggle and pant, with some even making a purring sound as they enjoy the massage. It’s so obvious from the look on their faces that our pups are in heaven as we provide them with our undivided attention. So, why do dogs love belly rubs so much?

Why do dogs love belly rubs?

Firstly, you should feel honored when your dog asks for a belly rub. Exposing their belly and neck along with other sensitive parts of their bodies to our touch places them in a vulnerable position. According to Hills Pet Nutrition, when our dogs roll onto their backs for a belly rub, they are communicating how much they trust us. That said, dogs also like belly rubs simply because it makes them feel good.

There’s a scientific reason why petting, including belly rubs, feels good to our dogs, according to Discover Magazine. Studies show that all mammals have skin-sensitive neurons that respond favorably to massage-like stroking. Additionally, behaviorists believe that dogs love petting because the stroking of hair is linked to social grooming in the animal kingdom.

There may also be a practical reason why our four-legged friends enjoy belly rubs. Think about how frustrating it is when you have an itch you can’t reach. You sigh with satisfaction when you finally reach that spot with a back scratcher or someone obliges and helps you out. No doubt there are areas of your dog’s belly that he can’t easily reach, and he’s thrilled when you rub that spot for him.

Dog enjoying belly rub.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Other ways to show affection to your dog

Take a short car ride

If your dog loves car rides, be sure to include him even on short trips. For example, if you’re going on a coffee run, choose a pet-friendly drive-through such as Dunkin’ Donuts, where your pooch will be treated to a munchkin donut. Also consider Starbucks to get a puppuccino, a small cup filled with whipped cream.

Arrange a playdate or walk with a favorite friend

If your dog has a favorite buddy, be sure to arrange weekly playdates. If you don’t have a fenced-in yard and decide to visit the local dog park, choose off-hours when the park is quiet. Not all dog park patrons are responsible pet owners, and you don’t want to expose your dog to unruly pooches.

Offer an extra five minutes of morning cuddles

In a PetMD article, Mary R. Burch, Ph.D., a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, recommends spending an extra 10 minutes first thing in the morning to cuddle with your dog.  This bonding time will help set the tone for the rest of your day, says Burch, and your dog will love the special time with you.

Keep your dog close

While not all dogs enjoy cuddling and kissing, most enjoy being close to the people they love. Be sure to invite your dog to sit beside you on the couch, or even on your lap if you have a small pooch. Many dogs also love to sleep with their favorite humans.

Woman cuddling with her dog.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Check-in with your dog during the day

Life gets hectic and we all get caught up in our busy schedules. If you’re lucky enough to work from home, be sure to take time out to pet your dog and tell him how much you love him. You can also offer a special healthy treat before returning to your desk. And if you work away from home, consider checking in remotely with your pup. You can even use a treat-dispensing camera, such as the highly-rated Furbo Dog Camera, which allows you to see and speak with your dog while also tossing him a treat.

In conclusion

Whatever special activity you choose, be sure to carefully monitor your dog’s body language for signs of anxiety, stress, or defensiveness. If your dog isn’t the cuddling or petting type, don’t force these interactions. Instead, consider taking him on a new and interesting hike or playing a fun game of fetch. In the end, what matters is that you’re spending quality time with your best friend by engaging in an activity that you both enjoy.

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Vera Lawlor
Vera was the pet columnist for 201 Family magazine and has contributed pet and animal welfare articles to Bone-A-Fide Mutts…
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