Don’t you just love it when your dog rolls onto his back while playing?
We think it is a sign of being submissive, but we may be wrong. Experts claim that by doing this, canines may be showing signs of aggression.
In a study published in the journal Behavioural Processes , experts revealed that dogs lie on their backs during a rowdy play session as a defensive maneuvre, or a useful position from which to launch an attack.
According to Kerri Norman, lead researcher of the study, t
hey observed 20 YouTube videos showing dogs playing together. Half of them were play sessions between dogs of the same size while the other half is between canines of different sizes.
Norman also set up ‘staged’ play sessions where a medium-sized female dog was matched with 33 dogs of different breeds and sizes. Their ways of playing were observed to see whether rolling is actually “executed tactically for combat purposes”.
They discovered that not all the dogs rolled over during the play. Only nine of the dogs rolled over in the 33 staged play sessions.
A total of 27 out of 40 dogs rolled over in the YouTube videos. Their action didn’t appear to depend on the size of the dogs playing together.
The researchers looked for signs if the action was linked to submission.
They also looked whether the maneouver is part of interactive play, which proceeds a dog lying on its back “launching an attack (offensive), evading a nape bite (defensive), rolling infront of a potential partner (solicitation) or rolling over in a non-social context (other).”
It was found that smaller dogs weren’t more likely to roll over than larger dogs.
They also found out that: “most rollovers were defensive and none of the 248 rollovers was submissive.”
None of the dogs involved in the study rolled over in response to aggressive behaviour by another dog.
Instead, the dogs who rolled over used their position to block playful bites and launch attacks on their partner.
The researchers concluded that while dogs may roll onto their backs out of fear when they are playing, the move can be used to help them when ‘fighting’ back.