When a dog rolls over, sticks four paws in the air and looks up lovingly, few can resist rubbing his belly and telling him what a good boy he is.
But a new study says that a dog does not want its tummy tickled when it rolls over, and probably will not enjoy it – with most having learned to tolerate this strange human behaviour only because their owner seems to like it.
According to animal expert Dr Jill Mackay, this is just one of the many things we are getting wrong with our pets.
When a dog rolls over, it is an expression of trust but one which dogs evolved to show one another.
Although the dog’s stomach is exposed, that isn’t an invitation to go and stroke it.
Speaking about it at an advance talk on pet behaviour at Edinburgh International Science Festival, Dr Mackay said: ‘It is very common for a dog to lie down, show its tummy and lift its legs in the air, but that is not a request for a tummy rub.
‘When a dog does it to another dog it means “I trust you and I think you are a good dog to be around”.
‘So when a dog does it to a human they trust, it can then be alarming if that human invades their space and touches their soft, exposed belly. They have simply learned to put up with it.’
Dr MacKay, from the Royal School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh, said people mean well but can misunderstand their pets....