New research suggests that dogs aren't rolling over for belly rubs
Teaching your dog to 'roll over' is the most classic trick in the book, but while you might think your dog is showing you love and asking for a belly rub, a study of dog-on-dog play in Behavioural Processes says just the opposite.
Kerri Norman and teams of researchers at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta and the University of South Africa observed pairs of dogs playing in person and in videos. They set out to investigate the meaning and function of rollovers during play. They wanted to know whether "rolling over onto the back is really an 'act of submission' that serves to stop aggression, or is instead, 'executed tactically, for combat purposes.'"
Researchers examined 20 YouTube videos showing dogs playing together and 'staged' play sessions with a medium-sized female dog paired with 33 dogs of different breeds and sizes. Then, they sat back and observed.
Here's what they found: Of the 248 rollovers observed, none of the dogs rolled over in a submissive response to aggressive behavior by another dog. Instead, rolling dogs 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 in certain situations, when they are playing, the move can be used to give them an advantage when fighting back.
So when your dog rolls over with you, give the dog a bone. And a rub. But when you see him rolling over around other dogs, watch your fingers!
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