Why do dogs show submission? What to Know

Lying Belly Up or Rolling OverFor dogs, rolling over and showing the belly are signs ofutter submission and appeasement. But this behavior isn’t necessarily an

Why do dogs show submission?

Moving Ears Backward or Flattening Ears Against the HeadWhen a dog is relaxed, her ears are usually upright anderect. Although it’s important to understand that the position of her ears should be noted within the context of the rest of her body language, because upright and erect ears can also indicate that she’s alert and attentive. And all dogs are different — some dogs move their ears to the side when they’re relaxed. If she’s submissive, stressed or fearful, she

Why do dogs show submission?

How does my dog display appeasement or “submissive” signals?

Appeasement body signals are intended to communicate a reduction of a threat. These body postures are a dog’s way to help stop or lessen oncoming aggression or punishment by a more confident, bold, pushy or assertive dog. Dogs first exhibit passive submission signals as puppies when being groomed by their mother. The most subtle signal is the avoidance of direct eye contact (aversion of the eyes). This is a very significant gesture since the opposite of which (a direct stare) communicates a threat. It signals that the dog is putting itself at risk by not visually following a circumstance that could change rapidly.

Yawning and nose-licking are considered to be ambivalent behaviors, meaning that the dog is cautious, concerned, stressed, anxious, or has the potential to respond with aggression if the situation escalates or persists. In addition, dogs may also lower their ears, head and neck and may twist their neck sideways to look away. They may flick their tongue and often hold their tail low or between the legs. They may wag their tail but will often stop wagging or freeze when touched. These postures are often described as “appeasement” behaviors because they communicate a desire for the threat to stop and no desire for confrontation. In dog language, these postures are very clear and logical signals.

Progression of submissive signals includes: low crouching, raising a front paw, lying down, and rolling over to expose the abdomen. This behavior developed from puppyhood when a pup would present to an adult in the group. Puppies need an opportunity to learn and practice the skill of canine communication with friendly, social adult dogs. Rolling over is often a sign of extreme submission and may involve urination. Submissive rolling can be a sign of fear and/or deference and should not be misinterpreted as stubbornness or solicitation of petting. Some dogs have learned to enjoy petting on the belly and will present the abdomen to invite this attention; to determine the dog’s motivation, you have to look at the other signals he is displaying. The ultimate goal of submissive posturing is to decrease any sign of perceived threat. Other dogs read these signals as a reason to be calm and relax.

Dog Behavior. Alpha vs Submissive

Dog communication uses most of the senses, including smells, sounds and visual cues. Pheromones, glandular secretions, barks, whines, yips, growls, body postures, etc., all serve as effective means of communication between dogs. Unlike in people, canine body postures and olfactory (scent) cues are significant components of dog language and vocal communications are less significant. People are listeners; dogs are watchers. Another major difference between human and canine communication is the type of information communicated. Language enables humans to communicate very specific messages. Dog communication involves the use of characteristic body posturing and shows emotional states, but not always specific intent or actions. Communication between dogs and people does not occur through a tangible “language” so the messages that are shared across species tend to be more general in nature or can be missed or misinterpreted. For family members who want to understand their dog’s behavior, recognition of these body signals can serve as a useful tool for interpreting “dog language.” Just like people, some dogs are better communicators than others. Things to watch for when dogs communicate are primarily body language and posturing, including position of the head and neck, position of the ears, tail position and activity, raised hair over shoulders or back, position of eyes and ears, facial expressions, and vocalization.

Conflict-related behaviors arise when a dog is faced with contradictory and perhaps competing motivations. For example, a dog may wish to be near his owner yet may be fearful of the child on his lap. Your dog may feel conflicted when he perceives that situation as confrontational, or when he cannot predict what is going to happen next. The dog may be motivated to retreat and remain – both at the same time. This internal conflict affects how a dog responds, and can be shown through characteristic body postures that serve as signals to communicate with other dogs. If the situation allows, dog body language is communicated on a graduated scale. Benign, subtle postures usually come before more aggressive, bold communications, but an individual dog may skip subtle signals or progress through graduated signals extremely rapidly depending on his perception of the situation and past experiences. Other dogs may show subtle anxiety or conflict signs while never escalating to an aggressive event. Warning signs or threats typically present first. How well these signs can be read by people varies both in the dog’s skill at expressing himself and the humans’ skilful attention to these cues. Though any presentation may escalate up to an attack with little or no warning, there are often signs of conflict, stress, anxiety or aggression that preceded the aggressive event.