Why Does My Dog Lay Down When I Approach Him? (Explained!)

Understanding how a dog communicates has not been made easy by the dogs themselves. They tend to communicate in various ways, which can be confusing at times.

However, the most common way for dogs to communicate has always been their body language.

Why does my dog lay down when I approach him

Facial expressions, pity eye contact, tail wagging, and laying on their side/back are examples of body language used in communicating their feelings.

Our focus right now is why they lay on their back/side when you approach them. Dogs often assume this posture for various reasons; some sleep this way.

However, you have to try and understand the reason for that posture.

Reasons Why Your Dog Lays On Its Back/Side When You Approach Him

These reasons are; they want your attention, they need you to scratch an itch, an act of submissiveness, they want to play, showing you they trust you, they are luring you in, obsessive behavior.

They Want Your Attention

Dogs are creatures that behave like humans. That is the ultimate reason why they are man’s greatest friend; the behavioral similarities are over the roof.

As humans, when we are close to people we love, we always do things to get their attention. Kids would sometimes jump up for you to carry them; adults would stretch their arms out for a hug.

This same behavioral want can be found in dogs. To express their need for your attention, they result in the use of body language and perfect timing (which is when you are approaching).

They mostly lay on their backs when you approach them, telling you they need your attention.

They Need You To Scratch An Itch

Even humans – superior creatures to dogs, cannot get our hands to every part of our body. This same situation applies to our favorite pets.

Dogs sometimes lay on their back when you approach them for you to help them scratch an itch on their belly. It is almost impossible for them to do that themselves.

Moreover, their instinctive nature is to protect their vital organs (belly) at all times – this means they can’t allow just anyone to scratch the itch.

They always do that to someone they trust will scratch the itch and not hurt them.

However, in some cases, your dog might be trying to show you a wound it has sustained. It is just like, “Hey! I am injured. Can you get me checked out?”

Showing You It Trust You

As mentioned in number two above, it is instinctive for dogs to protect their belly. As humans, when something harmful is thrown at us or something is about to fall on us, it is instinctive to protect our heads.

This also applies to dogs. Most of their essential organs are in their belly. They are always instinctive to protect that area when they feel threatened.

When your dog lays on its back when you approach it, that shows it trusts you. It is letting it guard down because he trusts you will not harm it.

Moreover, even when something or someone else is trying to harm it, it trusts you will protect it.

An Act Of Submissiveness

In every family, there is always a hierarchy. There is always that one person whose authority is never challenged. In most situations, this person is the father.

Most kids will tell you they prefer their mum because they are scared of their dads.

Dogs, as well as humans, have that sense of hierarchy within them. Research has shown that dogs are always closer to the person who gives them food.

If you have a dog and maybe your son gives it food, it is expected that your dog will like your son over you. Your son will be the dogs’ playmate; he will be the one giving the belly rubs.

However, your dog will recognize you as the main provider. It will sometimes lay on its back when you approach it.

It does not mean it wants you to rub in its belly, especially when that relationship does not exist between you both.

It laying on its back/side means it is showing that it is submissive to your authority. It does not feel threatened by you; however, it is not entirely comfortable around you.

Situations like this are pretty easy to notice. When it lays on its back/side, take note of when your dog licks its lips or places its tail in between its legs. – this is a submission sign.

Do not go about rubbing its belly; it could get frightened and attack.

My dog lies down when I approach him

They Want To Play

The most important reason dogs lay on their back/side when you approach them is that they want to play.

Dogs enjoy it when your hands move smoothly along their fur; it gives them chills. They sometimes do this when you are already playing with them to give you access to their belly.

The favorite part of dog play is the belly rubs.

They enjoy receiving this as it helps them relax their nerve. If there is a play relationship between you both, then you should oblige its request.

Giving them belly rubs will strengthen the bond between you both. They tend to be more comfortable around you.

It Is Luring You In

Dogs rarely do this to humans, but there has been a couple of cases. Dogs are said to know when someone likes them or hates them.

If you do not have a playful relationship with your dog, avoid approaching it when lying on its back/side. It might be trying to lure you in so it can hurt you.

If you own an aggressive dog or an always anxious one, then you should be careful. It might just bite or scratch you.

Obsessive Behavior

It is also a rare behavior, but it happens. Some dogs get obsessive with laying on their backs or side unnecessarily.

If you notice it has become excessive, you should contact a behaviorist to put you through how to stop it.

It Is Sick

Most seasoned dog owners always know the behavioral pattern of their dog. As a novice, you must study your dog; read and understand its body language.

Dogs always have a pattern of how they do things. This pattern rarely changes, except for a few reasons.

They only change their pattern when they get scolded or they are sick. Most dogs, even when they are injured, do not change their pattern of behavior.

When you approach your dog, and it never lay on its back/side before, and it suddenly does that, something is wrong.

Try to understand the energy you are getting from the dog. An energetic dog that immediately lays on its back when you approach it shows it is sick.

By it laying on its side shows it does not have the energy to stand for long.

When you notice such, you should immediately call a vet and get the dog checked up. That dog might be sick or very stressed out.

What To Do If Your Dog Is Rolling Its Back When You Approach Him

There is no need to panic when this happens. Although, there are rare situations that call for professional attention.


As a dog owner, try as much as possible to read on dog behavior and gestures. Understanding these gestures and behavior will help you know their needs and how to satisfy them.

You should call in a professional in a rare situation where your dog is trying to challenge your authority—bath your dog regularly to prevent them from skin irritations.

These irritations lead to aggressive scratching, and this can cause wounds. Create a safe space for your dog around you. Let the dog feel comfortable.