Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.
I’m guessing that you’ve been wondering why your dog lays down when another dog approaches.
It’s totally normal, but it can be really confusing when you’re trying to get your dog to be friendly with other dogs.
The reason why your dog lays down when approached by another dog is most likely due to stress and fear. A dog that has a traumatic past or is not accustomed to being sociable will display behavior like this and become submissive.
In this post, let’s dig a bit deeper into this behavior and what you can do about it.
- Why Does My Dog Lie Down When He Sees Other Dogs?
- Other Submissive Behavior in Dogs
- Why is My Dog Scared of Other Dogs?
- How Do I Stop My Dog From Lying Down When He Sees Another Dog?
- How Can I Help My Dog Feel More Comfortable Around Other Dogs?
- When is the Best Socialization Period for a Dog?
- Why Does My Dog Roll on His Back When He Sees Other Dogs?
- How to Interpret Your Dog's Body Language
- Why Some Dogs Feel the Need to Be Dominant
- What Are Some Common Mistakes People Make With Their Dogs Around Other Dogs?
- In Conclusion: Reasons Why Your Dog Lays Down When Another Dog Approaches
Hey there, sorry to interrupt but I wanted to tell you about an online vet service I’ve been using for years.
An in-person visit with one is great, but it’s not always an option.
Now, thanks to technology, you can speak to one without leaving your home.
Alternatively, a vet can come out to you instead (exclusive to our readers: use THEVETS15 for 15% off).SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT HERE
Thank you. The rest of the article continues below.
Why Does My Dog Lie Down When He Sees Other Dogs?
There are a few reasons why your dog might be laying down when he sees another dog, some negative but also some positive ones.
What differentiates them is your dog’s body language which will tell you if they are fearful or just being playful.
Although some of the negative behavior can be concerning, you should know that they can be corrected over time (I cover that later).
Check out the possible reasons here and figure out how they relate to your dog.
Doggy says, consider reading this too: Are Vizslas Good Guard Dogs? Suitability for Your Family
Your dog may have been hurt by another dog in the past, and he’s now scared of them.
This is one of the most common reasons why a dog would behave this way.
Also, is this a dog that you have adopted from the shelter?
This is especially true for dogs that have been abused or neglected in their past lives.
They might not trust others and are afraid of them because they don’t know how to react when around them.
Similar to what they experienced in their past lives, dogs can be naturally timid too.
And when this is the case, they might be easily intimidated by strangers and other dogs, bigger ones in particular.
You should also consider the environment at that point in time.
Were there loud noises nearby? For example, construction work or loud children?
Is this a new place that you are visiting?
These factors weigh heavily in creating fear for a timid dog.
Lack of confidence
It can be because of how the dog was raised, or because of a lack of exposure and training to new things, including people and other dogs.
Most of the time, lack of confidence comes down to the fact that dogs are not socialized when they were puppies.
Not to mention that some dogs, just like us humans, are more cautious than others.
Do you what to do if your dog doesn’t pee while on a road trip?
Another reason why your dog might be lying down when another dog approach is that they’re trying to avoid conflict.
Dogs who are scared of other dogs may lie down to show submission or submissiveness.
They want to appear small and unthreatening so that they don’t get attacked by another animal that’s bigger than them!
Wants to play
On a more positive note, your dog lowering its body might simply be an invitation to play with other dogs.
To signal to other dogs that they wish to play, dogs frequently use “play bows.”
They will stick their butt in the air while lowering the front portion of their body.
Some might even wiggle their buttocks to emphasize the request even more.
When this happens, you will see that they have an upright tail, and their body language is comfortable.
Sometimes, the issue could have been created by us.
Think back to the times when your dog meets other dogs while you were out walking.
Did you try to make it stay still? Did you give it treats when doing so?
This kind of “training” can make them think that this is the right behavior you expect when they see other dogs.
Doggy says, consider reading this too: Why is My Puppy Walking Funny? [Solve the Mystery]
Other Submissive Behavior in Dogs
Laying down when other dogs come near is one way that your dog shows submission, but there are other signs of it happening too.
Keep a lookout for these behaviors in order to determine better how your dog is feeling at that time.
- Urinating a small amount
- Licking its lips
- Licking another dog’s muzzle
- Flattened ears
- Exposing its underbelly
- Avoiding eye contact
- Lowering its tail
- Smiling or grinning
- Putting its head on another dog
If you notice any of these actions, do not scold your dog! It is feeling bad enough, and by raising your voice, you will only add to its stress and make the situation worse.
Why is My Dog Scared of Other Dogs?
Dogs are social animals, so it’s normal for them to be curious about other dogs—and even excited about meeting new friends.
But if your dog is frightened by other dogs, it can be very distressing for him, as well as for you.
The most common cause for dogs to be afraid of other dogs is fear of being attacked.
This is an instinctive response that can be triggered by a number of things: the appearance (size) or behavior (growling) of another dog; unfamiliarity with the environment; or simply a lack of socialization with other dogs.
The best way to deal with this kind of fear is through positive reinforcement training and desensitization exercises.
Hey! Do you know why some dogs don’t walk in certain directions?
How Do I Stop My Dog From Lying Down When He Sees Another Dog?
The foundation of it all is to instill confidence in your dog, and the best way to do so is to socialize them early and give them positive reinforcement training.
To teach your dog the fundamentals of obedience, it’s usually a good idea to start with some dog training.
Take some snacks with you every time you go for a stroll to keep your dog interested.
Work on boosting your furry friend’s confidence while employing some simple commands such as “look at me” and “stand”.
He’ll start to feel more confident and less timid as he completes what you ask of him.
It’s crucial to keep in mind that patience is essential so stay composed!
Desensitization is the process of repeatedly exposing a dog to the frightening stimulus so that it loses its novelty and becomes normal.
However, you must be careful to avoid overwhelming your dog, which can make it feel unsafe or fearful of someone, somewhere, or anything.
Confidence-boosting games give your dog something enjoyable and worthwhile to concentrate on.
Furthermore, timid dogs can benefit greatly from games since they can learn new things without having to worry about any unsettling repercussions.
In other words, it gives them something encouraging to concentrate on right now rather than worrying about their surroundings.
How Can I Help My Dog Feel More Comfortable Around Other Dogs?
Start them out at a young age
Get them used to the presence of other people and possibly other dogs where they can spend time together.
If your dog has never been touched by anyone but you or someone else in your family, chances are they’re going to be less comfortable around strangers than they would be if they were used to being touched by strangers.
You may want to consider taking your pup to a training class where there will be other people working with them.
This will give them some experience with being touched by people outside of their normal circle of friends and family members.
Another thing you can do if you have other dogs is to let them share the same food bowl.
This encourages them to eat together and a simple nudge will correct any dominant behavior.
When you are out, keep an eye on your pup’s body language as he meets new dogs, so that you’ll know if he’s feeling uncomfortable or scared (e.g., his tail is tucked between his legs).
If this happens, stop the interaction immediately and try again later when he’s feeling more relaxed about it (e.g., after playing fetch for a while).
It is best to let your dog meet other dogs at a neutral ground, like in a public park.
When is the Best Socialization Period for a Dog?
The best time to socialize your dog is between the ages of three to twelve weeks.
The most crucial period in a puppy’s development in terms of social behavior patterns and learning occurs during the first three to five weeks of life, during the primary socialization phase.
Puppies pick up a lot of crucial behaviors during this period from their littermates and the dam, including social cues, fear learning, bite inhibition, social hierarchy, and preferred methods of urinating and defecating.
Why Does My Dog Roll on His Back When He Sees Other Dogs?
When dogs meet, they usually sniff each other and slowly circle around each other.
Some dogs will be more confident than others, but generally, the more dominant dog will stand tall and walk forward while the submissive dog rolls over onto his back and exposes his belly.
By lying down, he’s telling the other dog that “I’m not threatening you, so please don’t attack me!”
This is particularly important in situations where your dog has never met the other dog before, or if they’re of different ages or sizes.
How to Interpret Your Dog’s Body Language
To become a successful dog owner, it is important to understand our dogs as well as we can, and that includes interpreting their body language.
Since they can’t talk, they have to express themselves through their actions.
Some are more telling than others, while some signal problems that you need to resolve.
There are lots of resources available to help you out, including this article from AKC.
Why Some Dogs Feel the Need to Be Dominant
Dogs are seen as pack animals whose dominance is based on their instincts for territory.
This behavior is necessary for survival in the wild and persists even in a domestic setting, sometimes leading to undesirable behavior.
In fact, you can even witness this behavior when they are very young. It’s not hard to pick out the alpha puppy in a litter.
However, you should know that this usually does not become a problem unless you let it be.
Owners of pets unintentionally encourage the trait by failing to correct them when they first exhibit this kind of behavior toward humans or other animals.
Failure to correct them leads to a gradual escalation in their behavior.
What Are Some Common Mistakes People Make With Their Dogs Around Other Dogs?
Not watching body language
When it comes to interacting with other dogs, it is important to be aware of the body language your dog is giving off.
For instance, if your dog is tense or aggressive, keep a close eye on them and do not allow them to interact with the other dog.
Additionally, always ask permission from the owner of the other dog before letting your dog start playing.
Make sure you are always keeping an eye on your dog when they are around other dogs even if they are completely calm and non-threatening.
Assuming things are calm
Another common mistake people make when interacting with their dogs around other dogs is to assume that they are totally calm and non-threatening.
In reality, many dogs are tense and may even show aggression if they feel threatened or cornered.
It is important to be aware of your dog’s body language and react accordingly.
So if your dog or the other dog is tense, calmly bring it back over to you before allowing them to interact again.
Another common mistake people make is assuming that their dog knows how to behave around other dogs safely.
Many times this simply isn’t the case and there can be serious consequences for both parties involved if the rules are not followed correctly.
Always ask the owner of the other dog whether their dog has been properly trained before allowing your dog any interaction at all.
If you cannot get a clear answer, it is best to stay completely away from the situation altogether.
In Conclusion: Reasons Why Your Dog Lays Down When Another Dog Approaches
It is not uncommon for dogs to become submissive especially when they are around strangers and other dogs.
With patience and consistent training, you can definitely instill confidence in them and let them enjoy such interactions too.
You’ve made it to the end, but I hope it’s not the end of our journey. We want to hear your voice! Share your thoughts, problems, suggestions, or anything related to your dog in the comments section. And don’t forget to join our newsletter today too.