Submissive Dog Behavior – What it is and How to Fix It

Submissive dog behavior is not necessarily a sign that a particular dog is the submissive type. All dogs have this ability, even dominant ones. In some cases, the behavior is acceptable, but in others it is not desirable.

What are the signs of submissive dog behavior?

Submission is demonstrated in a number of ways. First, let’s look at the signs that are more indicative of a truly submissive dog. These are dogs that use this behavior to avoid confrontation. It is common among dogs that have been abused or that feel threatened, even when no abuse is present. For instance, owners who yell at their dogs will cause them to become submissive at least part of the time.

A highly submissive dog will do whatever necessary to appear small by crouching and cowering with its ears flattened against the head and tail between the legs to cover their scent glands and hide their identity. Many dogs will roll onto their backs with their eyes wide and protruding. The whites of their eyes becomes prominent and their pupils are dilated.

Submissive dogs will respond in a number of ways, including:

  • Jumping up
  • Hugging the ground (shrinking)
  • Tail between their legs
  • Licking people, usually on the face
  • Passing urine
  • Rolling on their backs
  • Offering a paw
  • Nudging their owners with their noses
  • Licking its lips

Now let’s look at the playful submissive dog behavior.

One common behavior that most people immediately identify as an invitation to play begins in puppyhood. They lower the front of their bodies, stretch their paws out and raise their rear ends high. This has been called the „play bow“.

Some of the above signs also indicate submissive dog behavior, but in a good way. Dogs that want attention will roll over for you to scratch their bellies, lick their owners, use nudging to invite a stroke or a game and jump up.

The difference between the two groups is that dogs that use submissive behavior frequently as a form of self-protection are intimidated easily. Dogs that use it on occasion are simply acting normally in an effort to get time with their owners.

How to stop submissive dog behavior

Sometimes, owners inadvertently encourage it. When their dogs roll over, they automatically rub it’s stomach. To stop this dog behavior, do not submit. Walk away and wait until your dog calms down before petting him.

Treat your dog with kindness. Be calm and assertive, rather than frustrated and angry. Use your normal voice, rather than yelling orders at your dog. Praise him when he does well and obeys. Ignore him when he doesn’t.

When he shows submissive dog behavior, like rolling onto his back, ignore him. When he changes his stature, approach him on his level – get down and pet him. He’ll soon get the point.

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