The Christmas gift that gives back: tummy rubs for dogs

Many dogs love tummy rubs. Teddy, our 4-year-old Lab, is no exception.

Just walk by him, and if you connect with his gaze, he’s got you. Big, round eyes with tail thumping — how could any softy resist? I can’t. My husband, Ed, and daughter, Jordan, can’t either.

Dr. Peter Brown on says tummy rubbing are soothing. “It’s an opportunity for bonding and part of our relationship with our dogs,” he writes. For new dog owners, there are many videos on the web on how to know if your dog likes tummy rubs and how to rub your dog’s tummy.

Experts believe dogs love tummy rubs because the stroking of hair is connected to social grooming. Dogs have a specific brain neuron that responds to the stimulation of hair follicles, Jen Gabbard says at

Teddy’s physical stance changes when his belly is rubbed. His eyes start to close and his breathing softens. The Lab’s tail stops moving and his muscles relax. His only deliberate movements come from his front paws. If you stop rubbing, Teddy touches your arm. A reminder to keep rubbing.

“Dogs expose their bellies as part of a submissive display, sometimes during play, and with people they are comfortable with,” Dr. Margaret Gruen writes at

Our pooch will also expose his belly to visiting friends and family. First, he brings a toy to “his” guest and tries to engage him to play. After a few minutes, the pooch will roll over, exposing his tummy with his tail wagging. I don’t recall one of Teddy’s guests turning down the opportunity to rub his tummy.

While the benefits of tummy rubs for Teddy’s are obvious, anyone lucky enough to rub his tummy reaps rewards, too. Many an event at our house has been started with guests giving me or Ed their coats and giving Teddy a tummy rub.

People seem to relax as much as my dog does. I’ve witnessed tightly wound men and women of every walk of life relax when rubbing Teddy’s tummy. Their shoulders loosen up and the tension on their faces seems to melt away.

Packages and purses are put down and ties are loosened. It’s not uncommon for our family and friends to sit on the floor next to the Lab to give a more thorough rub. Jordan’s friends will snuggle up next to him, all the while rubbing his tummy.

Tummy rubbing brings out a lot of laughter and smiling from those doing the rubbing and those watching. Laughing at Teddy’s antics to get the person to rub his tummy. Smiling at the pooch’s positive reaction to the tummy rub.

And there is always talking involved when rubbing Teddy’s tummy. “So, Teddy, you want a tummy rub?” “You silly boy.” “He’s hilarious.” “How’s that feel?” “You want me to rub a little longer?” “My dog likes tummy rubs, too.”

For those few minutes, the event, whether it be a meeting or a dinner party, is at a standstill until Teddy’s tummy has been thoroughly rubbed.

For me, rubbing Teddy’s tummy if a momentary stress reducer. It relaxes me and always makes me smile.

This Christmas, if you’re looking for the perfect gift for your furry friend, might I suggest if he loves tummy rubs give him a few extra. It’s the gift that gives back.

Five breeds that love belly rubs

1. Labrador retriever

2. Pit bull

3. Golden retriever

4. Dachshund

5. Bernese mountain dog


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