Why do dogs love belly scratches so much?

Kövess Péter

2024. May 8 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

Most dogs take particular pleasure in the scratching and stroking of their bellies. Now you can find out why.


When they’re in the mood, dogs will lie on their back and demand belly scratches, which they seem to enjoy endlessly. They probably do, but not just why you might think.

Most dogs love to have their bellies scratched and stroked

Why dogs love to have their bellies scratched

Scratching and petting the belly can be beneficial for the dog in several ways. It is not just a pleasant feeling, but a manifestation of socialisation. After all, when dogs play, they often want physical interaction with their “pack”, which in this case is humans.

There is a neurological component to the enjoyment of belly scratching for dogs. The specific neurons in the animal’s brain are activated when the hair follicles are stimulated, giving a satisfying sensation when the belly is being scratched.

So much so that it also has physical benefits: it lowers your dog’s heart rate and blood pressure.

This also works in reverse, so petting a dog lowers your blood pressure as well.

A happy dog

Strengthens the bond

Another physical phenomenon that happens during a belly scratch is that both partners experience a significant spike in their levels of oxytocin, also known as the love hormone, which increases bonding between them.

According to veterinarian Dr Andrea Bodó, dogs like to be stroked and scratched all over their bodies. However, their bellies are their most vulnerable point, so revealing them to someone is a sign of unconditional trust.

The expert also mentions another, more practical reason. While their back and sides are easy to roll around on, the belly area is difficult for dogs to reach and can be a source of particular pleasure.

Strengthens the bond between owner and dog

How to know if your dog is looking for a belly scratch

The dog often gives a relatively clear indication that it wants its belly scratched, but body language must always be interpreted in its entirety. Does it look calm? Does its tongue hang out? If the dog lets you stroke its head, it may then roll to the floor voluntarily and reveal its belly, leaving no doubt about its intentions.

An anxious dog, however, can also make a similar gesture to show its humility. This is why we need to interpret its behaviour in a complex way.

Touching it at this time can intensify the discomfort.

The role of breed is not negligible. Although most dog breeds tolerate this kind of approach well, there are some that do not tolerate the overexposure and vulnerability that the situation can bring. This is also the case with cats, who generally do not like their bellies stroked.

belly dog Petting

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