Books, blog posts, dog trainers, Cesar Millan, other dog owners, and anybody who has ever petted a dog will tell you that when a dog rolls over on its back it is a sign of submission (or the dog wants a belly rub). After all, when one approaches their dog and the dog rolls over (especially when it has done something wrong) the dog is obviously saying “You are the alpha, I submit to you.”
Ha! And I will say it again. Ha! Whoever came up with the math equation that states: submission = rolling over on back, has not lived with a Shih Tzu (or any other breed that is considered stubborn). Or if no other dog does that, they haven’t lived with my crew.
Scene: It’s morning, you can decide the weather. It’s time for the dogs to go outside. The three younger dogs go outside just fine…most of the time they do at least. Then there’s Haley, resting on her blanket. Her eyes are open, her head is down, and she’s trying to blend in with the Leopard prints.
Me: Haley, it’s time to go out.
Haley: *stares blankly*
Me: Haley, get out!
Haley: *continues to stare blankly*
Me: Haley Madeline Caleb get your Shih Tzu butt out of this house.
Haley: *ignores me*
Me: *walk toward Haley*
Haley: *rolls on back*
Me: *Pick up Haley and put her outside* See, now that wasn’t that hard now was it. *Shuts back door while Haley glares at me*
From what we’ve been trained to think, Haley submitted to me. She was telling me that I was the alpha and that she was nothing but a lowly puppy.
The only thing is, Haley is not a submissive dog. Many people have remarked at Haley’s dominant personality. At the dog park, she would make sure that the other dogs—specifically males—knew their place. She’s not the bad dominant that you see on those TV shows. She’s not a royal terror, but she does like things a certain way. Translation: Haley is me in dog form. It isn’t in her nature to “submit,” but it is in her nature to defy.
I know that when Haley rolls on her back she’s saying, “If you want me to do that then you better come over here and get me yourself because I’m not moving.” Then she makes it extra difficult to pick her up. She goes limp and allows her head to fall back; she becomes like a fourteen pound newborn baby. If I pick her up and set her on her feet, she will lay back down and roll back over on her back.
I’m sure some people would say, “Let your dog know who the boss is. You are the alpha dog; the leader of the pack.”
Shih Tzu are a special breed. If they don’t want to do something, no amount of stomping, begging, pleading, alpha rolling (oh wait, she’s already on her back), treating, bribing, cussing, screaming, crying, pushing, pulling, leash correcting, and so on can get the Shih Tzu to do what you want it to do. In my opinion, you don’t “train” a Shih Tzu, you learn what they will dog and what they will do it for and exploit that.
That being said, Haley knows a decent amount of commands and with speak and shake on command. Not because I have food in my hand, but because she loves me. She respects me. I am the alpha. I am her world.
Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!
So that’s my opinion on the whole lying on the back.
On a similar note, an article was recently published in Scientific America about why dogs roll on their back during play (http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/dog-spies/2015/01/09/why-do-dogs-roll-over-during-play/). If you have about ten or fifteen minutes, sniff your way on over there and give the article a read, not that it is anything we dog owners didn’t know already. Sigh, science is so far behind when it comes to the domestic dog.
So, until next time, keep showing those bellies and lulling humans into a false sense of who is really the alpha.