Dog behaviour: Play bowing

Dogs and humans have lived together  for thousands of years. Even so, there is still some canine body language that is often misunderstood by humans. One such instance is when a dog drops their belly to the ground when another dog approaches.

Why do dogs drop down when approached by another dog?

If a dog drops to their belly or dips their front end down while leaving their rear end up in the air when another dog approaches, you might think that the dog is acting submissive or nervous.

In fact most of the time this body language is an invitation to the other dog to play. The posture of dropping their front end and leaving their rear end up in the air is one that some dogs also use with us humans, and it's called a play bow.

When dropping down is not an invitation to play

If a dog's crouch is accompanied by growling, snarling, or laying their ears back against their head, they are not asking to play.

A slightly different behaviour, but still worth mentioning here. If a dog rolls onto their back and/or urinates, they may be feeling nervous or attempting to show submission to a new dog that they have not encountered before.

However, a drop to the ground or a play bow accompanied by a relaxed facial expression, wagging tail, and other eager body language simply means that your dog is excited to make a new friend and that they would very much like to play with them.

It's also quite common for dogs that want to play to also raise or extend a paw to the other dog in connection with dropping down or play bowing.