It is a story that trainers often hear: “My dog rolled over asking for a belly rub from the neighbor, and then out of the blue bit her when she touched him.” While dogs do often roll on their backs to solicit petting, this can mean something completely opposite as well, so it is important to know the difference. “Tapping out,” as it is often called, describes when the dog rolls on their back and exposes their belly in an appeasement gesture that is meant to request space. A dog who is tapping out does NOT want to be touched, and continued attempts to pet may result in a bite. How do you tell the difference? A dog that wants petting will often be fully on their back, with a loose body, legs outstretched, writhing around, with an relaxed face and mouth. A dog that is tapping out will usually have tense body and facial muscles, be lying partially on their side with one flank lifted, eyes wide so that the whites are visible, mouth closed, and may show other signs of stress such as lip licking.
Not sure you can tell the difference? Take a look at the photos on this blog post for comparison!