When a dog rolls over on to its back and exposes its belly, it is a behavioural signal to communicate with other dogs. However, it’s not necessarily an invitation to reach down and tickle its tummy.
“It is very common for a dog to lie down, show its tummy and lift its legs in the air, but that is not a request for a tummy rub,” Dr MacKay said.
“When a dog does it to another dog it means ‘I trust you and I think you are a good dog to be around’.
“So when a dog does it to a human they trust, it can then be alarming if that human invades their space and touches their soft, exposed belly. They have simply learned to put up with it,” she said.
So think again next time you go for that playful pat.
RELATED: Do dogs actually dream?
RELATED: How to decode your dog's tail wag