Why Do Dogs Put Their Head Down and Bum Up?

Why Do Dogs Put Their Head Down and Bum Up?

Last Updated: November 19, 2023

Wondering why your dog put its head down and bum up?

It’s a peculiar sight, that puzzles and amuses every dog owner. 

It’s not just a cute pose, there’s a reason behind this quirky canine stance. 

This playful position is commonly known as the ‘play bow’ and it’s a dog’s way of communicating a clear message to their playmates – human or four-legged.

In this article, we will have a look into this fascinating world of dog body language and explore the various reasons behind this intriguing behavior. 

Understanding why dogs do this will provide valuable insights into their emotions, communication with other dogs, and physical health.

Let’s get started.

Reasons Why Dogs Put Their Head Down and Bum Up

The head-down, bum-up pose is a non-verbal communication that holds significance in the canine world. Let’s have a look at possible reasons for this behaviour.

Your Dog is in Playful Mood

Dog Play Bow Pose, Dogs Put Their Head Down and Bum Up

Your dog takes the head-down and bum-up pose also known as ‘play bow’ when in a playful mood. It’s an invitation to engage in play.

It’s an open and friendly gesture that leads to playful interactions with other dogs or humans.

With their front end low and back end high, dogs are in the perfect position to spring forward or pivot away. 

It prepares them for whatever play move comes next, like a quick game of chase or an exciting round of fetch.

The play bow is an important part of canine communication and is used to communicate friendly intentions. 

This pose tells other dogs and people that what comes next is all about play. 

It’s a peace offering before the game begins, ensuring everyone knows it’s just playtime.

Your Dog Needs a Good Stretch

Your Dog Needs a Good Stretch

Just as we stand and stretch to ease our muscles after sitting for too long, dogs also stretch out to relieve stiffness and give their body a good shake to get comfortable again.

The need for stretch and relaxation is a normal behavior for dogs, and it is essential in maintaining their overall well-being. 

In addition to stretching, your dog may also yawn after stretching, which indicates their enjoyment and the satisfaction of satisfying their need to loosen up their muscles.

Stretching helps improve blood circulation in dogs and increases oxygen flow to their muscles. 

This helps optimize their functionality, making movement more efficient. 

Moreover, stretching before engaging in physical activities can help prevent injuries as it warms up your dog’s muscles and prepares them for exercise.

Furthermore, dogs often perform stretching rituals when they wake up or before going to sleep. 

Stretching habits serve as a way for them to prepare for restful sleep or to wake up and start their day on the right foot. 

Your Dog is Displaying Submission or Peace

Your Dog is Displaying Submission or Peace

Displaying submission or peace is a common behavior in dogs, especially when they are interacting with other members of their pack or social group. 

Dogs have complex communication signals that they use to convey their intentions and establish social hierarchies. 

One of the most common submission displays is when a dog holds its head down and lowers its body, usually accompanied by other submissive behaviors such as a wagging tail, licking lips, or exposing its belly. 

This behavior is a way for the dog to signal that it recognizes the other dog’s dominance and poses no threat. 

It is often seen in situations where dogs are meeting for the first time or in unfamiliar environments.

In a social group, there is usually a hierarchy with one dominant dog at the top and other dogs occupying different positions below. 

When a dog displays submission, it is essentially acknowledging the other dog’s higher status and showing respect. 

The submissive behavior helps maintain order and prevent conflicts. 

Additionally, submission displays are not limited to interactions between dogs of the same sex. 

It is also common for a submissive male dog to display this behavior towards a dominant female dog. 

In these cases, the male dog may lower his head, tuck his tail between his legs, and even raise his bum slightly as a sign of respect and submission.

Understanding and recognizing these communication signals is important to effectively manage your dogs’ interactions and prevent aggression or conflicts, to create a safe and harmonious environment for all the dogs involved.

Your Dog is Seeking Your Attention

Dogs are energetic and playful animals who thrive on interaction and attention. 

They are always ready for some fun and are constantly seeking opportunities to engage in playtime with their human companion or other dogs/pets.

If you have been ignoring your dog for quite some time, get ready to see it take a play bow position that signals their readiness to engage in a fun and friendly interaction.

Another way they express their desire for attention is by pawing at you with their front paws. 

It is a gentle way to get your attention and initiate play. 

Additionally, your dog may also use its hind legs to nudge or playfully jump on you, emphasizing their eagerness for playtime.

Understanding and responding to these communication cues from your dog is essential in strengthening your bond and meeting their needs. 

Engaging in playtime not only provides physical exercise for your canine companion but also promotes mental stimulation and emotional well-being. 

It allows them to indulge in their natural instincts to chase, fetch, and socialize. 

Additionally, playtime provides an excellent opportunity for training and reinforcing positive behaviors.

Your Dog Has Health Related Issues

When dogs frequently adopt the play bow position – heads down, bums up, it could sometimes indicate health issues, not just an invitation to play. 

This posture may help them stretch and relieve discomfort from ailments like bloating or abdominal pain. 

If your dog takes this pose often, watch out for other signs of distress or discomfort like limping, favouring one side, change in behaviour or appetite. 

If you observe any such sign, consult a vet to determine the underlying cause. 

Dogs can’t tell us in words when they’re not feeling well, so they use body language to communicate. 

They might be trying to tell you they need help, not a playmate. 

Your Dog Is Scared or Anxious

Your Dog Is Scared or Anxious

Another reason a dog puts its head down and bum up in the air is because of anxiety or fear. 

This body language is commonly seen in dogs who are uncomfortable or feeling threatened in their environment. 

According to experts, this posture is a defensive mechanism that dogs adopt in order to protect their vital organs. 

It allows them to appear smaller and less threatening to potential threats. 

Additionally, the head-down, bum-up position may also be a way for dogs to avoid direct eye contact by facing down and their tail is not wagging but touching the ground because they feel threatened.

To help your dog feel more comfortable and secure, create a calm and positive environment for them by providing a safe space or a designated area your dog can retreat to when feeling overwhelmed. 

This could be a crate, a bed, or simply a quiet corner of the house. 

Ensure that this space is always available and accessible to your pooch, so that they have their own place to go to when they need to.

Another way you can help your dog feel more secure is through counterconditioning. 

Gradually expose your dog to the stimuli that trigger their anxiety or fear, but in a controlled and positive way. 

For instance, if your dog is scared of strangers, gradually introduce your furry friend to new people in a calm and controlled environment and reward them with treats or praise for calm behavior. 

Over time, this can help your dog develop a more positive association with the previously anxiety-inducing stimuli.

Frequently Asked Questions

What to do when a dog does the play bow?

Join in the fun! You can mimic their play bow, offer a toy, or start a game. It’s a great way to bond and respond to their playful request.

Do all dogs play bow?

Most dogs use the play bow at some point, as it’s part of their natural behavior to communicate a desire to play. However, individual personalities mean some dogs may do it more than others.

How does difference in breed affect this behavior?

Breed differences play a significant role in variations of this behavior in dogs. 

One noticeable difference is between small and large breeds. 

Small breeds often exhibit more submissive behavior compared to their larger counterparts. 

This can be attributed to their size and the need to compensate for their lack of physical strength. 

Small breeds may be more likely to adopt a head down and bum up position when interacting with other dogs, which is a sign of submission. 

On the other hand, larger breeds may display more dominant behavior due to their size and strength advantage. 

They may be more assertive and confident when interacting with other dogs, often occupying the top position in the hierarchy. 

It is only a general idea of a dog’s behavior, as individual personality and upbringing also greatly influence their actions. 

Can play bow be a sign of aggression in dogs?

Some people mistakenly believe that this behavior is a sign of aggression and feel threatened. 

In reality, this posture is not an indication of aggressive tendencies. 

When a dog puts their head down and their bum up, it is more likely that they are trying to communicate their desire for a playful session, affection or feeling fearful or anxious.

Can I correct this behavior in my dog through training?

Absolutely! If your dog’s play bowing is excessive and you’d prefer to manage it, positive reinforcement training can help. 

Reward your dog when they remain calm and avoid reinforcing the bowing behavior if it’s unwelcome. 

Consistency is key – train with regular, short sessions, using treats or affection as rewards for calm behavior. 

Over time, your dog will learn that calmness brings rewards, reducing the frequency of play bows.

Remain patient and avoid punishment during this training process as it can cause fear or anxiety in your dog. 

If your dog’s behaviour is persistent even after all your trainings, and you are unsure of how to effectively handle the situation yourself consider reaching out to a dog trainer or behavior specialist to get an insight and guidance on how to address this issue. 

Remember, every dog is unique, and working with a professional can greatly enhance your chances of success in modifying your dog’s behavior.


Now you know why your dog puts its head down and bum up in the air. 

This behavior has various significances as we discussed above. 

Understanding and appreciating these unique behaviors is key to building a strong bond with your furry friend and providing the necessary care and attention. 

So, join the fun next time you observe your furry companions in this position.

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About Me

I am Chhavi Kumari, passionate dog lover and devoted blogger sharing tips, insights, and love for all things canine. Honoring the memory of cherished Dobermans while inspiring a happy, healthy life with your furry companion.

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