Why Do Dogs Drop To The Ground When They See Other Dogs?

When your dog sees another dog approaching on a walk, does she drop to the ground? Many dog owners report this behavior, and some are (understandably) baffled by it. What does it mean?

Good news: when your dog drops to the ground upon seeing another dog, they want to play.

Smiling dog
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Sharon Crowell-Davis, DVM, DACVB, professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia, says that dropping to the ground is "a play solicitation." Dogs, like humans, use body language to communicate. By lying down, your dog may be making herself appear smaller or nonthreatening to the approaching dog.

If the front of your dog's body is on the ground and her butt is in the air, then you've got an even more playful dog on your hands. This position is called "play bow," and it's a definitive invitation to play. Play bow might be accompanied by tail wagging, and sometimes a bark or two to get the game going.

playful dog
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Lying down upon seeing approaching dogs can be annoying if your dog is extremely insistent upon it. Some owners report that their dog will see a dog blocks away, and will insist on lying down for the duration of the time it takes the dog to get to them. Though hilarious, this ritual can really slow a walk down. If your dog does this, you may choose to train her to do something else when she sees another dog. Choose a "task" you would like her to do when they see another dog (this might be sitting down, or "leave it," meaning ignore the other dog), and use positive reinforcement to teach her that this new behavior is desirable.

Keep in mind that even if your dog's lying down response is slowing down your walks, it's not a bad behavior. It's a signal of friendliness meant to show the other dog that they want to play. That's a lot easier to deal with than some other behaviors, like leash aggression or hyperactivity. So if it doesn't significantly bother you, you can let this one slide. Plus, it's cute.