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Why do dogs bow to you?

Why do dogs bow to you?

As humans, we’ve relied for thousands of years on our relationship with our dogs. Understanding their behaviors and needs became essential to our survival since they became our most loyal companions. However, these fluffy partners always have that habit of bowing before us, as if we deserve their love...That is why many people ask themselves, why do dogs bow? This canine behavior has multiple meanings. And, of course, it’s crucial for their owner to know and understand every gesture their pet friends make to them… To them, and to other people or animals as well! If you want to know what this gesture means and what to do when you see your puppy doing it, keep reading!

Your dog’s behavior: understanding your pet’s body language

If you have a dog, or you have had one, you probably know that they’re almost as complex as a person. Gestures and body language are even more significant to them than it is to us because they can’t talk. Aside from barking, howling, or growling, body language is how most animals communicate. Dogs are always very aware of the positions of their bodies and even facial expressions. Ears, head, and tail positions indicate whether a dog wants to socialize or not. It also might tell you about the hierarchy between dogs in a pack.

However, bowing between dogs is not something that implies status. For humans, this gesture means is a different thing entirely. We understand it as a sign of apologizing, respect, or loyalty. But as we will explain later, when a dog bows, it's not only showing its intentions to socialize. But also that they are stretching and getting ready to move and play.

Actually, bowing within a pack is not necessarily a gesture that beta males offer only to their alfa… No! Alfas can also do it in front of the other members, as the sign responds more to a self-reflexive act for the dog than an act of submission.

If bowing is not submission, then what does it mean?

Among the variety of gestures and behaviors your dog can express, bowing is only used in a couple of ways. So, once you figure out these intentions, it’s not so hard to understand your pup!

The most common is when waking up in the morning or after a nap in the afternoon; they greet you with a bow and a whipping tail! After being inactive for a long time, dogs are more likely to stretch and get ready to play or go for a walk with you. That’s why many people also call it the play bow.

The other most common meaning is when your dog apologizes for something wrong he did. Some dogs bow to their owners after being scolded as an act of reconciliation. Because who likes to be scolded? We bet your puppy doesn’t!

They also do it when they meet other dogs to show their intentions to play and have fun. However, many dogs raised in solitude are unaware of this meaning. And often react negatively to another dog bowing to them. That’s why if you’re rescuing stray dogs and have pets at home, you should be careful when getting them together. But we’ll explain that further in this article!

Do all dogs bow?

As you may think, one of the main reasons for dogs to bow is because doing it, they stretch their spine completely. So it is more like an impulse; not only dogs but most mammals and many other species do it regularly, too. Humans also stretch every morning (or afternoon) when they wake up. The medical term for it is Pandiculation, and it means to elongate oneself. The peculiar thing with dogs is not that they do it, but they use it as a gesture for others to see. No matter the race of your dog, they will bow when they want to make you know that they want to play or go for a walk in the park. We don’t need to do that, because as we all know, we can talk!

Bowing is healthy for your dog!

As we said earlier, Pandiculation means stretching oneself. And it turns out that it is a reflex and spontaneous movement that brings nurturing benefits with it. When your dog extends its fronts paws forward, lowering its shoulders to the ground and keeping its tail up in the air, it is getting ready to run. By stretching, they liberate tension and stiffness in their spine and muscles, just like you do when you extend your body and yawn every morning. Stretching and yawning have been proven to improve blood circulation and reflexes, carrying more oxygen to the brain. Your dog bowing to you is his way of doing some yoga just before his morning walk!

Body language: how your dog communicates with you

As you can tell, your dog may bow to you or another dog when he is relaxed and feeling comfortable. This gesture is part of other playful and easygoing behaviors such as:

  • Rolling on their backs to expose their bellies, inviting you to rub them
  • Wagging their tails or even their backsides
  • Freezing for a moment while playing around with you or other dogs

Many other gestures indicate when your dog is relaxed. If you are a dog owner, you sure know how to read your dog’s behavior. But always have in mind that a stressed dog will never bow to you or anyone else.


As we have seen, when your dog bows, he is being friendly and receptive towards you or other dogs. Bowing is n invitation to play or have fun together, but also a way your dog communicates with you. In that sense, you must pay attention to this and the other gestures we’ve talked about in this article. Remember, understanding why your dog bows and responding to his needs are the best way to improve your relationship.

If you want to learn more about dog care and communication, stay tuned to our blog!

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