Dogs Bow: Why Do They Do It To Other Dogs

Bow Down to Me

Pug bows play in the grass waiting for someone to play with.
“I want to play!”

Dogs do all kinds of strange things. One of most common dogs communicate is “bowing.” As dog owners, we’ve probably seen our pups do the bow when they’re feeling playful. And when it’s cute and certainly points to them wanting to have fun, there is meaning behind the gesture. If you’ve been wondering what is behind the position, then you’ll be happy to know that there is an explanation. 

The bow is most commonly referred to as the “play bow” since it best expresses how they’re feeling. The bow is a common body language gesture that dogs use as communication. This playful gesture most often is their way of saying that they want to play. That is the most widely relayed message that dogs will bow for.

However, occasionally they will employ the doggie bow as a way of apologizing, sometimes when they’re playing but accidentally get too rough. You may have witnessed your pup do this one or twice during playtime with you.

Human bows play to dog to get them to play. Even humans can play bow!
“Who wants to play?”

Social Hierarchy

When it comes to social hierarchy, the gesture makes no difference to status. Alpha dogs will bow to beta dogs and vice versa. In fact, many dogs when they first meet, regardless of whether or not they’re more dominant or not, will play bow at one another as a friendly gesture. It’s like a way for them to make friends.


Dogs will also do the doggie bow during some instances of their mating routines as a way of expressing they’re single and ready to mingle. The doggie bow is something that is regularly used and the message it is trying to convey is easily interpreted from the context of the situation.


However, if your dog hasn’t been fully socialized, they might not know how to take the bow from another dog. If they’ve never been exposed to the bow then they may react negatively towards it. So if you notice any aggressive behavior then it’s always a good idea to get them properly trained in order to avoid any future aggression. 

Little dog bows play with a toy outside by himself.

Of course, if your dog makes this gesture towards you it’s always a good idea to accept. You don’t want to hurt their feelings after all!

When Bowing Doesn’t Mean Play

When you notice that your dog is bowing when they are walking around the house not in play mode, this could mean they are having an upset stomach. You’ll see that they hold the bow position for a while and are hesitant to lay down.

Bulldog doing a bow because his stomach hurts.
“I’m not feeling that great!”

If you notice your dog doing this often, it’s time to take them to the vet where they can find out why your dog has an upset stomach. It can be anything from just a rumbly tummy or could be caused by something they ate. If they have eaten anything foreign, tell the veterinarian right away. This will make the diagnoses easier and faster to get your pup feeling better.

You can find more information at https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/ingestion-of-foreign-bodies-in-dogs about foreign body ingestion.

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