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Rubbing belly

When a Shih Tzu Rubs His Belly Across the Floor

Question:

We recently brought home a rescue dog and it is a Shih Tzu. It is around 18 months old. He will lay on the ground (on his stomach) and scoot back and forth across the floor. Why does this breed do this?

Answer:

Thanks for your email. And how wonderful that you have adopted a rescue! It is not uncommon for a Shih Tzu of any age to do this. Some may spread out their legs flat out behind them allowing them to drag along; others will leave them limp and loose to the side. 
In either case, the puppy or dog will use his arm strength to pull his body forward across the floor.

In most cases, if it is very brief behavior, done at random times, and it will be harmless. Though, with other dogs, if this is done in place of walking or happens quite often, this is a red flag. 

This behavior may mean one of several different things, depending on the details:

1) Does he show any signs of having trouble walking? Is there a limp? Does he favor one leg over others? If he is scooting on his stomach to avoid walking, this would point to a leg/hip issue such as luxating patella or hip dysplasia. This would need the immediate attention of a vet.

2) Does his stomach look irritated? Does it have pink or red spots or bumps on it? If so, he may be scooting on his stomach as a way of 'scratching an itch'. This would point to possibly some sort of allergy that is causing itchy skin or it may be just a case of a dry skin problem. 

Allergies often manifest as skin problems including dry skin - most often seen in the winter when the air is very arid - and this can cause cracking, peeling and itchiness.

While it would normally cause itching all over the body, another possible reason is fleas. They are notorious for hiding in the groin and armpit area of dogs and can cause a dog to behave oddly to find relief. Aside from rubbing the body across carpeting and other surfaces, a Shih Tzu will often shake his head since fleas can cause quite a bit of irritation to the ears. 

If fleas have just attached to your dog, you may not see them yet. However if you carefully part the coat and look closely you may see the telltale small black or brown specks.

In any case, this would need immediate attention of a vet to determine the trigger and treat the rash/bumps/hives or other cause of the belly area being so itchy that your Shih Tzu is trying to scratch it.

3) Does he behave in an amusing, playful way when he does this? Does he try to gain your attention, acting happy and looking right at you? If so, we'd suspect he rubs her abdomen on the floor as a form of play and due to an urge for interaction. 

Some dogs do a sort of 'army crawl' just to be silly. If owners behave amused, they now have incentive to do it over and over, just to bring about smiles and chuckles.     
Summary - If you take a good look at your Shih Tzu and see any signs of a health issue, including: Limping, trouble walking, hesitation to walk up or down stairs, reluctance to exercise, decreased appetite, signs of allergies (watery eyes, dull hair, food intolerance, skin rash), or fleas (small dark spots, etc.) or any other symptoms that may point to a condition or issue as the reason for your Shih Tzu rubbing his belly across the ground, you'll want to have him examined right away.

If, on the other hand, it is clear that your Shih Tzu is doing this just to amuse you and gain some favorable attention, consider yourself lucky that you have an animated, friendly dog that wants to engage you in such a silly way.  

The Shih Tzu breed is smart and quick to learn what gains his owner's attention. If you've smiled and laughed when your dog did this, that may be all that was needed for him to repeat the behavior.
Doing this could cause some contact irritation or issues with insect or ant stings if he did this on the grass; however it should not be a problem at all if he does this on a safe surface such as carpeting or other flooring.
A Note About Scooting - It should be noted that a dog scooting his stomach across the ground and his rear end are two very different things. 

When a Shih Tzu scoots or rubs his rear on the grass, ground, or floor this often points to either an issue with the anal glands in which they need to be expressed of excess fluid or a possible case of worms.  

Therefore, if your Tzu rubs his or her butt along the ground - whether or not they have just had a bowel movement - this is a reason for an evaluation with the veterinarian. Dog groomers are also equipped to express the anal glands, should it called for.
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