Submissive Animal Behavior

A Look at Some Animals Showing Submissive Behavior

Rabbit lying on his back
Rabbit showing submissive behavior. Getty Images/Danielle Kiemel

Animal submission (accepting of a superior or alpha) can be displayed in several ways. It is widely known that dogs roll onto their backs to expose their bellies not only to get a rub but because they are showing submission to you and their more dominant pack members. But dogs aren't the only ones that show submissive behavior. Exotic pets also do things that tell their hierarchy they are being submissive.

Bearded Dragons

Depending on the sex and size of your bearded dragon, he or she may wave their arm in a slow circular motion, or puff up to show submission. Baby beardies are most commonly seen waving to larger, more threatening adults to say "Hey, I'm just a baby, don't hurt me!"

Degus

Like dogs, degus who expose their vulnerable bellies are showing submission. Do you have a degu who bites? Show your dominance by restraining him or her onto their back for a few seconds, or until they stop squirming.

Ferrets

Ferrets like to play by biting and flipping each other onto their backs. The ferret who is constantly being forced onto their back is the more submissive ferret. Be careful, though! Your ferret may try to establish dominance with you by biting your more sensitive than ferret skin. This should not be allowed if they bite too hard. Make sure you establish your own dominance by flipping them onto their back by holding their scruff.

Guinea Pigs

To establish dominance, guinea pigs may mount each other, and it isn't always the male mounting the female pig to mate. Females may mount females when they are in season, or females may mount a neutered male for attention. The pig being mounted is the submissive pig, while the pig doing the mounting is the more dominant pig.

Be careful if you have a male mounting a male because a fight may be about to break out!

Hamsters

Dwarf hamsters will chase each other around to establish dominance, but they usually don't have much physical interaction. The more dominant hamster will corner the submissive hamster who will then stand up to show submission. The submissive hamster will then get their belly licked by the dominant hamster. Hamsters will also scream and flip onto their backs to show submission.

Rabbits

Rabbits show submission by crouching down and making themselves appear as small as possible. They will remain very still and their eyes will look relaxed. If their eyes look "bugged out" it is because they are scared, not submissive.

Rats

Rats who exhibit dominance may chase another rat and nip at their rear end or neck. If the chaser catches their victim, the submissive rat may roll over onto their back, put their ears low and back, or crouch down.

Foxes

These pets act like puppies and will lie on their back to show they are submissive to an alpha fox or their owner.

Learning more about your specific kind of pet's behavior will help you to better understand them!