It appears there’s a lot of myths about what your dog is doing when he play. You have probably been told if a dog shows its belly it is being submissive. Well apparently when they’re playing that is not true.
Researchers found that playtime behaviours are governed by a different set of rules from your dog’s non-playtime behaviours. Like rolling over during play a favourite position of my dog Misha is a countermeasure, used to avoid being put into a headlock or bite hold by the other dog, and not linked to any kind of submission. Cleverly, it can be a position that allows the roller (and not all dogs in the study did it) to deliver some play-kicks, and it was found to be the opposite of submission.
The study also found that often when two dogs are play-fighting the larger, more dominant dog who would roll on their back. Experts say, this manoeuvre is likely their way of levelling the playing field, to let a smaller or weaker dog get in some licks and bites. It’s called self-handicapping, and it’s the stronger dogs a way to encourage the smaller one to play.