Monday, September 13, 2010

Tonic immobility in dogs?

Tonic immobility, is a natural state of paralysis that some animal species enter by turning the animal upside down on their back. The animal can remain in this state for up to 15 minutes. You have probably heard about this in sharks, if you have ever watched “Shark Week” on the Discovery channel. But this is not something that has been observed in dogs, until Vienna came along.

I noticed it the first day I got her. I held her in my arms and she rolled on her back. Then she flopped her head back, rolled her eyes back in her head, and her entire body went limp and she didn’t move a muscle. She stayed like that until I rolled her back over. Over the next few days, if I picked her up and rolled her on her back, the same thing kept happening. She went into a state of Tonic Immobility. Whenever she is getting a little wound up, I can just roll her on her back and she instantly goes motionless and limp until I roll her back over. It reminds me of the sharks I saw on TV who did the exact same thing when they were rolled on their backs. In fact, some killer whales have figured out that when they roll sharks on their backs, they don’t move. This has become a hunting strategy for them. Pretty interesting.

Vienna goes into this state consistently, every time someone rolls her on her back. I find that most of the time she rolls herself on her back when she goes to sleep. So, even though research says tonic immobility does NOT occur in dogs, I think I have proof of it laying right here at my feet.

Yesterday, I told Stephanie about it and she wanted to give it a try. The first photo was taken right after Vienna was turned on her back, and the second photo was taken a few seconds later.

Stephanie rolling Vienna on her back.

Stephanie holds Vienna as she goes into Tonic Immobility.

So there you have it. Vienna may go down in history as one of the first dogs who can go into tonic immobility! Maybe I should let the breeding department at GDB know about this one :)


  1. My pup Halette reminds me of a shark while on her back but in a different way. When she is bored she throws the front part of her body up and attacks/chomps her front paws (my little shark tooth snapper).
    You have quite the cutie here. The picture at the top of your blog, with her big smile and baby teeth is my favorite of her so far.

  2. Haha! I'd say definitely let GDB know. I can just imagine a blind person with their first guide dog. I was nuts about all of Jayden's little quirks. Can you imagine a motionless dog when you can't see? Hahaha!

  3. Haaaa Ro, that's funny! I should clarify that it only happens when Vienna is put on her back, not when she is walking around. She would be fine guiding and all. But is something very unique about her. I just love this little pup. She is a lot of fun :)

  4. Oh right, I got that. It would still be freaky though for a new handler who gets the dog home, goes to play or something, and goes, my dog isn't moving! Haha! So it will make a cool fun fact for her future handler. :)

  5. Oh, yes. Definatley something for the "Fun Facts About My Puppy" form that you get in class.

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