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I tend to let things go as long as I think everyone's safe and nobody is getting stressed out.

It seems to me like sometimes a dog goes onto its back to keep the other dog more interested (the few times I've seen my dog on his back, he was playing with a puppy!), while other times it's more of a submissive "please don't kill me" thing. I'd say they're very different circumstances, so it's hard to say for sure without seeing what's happening.

When my dog's the one on top of the 4mo old rambunctious puppy, as is sometimes the case :), I like to call him off after a bit to give the puppy a chance to get up, to break my dog's focus for a sec, and to see if the puppy's still interested or scared and runs away.

Obviously, you want to err on the side of caution, especially if there is a big size difference.
 
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