Calming signals...list

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Postby TheRedQueen » June 14th, 2008, 8:02 pm

I figured I'd make this it's own topic, so more folks might see it...

1) Head Turn: the head turns when a dog encounters another dog, person, or object that makes them unsure. It could be momentary, or they could keep the head turned for a long time. Some people call it “avoidance”.
This can happen if a dog is approaching head on with excitement, if your dog wants you to approach more calmly, or if they are uncomfortable with a camera, vacume, or child. You can also use it to tell an excited puppy to chill out, or a growling dog that he can relax about you.

2) Soften the eyes: there is a difference between a stare and a gaze. A stare is direct, hard, and penetrating. In a soft gaze, the eyelids are lower, the eye contact is not intense. If kneeling down and looking directly into a dog’s eyes makes them turn away, growl, or cower, stand up and look down at
them: it lowers your lids and is soft.


3) Turn away: this is a stronger signal than just turning the head. If a dog is growling, perhaps if the play is either too rough or unwanted, a dog will turn to the side or even show it’s back.
Older dogs will use it to “ward off” a playful puppy, and it is a common method of stopping a puppy’s play nips or jumps.

4) Licking the nose: a nervous dog will lick their nose, trying to calm themselves or someone else down. You can use this to quiet your dog if they are looking at you. It is often used with other signals too, like turning the head or body. I see this alot at the vet.

5) Bowing: some dogs, particularly puppies will play bow, lowering their front end and stretching out their front legs as an invitation to play. If they hold the stance, though, they are trying to say that they are friendly and submissive, intending no harm to a nervous dog.

6) Sitting or slowing: sometimes a dog will sit when another approaches, or if they are reacting to the anger or fear in your voice. Sitting is a relaxed position, and if you need to reassure a timid dog, or quiet a puppy, sit down. You can sit and turn away too for a stronger effect.
The “great slow down” when you want them to do something is also a sign of stress. If your dog is going slower when you want them to go faster, it may be they are unsure of your excitement. If they sit on command but take their sweet time doing it, they may be reacting to too much excitability in you.

7) Laying down: this is a far stronger signal that sitting, and is often used by higher status dogs to calm the “pack”. When a puppy is tired of play, they will go lay down as a signal to let them rest. An older dog will lay down and ignore a puppy if they don’t want to play.
If your dog lays down when you want them to come or do something, they are trying to tell you to be calmer about it. You may be yelling, irritated, or otherwise too excited. Timid dogs will also “shut down” like this if you are angry, standing over them, or they are frightened of something.

8) Yawning: yawning is a universal symbol of being very relaxed! We humans use it to. But dogs use it to say “enough” to playful youngsters, and “chill out” to excited humans. We can use it the same way, yawning to settle a puppy, to relax a nervous dog, or counter agressiveness. Yawning is easily used with turning away or sitting down.

9) Sniffing : if a dog approaches and yours starts sniffing the ground or the air, they are telling the other dog to approach more politely and calmly. The same if you are irritated that the dog doesn’t come or sit–they want you to ask in a more relaxed manner.

10) Curving approach: a head on approach is rude in the doggie world, and you will often see dogs making a wide arc before coming to sniff noses. This is a calm and polite approach, even if you are just walking past a dog who is licking, sniffing, or showing uncertainty.

11) Splitting up: when the play gets too rough, the encounter too tense, another dog will physically stand between the two, often with head turning, sniffing, yawning or other strong signal.

12) Tail wagging: this requires close observation on our part because some tail wagging is happy, some is tense, and some is a sign to relax. The “looking guilty” wag with a low body and crawling isn’t a “guilty” look, it is actually the dog trying to calm you down because your upset.
A pair of dogs with their tails up and wagging, stiff legged and face to face is a fight about to happen. A puppy about to be “pounced” on and played with will often wag the tip of their tail as a sign of not being sure of your actions.

13) Less commonly used signals: blinking, lifting a paw, licking faces, and crawling are also signs of a dog trying to calm stress in himself or his environment. They are often used with other signals, and some dogs will use them more than others. Each dog is different and will use whatever body language he has learned or comes naturally.
"I don't have any idea if my dogs respect me or not, but they're greedy and I have their stuff." -- Patty Ruzzo

"Dogs don't want to control people. They want to control their own lives." --John Bradshaw
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Postby amazincc » June 14th, 2008, 8:06 pm

#4. Licking the nose: a nervous dog will lick their nose, trying to calm themselves or someone else down. You can use this to quiet your dog if they are looking at you. It is often used with other signals too, like turning the head or body. I see this alot at the vet.


What??? lol

Oh... never mind. :doh:
I just "got" it.
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Postby TheRedQueen » June 14th, 2008, 8:22 pm

There is some debate whether the human version of licking really sends the same signal to the dog. I've had it work...I just can't lick my nose, but my lips I can.

It's also kinda fun to freak out the "normal dog owners" at the vet clinic. Yawning and licking, yawning and licking...lol
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"Dogs don't want to control people. They want to control their own lives." --John Bradshaw
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Postby Marinepits » June 14th, 2008, 8:25 pm

I use calming signals all the time and they really do work! :clap:
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Postby amazincc » June 14th, 2008, 8:27 pm

I actually thought I was supposed to lick the dogs nose. :oops:

Not that I wouldn't, if I had to. :D
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Postby Hundilein » June 14th, 2008, 8:28 pm

I'm trying to put lip/nose licking on cue with Hannah. I'm free shaping it, so I haven't gotten it down quite yet, but she is starting to get the idea. Since she's such a worry wart, I figured it could come in handy. It will be interesting to see if cuing the lick will help to calm her down. I don't know if it will have the same effect as her doing it of her own volition, but I know it can work in people (smiling makes you happier, even if you don't know that you are smiling), so maybe it will work in dogs too.
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Postby BigDogBuford » June 14th, 2008, 8:31 pm

Frequently with scared dogs at work I will kneel down, not making eye contact and 'scratch' at the floor, imitating sniffing. It seems to work really well with nervous yet wanting to be friendly dogs.

Joxer does the lifting the one front paw thing and people just love it. :|
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Postby TheRedQueen » June 16th, 2008, 10:22 pm

Yea! A sticky! :wave2:

:dance:
"I don't have any idea if my dogs respect me or not, but they're greedy and I have their stuff." -- Patty Ruzzo

"Dogs don't want to control people. They want to control their own lives." --John Bradshaw
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Postby gayrghts » June 17th, 2008, 12:32 am

Erin, so what's it mean, when its thundering and lightening out, and your dog is pressed up against you shaking, and you try yawning and licking your lips to show it you're calm... and it french kisses you?

What's it mean when i call Harley, and he turns his head away from me?
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Postby mnp13 » June 17th, 2008, 4:16 pm

I used yawning, a "bored look" and slouching last night in class, and Riggs actually put his head on the floor between his front legs during his down.
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Postby TheRedQueen » June 17th, 2008, 4:19 pm

gayrghts wrote:Erin, so what's it mean, when its thundering and lightening out, and your dog is pressed up against you shaking, and you try yawning and licking your lips to show it you're calm... and it french kisses you?

What's it mean when i call Harley, and he turns his head away from me?


I'm no expert on this...but I'd say that your dog is being submissive with the french kissing. ;)

As for turning his head...have someone watch your body language...you might be stressing him slightly with your body, even if your tone is light and happy. :D Or barring that, just try and relax...if I'm stressing Score or Rip (the two that throw the most calming signals at me)...I'll even get "wiggly"...and shake my whole body. Seems to do the trick...they'll come readily then..."Oh, you want to PLAY!"
"I don't have any idea if my dogs respect me or not, but they're greedy and I have their stuff." -- Patty Ruzzo

"Dogs don't want to control people. They want to control their own lives." --John Bradshaw
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Postby iluvk9 » June 17th, 2008, 5:17 pm

Great info, Erin.

#7
If your dog lays down when you want them to come or do something, they are trying to tell you to be calmer about it. You may be yelling, irritated, or otherwise too excited.

Sometimes when Harleybird is outside and I have to rush back to work, he will lie down and not move. Now I know why.

Good way to handle it or not???
I usually put a leash around his neck in a casual loop, and he will get up and trot right in.
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Postby TheRedQueen » June 17th, 2008, 8:32 pm

iluvk9 wrote:Great info, Erin.

#7
If your dog lays down when you want them to come or do something, they are trying to tell you to be calmer about it. You may be yelling, irritated, or otherwise too excited.

Sometimes when Harleybird is outside and I have to rush back to work, he will lie down and not move. Now I know why.

Good way to handle it or not???
I usually put a leash around his neck in a casual loop, and he will get up and trot right in.


Seems like a good way, if he's going right in...it completely depends on the dog! ;)

Score will just stand there like an idiot if I'm trying to rush him...like he's never heard his name before. So if I can muster the energy, I'll get really silly, bend down, sit on the steps, wiggle my body...relaxing everything to get him relaxed. ;)
"I don't have any idea if my dogs respect me or not, but they're greedy and I have their stuff." -- Patty Ruzzo

"Dogs don't want to control people. They want to control their own lives." --John Bradshaw
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Postby furever_pit » July 3rd, 2008, 9:25 am

Great thread! I'll have to try using some of these signals to calm some of the dogs at work. I'd never thought of that. :|

I'd like to add one thing though. Yes, the paw lifting is used as a calming signal. However, it is also important to be aware of the fact that when a dog lifts its paw and places it on you that this is a sign of dominance.

I know that when Dylan lifts his paw it is a dominance thing 99% of the time. He doesn't do this to me so much anymore because he's getting the picture but he does it to everyone else. They all think he's being friendly but I know what's really going on...once he gets his paw on you you're fighting an uphill battle if you want any respect. But that's just my dog.
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Postby pitbullmamaliz » July 3rd, 2008, 9:42 am

My question is, how do you know if something is a calming signal vs just an action? For example, yawning or sniffing? How do you know if the dog is using it as a calming signal or is just tired or found a good smell?
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Postby TheRedQueen » July 3rd, 2008, 9:51 am

pitbullmamaliz wrote:My question is, how do you know if something is a calming signal vs just an action? For example, yawning or sniffing? How do you know if the dog is using it as a calming signal or is just tired or found a good smell?


I'd say watch for "deliberateness" (if that's a word). When it's used as a calming signal, you can usually tell...because they'll try and catch your eye. The action is done more deliberately..."look at me, I'm yawning", as opposed to just "I'm tired...*yawn*. Also, the context helps. :)

I'd like to add one thing though. Yes, the paw lifting is used as a calming signal. However, it is also important to be aware of the fact that when a dog lifts its paw and places it on you that this is a sign of dominance.


I have to respectfully disagree with this one. Paws on person can merely be a way of communicating, or getting attention. Those that know me on here, know that I'm not a fan of "dominance" theory. ;) Yes, this can be a sign of "dominance"...sure, I'll agree with that. But to make a generalization across the board that a paw on a person is a sure sign of "dominance", nah. Sorry...won't go with that one.

I had a dog that was pushy and rude...(my old mixed breed)...constantly pawed for attention. (Also was a BIG time humper of other dogs). Was he trying to be dominant? Nah...he was needy and struggled with his place in the pack...he was very unsure of himself, which led to annoying behaviors that were hard to get rid of, even when he became more confident later down the road.

ETA...some articles on debunking the "dominance myth"

http://www.clickersolutions.com/article ... inance.htm

http://www.clickersolutions.com/articles/2001/macho.htm
"I don't have any idea if my dogs respect me or not, but they're greedy and I have their stuff." -- Patty Ruzzo

"Dogs don't want to control people. They want to control their own lives." --John Bradshaw
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Postby nicole » July 3rd, 2008, 10:18 am

good stuff!

I recently read this book on calming signals, it was interesting.

http://www.amazon.com/Talking-Terms-Dogs-Calming-Signals/dp/1929242360
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Postby TheRedQueen » July 3rd, 2008, 11:00 am

nicole wrote:good stuff!

I recently read this book on calming signals, it was interesting.

http://www.amazon.com/Talking-Terms-Dogs-Calming-Signals/dp/1929242360


Yep, it's a good little book...a bit hard to read in places, due to the translation...but great stuff!
"I don't have any idea if my dogs respect me or not, but they're greedy and I have their stuff." -- Patty Ruzzo

"Dogs don't want to control people. They want to control their own lives." --John Bradshaw
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Postby iluvk9 » July 3rd, 2008, 12:20 pm

Any more in your repertoire, Erin? I love this thread. I have been looking at my dogs very differently.
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Postby nicole » July 3rd, 2008, 2:21 pm

what about "shaking off" ?

I've seen dogs do this after play fighting gets a little out of hand. I'll break it up, and my dogs will shake off (like they have water on them) almost as if to "shake off" bad energy and any tension.
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