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Communication is Key

Author: Lindsay Rapp | Date: January 16, 2012

What if you didn’t have the ability to speak? How would you function in this world? It would be different, but you would be able to use sign language. Well, that is how your dogs communicate with each other and us humans. They use body language called “calming signals”. Norwegian dog trainer, Turid Rugaas wrote a very educational book “On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals in Dogs” .

Turid studied dogs and the way they used their entire bodies, nose, tails, ears, eyes, sounds, and any movement. Dogs are very deliberate with their movement and are always giving some kind of calming signal. This helps dog professionals and owners alike to understand dogs better, and it helps in the training and interactions with them as well. Dogs will use these signals if they are scared, angry, avoidant, or even before they bite. Sometimes when people claim a pet’s behavior changed without warning, it may well be that the people failed to notice a clear signal given by the dog.

A few common calming signals are:

  • Yawning: dogs yawn to reduce their own stress and attempt to calm others. Tip: when a dog displays a fear of some common, non-threatening stimulus (such as the approach of another dog or someone in a hat), the family members might try looking away and yawning at the onset of the stimulus.
  • Licking of the nose: a quick little flick of the tongue is usually a signal to calm down
  • Freezing: complete stop of motion
  • Walking slowly
  • Using slow movements
  • Sitting or laying down
  • Play bow
  • Sniffing the ground
  • Splitting up: when your dog purposely walks between two individuals (dogs or humans); it may look like the dog is drawing an imaginary line with his paws
  • Wagging tail
  • Arcing – moving towards you in an arc position, as opposed to straight on
  • Eye contact patterns: averting eyes, turning away, displaying their back or side to another dog or person
  • Body shaking (as if shaking off water)

I think every dog owner should learn more about calming signals because it will open up a new understanding between you and your dog. I know it has made the bond between me and my dogs much tighter. It has made me look at dogs in a completely different light, and I am very grateful to this book and Turid. It’s a quick read and available for purchase at Dogwise.



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