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The Power of Calming Signals

Author: Sarah Gaziano | Date: October 11, 2013

I work for an education company called CanineLink when I’m not training for AnimalSense, and I spend at least two nights a week listening to lectures on dog behavior. We are constantly getting new students, and it’s amazing to see their reactions as they learn. After our Canine Communication class, students always say to me “Why don’t all dog owners know about calming signals?” so I thought I would share what dog owners should know.

The term Calming Signals was coined by a woman named Turid Rugaas.

They are also referred to “deference behaviors”.

Dogs display these behaviors whenever they begin to get stressed or when they are telling another dog or human that they are not a threat. For example, if your dog is walking down the street and another dog approaches, your dog might start to sniff the ground. They might be telling the other dog that they are not threatening. In another example, maybe a few men come into your house carrying a new piece of furniture and your dog yawns and looks away from these men. That would indicate the same thing (not threatening), but also might mean that the dog is stressed and this is how they calm themselves down. It’s amazing how the signals can help translate dog behavior.

Other calming signals are:

  • Shaking off (as if the dog is wet)
  • Sneezing
  • Yawning
  • Lifting Paw
  • Scratching
  • Arching Away
  • Licking Nose
  • Sitting

So what do you do if your dog displays these signals? Normally you don’t have to do anything. Most dogs are good at soothing themselves and calming themselves. However, if your dog is displaying at least three of these signals and they are in a situation where you can remove them (dog park, running around the house, out on a walk), take them away. It will keep your dogs AND YOU more comfortable. It’s amazing how much dogs try to tell us with their bodies.

It’s so important for everyone who interacts with dogs (even just your own dog) to know these signs. It will really help you communicate with your dogs and live a much more peaceful life with one another.

Have you ever noticed these signs in your dog? Share your experience.


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