The Secrets Behind Calming Signals in Dogs
Have you ever wondered why your dog licks his lips once you have given a command? Or perhaps you thought your dog was just tired because he is always yawning? These are in fact very subtle signals that your dog is giving you! Calming signals.
ALL of the above dogs are showing calming signals. Even the tiny puppy at 6 weeks of age instinctively knows how to use this little understood canine body language. As you may have read in Sam the collie’s story CLICK HERE, I used calming signals when I first met this very nervous-aggressive dog. This was to help Sam understand my passive intentions and to encourage him to trust me, I use it almost daily on the dogs I work with. Unfortunately not enough people know about this revolutionary canine science or use it to any effect in the dog training world.
The most common calming signals are, lying down, turning the head away from left to right slowly, blinking slowly, sniffing the ground, a full body shake and yawning. However there is far more to this little known and often misunderstood science than first meets the eye. If you ever notice your dog do one or more of these things the chances are he’s trying to calm someone down and it could be YOU.
When you told your dog did off you observe that he licked his lips? He is communicating to you that you were perhaps too loud. Being aggressive with your dog can also give this response. By using these signals your dog can tell you he wants you to calm down or he’s calming himself down. Licking lips is actually a different calming signal from most as it is used only when the dog is feeling anxious. (Long term anxiety can turn this behaviour into excessively licking or even chewing themselves.) The other signals mentioned above have been observed in both calm and anxious dogs depending on the situation.
Why Dogs Use Calming Signals?
Dogs use this language with each other to avoid conflicts and fights. They use it when they want to calm another dog down or they are calming themselves down after a tense situation. It is important to socialise puppies properly at a young age (and continue to!) otherwise problems can arise as they need to learn to read these signals. This is often what triggers a lot of dog fights. Dogs that are over excited and filled with adrenaline stop responding to other dog’s signals. They don’t read signals given, nor will they display the behaviour. Keeping dogs calm, particularly when training with behavioural issues, is therefor paramount.
When an excited dog runs up to a nervous dog, the nervous one may give several calming signals but these are ignored. After giving several signals that mean “I’m not interested. I’m calm. I’m boring.” The next signal is going to be “Go away!” This is displayed with teeth and noise, this is when humans start to notice the dogs are communicating, which is far too late.
It is very important that we do not ignore these calming signals. It can cause an anxious state of mind to develop when the natural canine body language is being ignored. This communication has often been called ” the language of peace” by canine experts and it is a very useful piece of knowledge when working with dogs. Particularly if you have a very sensitive dog. Here at Fawn Dog a conscious effort is made to both implement and advance this revolutionary science. I use calming signals in all my dog training programs as it relaxes the dog and builds trust from the first encounter.
Can I Teach my Dog Calming Signals?
Now you’re aware of these signals you can observe your own dog at home. Some breeds are masters of them, sight-hounds especially, or you may find your dog shows hardly any! If this is the case it is not too late! You can teach your dog calming signals simply by doing them yourself.
Next time your dog gives you a calming signal take note and work out what was the most likely cause for this reaction. Practice using these around the home, your dog will soon copy you and get used to using these signals again. It will bring you and your dog closer together and your dog will definitely thank you for it!
Fawn Dog- For True Dog Rehabilitation