Calming Signals in Dogs

Calming Signals in Dogs – What Your Dog Tells You!

Have you heard of calming signals in dogs before?

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? This is, in fact, what your dog tells you!

These are all calming signals.

Dogs use them all the time to avoid conflict, calm themselves down and show they are slightly stressed. Turid Rugrass was the pioneer of this amazing behaviour and Fawn Dog® encourages owners to learn and use this as much as possible.

You can use calming signals as a positive reinforcement.

calming signals dog training

The Best Calming Signal Right Here!

calming signals body language

As you may have read in Sam the collie’s story, I used calming signals when I first met this very nervous-aggressive dog. This helped Sam understand my passive intentions and encouraged him to trust me. I use it almost daily on the dogs I work with as it is great positive reinforcement!

Unfortunately not enough people know about this revolutionary canine science or use it to any effect in the dog training world. It’s a great way to read dogs’ body language, and even to speak it back.

(The best dogs at calming signals, by far, are GREYHOUNDS!)

This on the left is a great example of when a dog uses calming signals when someone greets them incorrectly. This is too much pressure for the dog.

Common Calming Signals Dogs Give

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 off, did you observe that he licked his lips? He is communicating to you that you were perhaps too loud and scary.

  • 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 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.

Calming Signals with Pictures

Why Do Dogs Use Stress Signals?

Dogs use this body language with each other to avoid conflicts and fights.

So basically, they use it when they want to calm another dog down or they are calming themselves down after a tense situation.

This is why it’s so important to socialise puppies properly at a young age (and continue to!) otherwise problems can arise when they miss the signals from another dog.

In fact, 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 this body language.

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 and listen to what your dog tells you.

It can cause an anxious state of mind to develop when the natural canine body language is being ignored.

Keeping dogs calm, (particularly when training with behavioural issues), is therefore paramount.

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.

dog behaviourist kent
This dog is softening his eyes to show he isn’t a threat.

How to Calm your Dog with Anxiety

You can use dog calming signals to help nervous and anxious dogs trust you.

This rescue collie, Finley, was found on the streets of Ireland and was only bonding with the females in the new household, he literally wanted nothing to do with his new male owner.

However, once we went through some basic signals Finley began to trust him and relax.

This is the “turn away” signal which shows the dog you’re not a threat.

From this day their relationship began to grow and it was all down to calming signals.

scared dog body language

Can I Speak in Dog Body Language?


Now you’re aware of what your dog tells you, you can observe them 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.

If your dog has trouble on bonfire night, for example, this is a great place to use them. 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!

calming signals in dogs
The hat trick! Yawning, soft eyes and licking!