Article: Calming Signals--How to Interpret and Use Dog Language: Groundbreaking work

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Calming Signals--How to Interpret and Use Dog Language
By Jody Frederick on April 21, 2010

Capturing a shy dog who has gotten loose requires a "finesse capture" method, which is best achieved by knowing about dog behavior and calming signals. This article describes calming signals and how to use them in difficult capture circumstances. It is reprinted with permission from Celebrating Greyhounds: The Magazine, Spring 1998, with the intention of helping rescue groups capture the elusive lost dog. (Comments and photo by Gryhoundz 04/2010)

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katie59
Apr 20, 2010 6:20 PM CST
Name: xxa aax
bbb, bbb
Turid Rugaas work has broken ground that so many people in the world still refuse to occupy. I would encourage everyone to look for these behaviors in dogs they see on the street and to watch their own dog's body behavior in different circumstances.

It is important to point out that dogs, like people, do have their own variances on these basic rules. Some dogs haven't been socialized with other dogs and so they don't know these behaviors - most of them are learned. Other dogs have their own interpretations. Still, other dogs, are oblivious to other dogs' signals and continue to ignore them time and time again. And mostly, our dogs have learned to interpret our signals, which means that they have a whole different repertoire based on our behavior.

If they can learn to be comfortable with our behaviors (such as direct eye contact out of affection and full-on torso embraces), then can't we make a few efforts to reciprocate by learning theirs? Nine times out of ten you can 'lighten up' a dog's mood by emulating a play bow or stretch. Try it some time.

Kathy

AlohaHoya
Apr 20, 2010 7:10 PM CST
Name: Carol Noel
Hawaii (near Hilo)
It's all about choices.
Does the book supply in Kula, Hi have a telephone number I could call?

Interesting about the calming behavior. Is it also submissive behavior? One dog's sister turned her back on everyone especially the sister that beat her up asserting her position as Alpha Dog.... We thought it was submissive behavior but perhaps the losing dog was simply calming herself down....?
Leap. The net will appear.
katie59
Apr 20, 2010 9:05 PM CST
Name: xxa aax
bbb, bbb
That's a good point. A dog turning her back to another dog could be calming herself or just plain avoiding challenging behavior. If a dog really felt that she had to 'prove' submission, then she'd be more likely to be more demonstrative about that, licking the other dog's muzzle, rolling over on her back.

'Balanced' dogs who know their place in the pack order really try not to let things develop into dramatic circumstances and so avoid confrontation and huge gestures one way or the other.

AlohaHoya
Apr 20, 2010 11:21 PM CST
Name: Carol Noel
Hawaii (near Hilo)
It's all about choices.
Kathy....your point is well taken. Thanks. The two sisters, both CBR./lab mixes 5 years old had an established order....Thelma was alphadog, Luise was NOT, even tho' Luise was faster, smarter, stronger etc., they were littermates and the order was established. It was understood by all.

One day I took the lesser dog on a run with the car BEFORE the alpha sister. BOOM! We returned from the car ride and the Left Out Alpha dog attacked her sister...flat out...holes in the neck etc. (cheech...for a car ride? We were stunned). The lesser dog who was attacked acted guilty and would not 'face' us or her sister for the next 24 hours!!! I assumed the lesser dog's behavior was to affirm she knew her place. It was an interesting behavior....and it makes a lot of sense. Louise (the 'victim') was so aware of herself she would show 'status' but would never suck up to her siister!!!!!

Carol
Leap. The net will appear.
katie59
Apr 21, 2010 1:12 AM CST
Name: xxa aax
bbb, bbb
There is a saying that a dog who knows his order in the pack is just as happy as if he is the pack leader. Being leader is a stressful position. A smart/experienced leader won't spend time trying to prove a point to a dog who isn't challenging him/her. There are things to be decided and coordinated and he has to have the energy for that. Some dogs can't really relax into their role, however.

It's not so bad not to be top dog in pack anyway. Everybody eventually gets food and sex. They just have to wait their turn . . .

A few years ago I had an issue with my younger dog (she was coming into maturity and was still intact. My other older female wasn't intact) trying to assert herself -- and really hyperfocusing on asserting herself -- being aggressive to the other female when she was stressed or excited. Something similar to what you describe.

I couldn't have that in my household, so I imposed a sort of boot camp with lots of commands 24/7. If she would look at the other dog, she's get a 'leave it' and a reward (it was a positive thing). If she decided to go into the other room, I'd have her come, sit, stay, and then release her with a reward. I'd periodically have her do some tricks for me. Just really kept her busy and made sure that she "checked in" with me before she had any independent thought. It didn't take very long (a few months) before she had trained herself to check in with me before doing anything. She's much more happy and relaxed now and I only have to reinforce that a little. It just turns out that I wasn't providing leadership for her and that was really stressing her out.

ImageAlwaysWeeding
Apr 21, 2010 7:26 AM CST
Name: CJ
Iowa
Great points, Katie. I wish more of the "average" dog owners would understand. It doesn't really take that much time to teach them who the leader is, either. You can spend more time cleaning up the messes and dealing with the issues because you don't spend a little time teaching.
AlohaHoya
Apr 21, 2010 11:17 AM CST
Name: Carol Noel
Hawaii (near Hilo)
It's all about choices.
Louise never challenged Thelma...Thelma just had to put her in her place. I am sure it was a valid point for Thelma but lost on us. Louise was killed 2 years ago, so Thelma is happy to be an Only Dog....and loves playing school, too.
Leap. The net will appear.
katie59
Apr 21, 2010 11:43 AM CST
Name: xxa aax
bbb, bbb
I was thinking on this topic (as I often do) when I was getting ready for bed last night. So many owners feel that they need to "prove they are alpha" to their dogs.

I wish we could change the language to "provide consistent and unambiguous leadership".

I don't think most dogs are "challenging" us. They are just trying to pick up the slack because we aren't doing our jobs.

IMO, that holds true for raising kids as well. A happy kid is one who knows the rules and who has parents who keep fair and consistent boundaries so the kids can relax and enjoy childhood . . .

AlohaHoya
Apr 21, 2010 4:52 PM CST
Name: Carol Noel
Hawaii (near Hilo)
It's all about choices.
Kathleen, I think you are too correct!!!

We all do better when we know the rules, who we can trust and what the boundaries are, right?
Leap. The net will appear.
katie59
Apr 21, 2010 5:29 PM CST
Name: xxa aax
bbb, bbb
Yes. I know I do. I only want to have to worry about what I HAVE to worry about. ;-)

Imagevalleylynn
Apr 22, 2010 5:19 AM CST
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR zone 8
Great article Jody. I do agree that it is sad that so many people don't understand dog behaviour. The things you describe in your article are all things I was taught from my earliest memories by both my mom and grandmother. It applies to any animal, those each may have different signals and watch you for the proper signals. It is such a wonderful language to learn. I taught my children and now my grand children.
Thank you so much for the article.
AlohaHoya
Apr 22, 2010 11:42 AM CST
Name: Carol Noel
Hawaii (near Hilo)
It's all about choices.
I notice our dog licks her nose when she is excited about food (usually...she IS part lab) or going for a long walk...she bobs her head up and down and licks her nose... Would this be to calm herself down from the 'excitement'?
Leap. The net will appear.
katie59
Apr 22, 2010 12:25 PM CST
Name: xxa aax
bbb, bbb
I don't think so. I'm guessing that she licks her nose (similar to the way we smack our lips) in anticipation. Maybe also to wet her nose so she can better pick up the scent of the food that's coming.

AlohaHoya
Apr 22, 2010 12:26 PM CST
Name: Carol Noel
Hawaii (near Hilo)
It's all about choices.
Excellent point! Thanks for that...
Leap. The net will appear.
katie59
Apr 22, 2010 1:03 PM CST
Name: xxa aax
bbb, bbb
You're welcome.

I think it gets confusing sometimes when different behaviors are similar. I have that trouble with people, too. LOL

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