Canine Signals

Canine Signals (Canine Calming Signals) : What is your dog trying to tell you?

Dogs rely heavily on body language to communicate, whereas as people we rely more on the spoken language. It’s important that we learn some canine body language so that we may better understand what our dog is trying to tell us. Some of the canine language we are about to discuss can be mistaken to mean the wrong thing, even to the point of being bitten!

First of all we will discuss calming signals. These are subtle signals that all dogs use to avoid threats and to tell other dogs,

animals or people that they are uncomfortable with what is going on. They also use these signals to calm down nervousness, noise or unpleasant things, and to make friends.

Of course, some of these signals can be used at other times so it’s important to put the signal into context when deciphering whether it’s a calming signal or not. If you notice your dog doing any of the following, it may be a calming signal:

  • Turning his head to the side
  • Turning eyes away to avoid eye contact
  • Turning his back or side to you
  • Licking his nose
  • Freezing in position
  • Walking slowly using slow movements
  • Yawning when not tired
  • Sitting or lying down submissively
  • Sniffing with nose to the ground
  • Physically going between dogs or people
  • Licking faces
  • Lifting paws up and down
  • Making himself smaller
  • Slow blinking

Even different ways of wagging his tail may be a calming signal.

Dogs also show signs of stress such as when they are stressed during training. Such signs of stress may include:

  • Scratching himself when there are no fleas
  • Shaking off (to release stress)
  • Yawning
  • Nose licking
  • Tongue flicking
  • Sniffing the ground a lot

Does a wagging tail mean a happy dog? Not necessarily. Tail wagging is simply a sign of arousal for a number of reasons. The dog may be happy and excited, or may be nervous and fearful. Aggressive dogs barking at fences are often wagging their tails, but this doesn’t mean they’re happy to see you and it’s safe to enter or pat them. The position of the tail, along with the rest of the dog’s body language needs to be considered before knowing what frame of mind the dog is in. Make sure your kids know that just because a dog is wagging its tail, it doesn’t mean he is friendly and safe to pat. It’s best to be on the safe side and not pat unknown dogs without the owner’s permission.

Now you’ve learned a few canine signals. Watch your dog over the next few days and see if he or she displays any of these signals. See if you know what your dog is trying to tell you!

For more information on canine body language or other training topics, contact us.

Happy training!

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