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Dog body language – calming signals

Dogs communicate with us and with other pets in many ways. They can express their emotions by making sounds and noises and through the full expression of their body. We want to focus our attention on the clear presentation and discussion of non-verbal signals sent by dogs, called calming signals. Understanding and reading them correctly will help us communicate with our pets daily.

a dog on the coral dog mat

Calming signals – dog’s body language

The dog sends calming signals, either directly to us or to other pets, to avoid or mitigate conflict situations. If the behaviour of dogs does not deviate from the norm is perceived without much analysis of their behaviour. A large part of the signals sent by dogs is easy to miss if we do not know their source properly. Therefore, learning the dog’s body language and correctly reading its signs is the basis for a good relationship with the dog based on mutual understanding and harmony.

Characteristics of calming signals

The list of dog calming signals is extensive. We can completely ignore many of them without being aware of their existence. What’s more, we can perceive many dog ​​behaviours as a manifestation of entirely different intentions of the dog. That also works in reverse. Dogs do not fully understand our gestures or actions. They translate them into their instinctive behaviours, which are different from ours.

The characteristics of dog calming signals can be divided into two main categories due to their source:

signals caused by fear

freezing, licking, walking in an arc

nervous signals

turning the head, turning the whole body, yawning

How to read your dog’s body language correctly

First, we cannot analyze every little movement of our pet. Some dog behaviours can be completely random, devoid of any significant motives. The strength of calming signals lies primarily in their context. Therefore, before we draw hasty conclusions, let’s look a bit broader at the dog’s behaviour, considering the given place and the situation.

The correct reading of calming signals is also the ability to respond appropriately. We present an analysis of some of our dogs’ most common signals.

when the dog yawns

Through yawning and turning his head, the dog signals to us that he does not feel comfortable in a given situation. Perhaps this is due to too close physical contact with a person or other animal. The dog starts yawning when he thinks the atmosphere around him seems quite tense and disturbing, for example, when he witnesses an argument. A visit to the veterinarian evokes a similar level of unwanted emotions in the dog. Then that’s why we can notice that our pet starts yawning when we are in the office.

Sometimes, however, the dog uses yawns to extinguish his emotions and excitement caused by some situation in which he found himself. We often observe that the dog starts yawning when we get ready for a walk together. A visit to the park is a highly anticipated and exciting part of the day for most dogs. Yawning, the dog wants to calm down and cool down his excitement.

when the dog licks his nose

This type of calming signal indicates that the dog is feeling anxious. His annoyance, in this case, is most often caused by too violent a person’s or other dog’s. A quick hand movement, sudden approach or leaning towards your pet when he is not aware of it can cause him a sense of anxiety—licking their nose to cool down his emotions and calm down. If the canine reacts similarly to our attempt to stroke or hug him, let’s think about whether we are making too violent gestures towards him.

Each dog has a different level of tolerance for the expression of his owner. Good communication with your pet also means observing his reaction to our touch. If we want the dog not to feel anxious or embarrassed when we stroke it, let’s adjust the speed of our movements to his needs.

Nose licking can also be a reaction to the proximity of another dog. Some dogs do not like physical closeness with other pets. They then feel uncomfortable and anxious. If we have noticed that our pet reacts by licking his nose to meet another dog, try to limit such situations, avoiding frequent meetings with random dogs.

when the dog turns his head away

Turning the head away signals that the dog is dissatisfied with too much physical proximity. As with licking the nose, the dog tells us that he does not feel very comfortable. Dogs often react this way when they are cuddled or picked up. The vast majority of them do not like this kind of closeness.

We can often observe that a dog that has messed something up and got caught turns his head away to avoid eye contact. He reacts this way because he feels he has done something wrong and is afraid of the consequences for the owner.

when the dog turns his whole body

When two dogs meet for the first time, it’s easy to see who feels less confident. Then such a dog stands sideways, signalling to the other that he wants to avoid aggressive behaviour. During too-active play, dogs often turn sideways, thus communicating that they need a moment to calm down.

when the dog freezes

We can often observe this calming signal when meeting strange dogs for the first time. Then one lies down or stands still, and the other sniffs at him. Both dogs usually behave very carefully and do not make sudden movements. This behaviour is a type of conflict avoidance in canine body language.

If our pet does not respond to our commands and stands still, we may have given commands with too raised a voice. The dog took our behaviour as a conflict and wanted to alleviate the situation with his attitude.

when the dog walks in an arc

A dog approaching another quadruped or a human in an arc, turning his head slightly to the side, signals his willingness to avoid conflict in contact with another individual. Very rarely do dogs approach someone by walking confidently straight ahead. They say that such behaviour is simply rude in dog etiquette.

Walking in an arc is perceived by dogs as showing that you have no bad intentions towards the other person. Only dogs who know each other well go straight to each other without embarrassment.

a small dog plays with a dog toy

Calming signals

As the name suggests, the primary purpose of calming signals is to avoid conflict situations. In this way, dogs communicate to their environment the desire to prevent and eliminate potential conditions leading to confrontation. Dogs treat aggression as a final act, which they try to avoid as far as possible.

It is important to note that dogs send calming signals among themselves and towards other people. For dogs, conflict situations are particularly nervous and unpleasant.

The art of reading what they want to convey in a non-verbal way can save our pets a lot of stress.

Author: Klaudia, great dog lover

The dog by my side teaches me to enjoy every moment and to perceive each subsequent day as a chance for a new, wonderful adventure. While looking for my soul mate, I found it in a dog's wise eyes.

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