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calming signals dogs use

Tips for Calming your pets: Calming signals dogs use

How to Understand the Communication between Dogs

Tips for Calming your pets and the calming signals dogs use to communicate. How to use these Signals to Communicate with your dog.

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Dogs communicate how they are feeling by using their body in different ways. They will communicate both with humans and other dogs this way.  With their body, a dog will tell you if they are excited, stressed, nervous, alert or means no harm. This body language that dogs use is referred to as “calming signals”. Some of the body language is very obvious and some of it is very subtle. Here are some of the “calming signals” dogs use and how you can use them too.

What are Calming Signals? Dog trainer Turid Rugaas coined the term “calming signals”. She observed that there are over 30 signals dogs use. These calming signals dogs use to prevent situations that are threatening. Those situations include calming down anxiety, fear, noise or other scary circumstances.

Signals can also be used to other dogs to say “I mean no harm” or “I come in peace”. This enables dogs to become friends or coexist peacefully. Here are an example of signals that you can use with your dog.

All dogs have these inherited set of signals. It is ingrained in them. They have either been developed in a healthy manner from puppyhood with other dogs / humans or the dogs don’t realize how to interpret them and use them due to lack of socialization. In the latter situation, the signals to communicate with each other can be developed. It will just take longer and more time.

Head Turning

Head Turning is used by dogs to communicate they are being a little too inappropriate or rude with their greeting. Sometimes you see this when you are taking a photo op with your dog who keeps turning their head to the side. However as soon as you put your camera down, they’re fine and back to their normal self. They are telling you that they are uncomfortable.
How you can use with your dog: If a dog is either worried or scared that you are approaching in an uncomfortable manner. There may also be barking involved. Stop what you are doing, do not continue with approaching the dog and turn your head to the side as if to look at something else. Avoid eye contact. This will bring down the stress level. Depending on the severity it can either be quickly resolved or slow down the process.

Turning Away

This is generally used by dogs during playtime. You have noticed when a dog is getting wild such as growling or perceived as a little too much for the other dog. Turning away will happen if a human is speaking in a way that sounds angry to the dog. You will notice that the dog will normally stop the interaction and turn either it’s side or back toward the dog or human. This can be standing, sitting or lying down.
How you can use: If the dog is showing nervousness or aggression, let’s use jumping as an example. You just use your body, no speaking. Turn your back or side to them. This is a very strong calming signal to them. If used consistently they should pick up on it.


This is used in a variety of situations. If a human is scary to them, unpleasant car rides or even being held tight. FYI, Dogs are not fond of being hugged unless they really know the human. Unlike humans who like hugging, this is not so for dogs.
How you can use: You can use this anytime you notice that your dog is stressed or scared to help calm them down. I would use this with one of the foster dogs I had to start the process.

Sitting Down

There may be times that you notice a dog will sit with his back to another dog or even you. Usually they do this if they are feeling uncertain or there is yelling happening.
How you can use: You can use this anytime your dog is stressed an is unable to relax. You can sit on the floor with them or if strangers are visiting that make your dog uneasy as soon as they sit down you may notice your dog to slowly relax.

These are just handful of signals that you can use. Other signals include lip licking, sniffing, body shake and many more! I hope you find this useful and if you have any questions please feel free to contact me. Have a wonderful day!





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