Thursday, September 27, 2012
Learn to Read you Dog
Featured Articles Fall 2012 for Happy Valley Animals We know dogs communicate with barks, whines, and other sounds. However, dogs use non-verbal communication more often, and a common form is “calming signals.” These signals help dogs maintain a healthy social connection to one another, diffuse stress or aggression, and avoid conflict. Dogs and puppies also use calming signals to communicate with people, including when they feel threatened or want to calm you down. For example, when you find a housebreaking accident and get upset, even though your puppy may not understand what he’s done wrong, he’ll “act guilty.” He’s not really guilty—using calming signals to show he intends no harm. Try to lesson the stress of the the moment. The common calming signals follow. Licking This signal is used often. The quick little lick on the nose is easier to see if you watch the dog from the front. It’s best seen if you can sit in peace and observe. Once you’ve learned to see the lick, you’ll also be able to see it while walking the dog. Sometimes it´s very quick—the tip of the tongue barely visible. But other dogs see, understand, and respond to it. Any signal is always returned with another. Most dogs turn away or show a turning of the head. The dog may turn its head slightly, turn the head completely to the side, or turn themelves completely around, their back and tail facing whoever the dog is calming. These are some signals you see most of the time in dogs. Play Bow This is a very common and well-known calming signal: going down with front legs in a bowing position. It can be an invitation to play if the dog is moving legs from side to side in a playful manner. Just as often, the dog is standing still while bowing and is using the signal to calm someone down. These signals often have double meanings and may be used in many different ways. Often the invitation to play is a calming signal in itself, because the dog is making a potentially dangerous situation less tense through diversion. Sniffing the Ground This is a frequently used signal; in groups of puppies you’ll see it a lot. You’ll see it when you and your dog are out walking and someone is approaching;, in places with a lot going on; in noisy places; or when the dog sees an unknown, intimidating object. Sniffing may be anything from moving the nose swiftly down toward the ground and back up again to sticking the nose to the ground and sniffing persistently for several minutes. Walking Slowly High speed will be seen as threatening to many dogs, and they might want to go in to try and stop the one who is running. This is partly a hunting behavior and is triggered by the sight of a running human or dog. If the one running is coming straight at the dog, it involves a threat and a defense mechanism sets in. Freezing This is what we call it when the dog is statue still while standing, sitting or laying down and remaining in that position. Sometimes they will divert their eyes to avoid eye contact as well. Sitting Down/Lifting One Paw Not seen as often, are dogs lifting their paw as a calming signal, but on a few occasions, it’s clearly been used to calm another dog. Sneezing You’ll see a dog sneeze persistently when nervous, super -excited, or encountering a stressful situation. Not as common. Sitting Down And even stronger signal is to sit down with the back turned towards someone. This also has a very calming effect. It’s often seen when one dog wants to calm another who is approaching too quickly. Dogs may also sit down with their backs turned against the owner when he or she sounds too strict or angry. Meet on a Curve Dogs should naturally meet each other on a curve, or approaching on the side, rather than meeting head on. It’s important to allow your dog to meet on a curve, on or off your leash. This allows for the greeting to be polite. HOW YOU CAN USE CALMING SIGNALS Another ideal time to use calming signals is when you are meeting a dog you don’t know. If a dog acts fearfully towards you, or is showing signs of stress, you can settle the dog by offering the same calming signals that dogs use for each other. First, slow down. Turning your head away and averting your gaze is an easy first signal to make. If the dog is still stressed, you can turn your entire body to the side, or even turn your back on the dog. If you act like you’re ignoring the dog, you’ll be showing calming signals, and the dog with be more likely to approach you. There is also the “walk through,” which is simply walking between two facing dogs or people. When two people or dogs face each other, it is perceived by another dog to be aggressive.. To maintain peace, the third dog will walk through. It’s often thought when dogs react with a walk through with humans, it’s based on jealousy of humans showing affection. What’s actually happening is that when humans face each other, say in a hug, it’s perceived to be possible aggression, and the dog feels a walk though is warranted.
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