December 10


Calming Signals In Dogs

What Are Dog Calming Signals

Dogs communicate in a number ways. This communication can be grouped in to three categories. One is auditory. A dog can emit a range of sounds including barks, growls, screams and yelps. The second group is smell or olfactory. Its main use in communication is to find out if a female dog would be receptive to mating. The third group is visual. This type of communication is similar to that shown by wolves. The term calming signals was developed by a Norwegian called Turid Rugaas. He identified a number of visual signals exhibited by dogs to show stress. They were an indication to a more aggressive dog that they were not a threat.

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How To Read Your Dog’s Mind

Dogs will also use the signals in response to human activity. Learning these calming signals helps us work out what a dog is feeling. The signals are often used in combination. There are about 30 calming signals here is a list of the most common.

Turning the head to avoid eye contact


Sniffing the ground

Lip licking and lip smacking

Nose licking

Facial expressions including laid-back ears, mouth closed and lowered eyelids.


 Moving very slowly

Turning the body away from the other dog

Sitting down

Lying down with the belly on the ground.

All of these signals show that the dog is not happy with a situation and is feeling stressed. If this is caused by something we are doing we should change our behavior because the next stage could be aggression.

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Human behavior which can trigger calming signals

A Human’s face being placed too close to the dog’s face

Prolonged eye contact.

Hugging the dog

You ask the dog to do something he doesn’t want to do

Someone is walking directly at a dog

Bending over the dog

The dog feels cornered

A person sounds angry

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Effects of Stress

The calming signals are the outward signs that a dog is stressed. Putting your dog in a stressful situation should be minimised.  A dog’s body will react to being in a stressful situation. Adrenaline levels rise and, in turn, cortisol levels rise. Adrenaline can affect the anti-diuretic hormone which controls water balance. This can be the cause urinating when stressed.

Higher stress levels over an extended period will have an adverse effect on our dog’ health. We should look out for the signals and increase our dog’s sense of well being.

About the author 

Stan Jones

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