Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Are those calming signals you see?

Meeting a video camera can be a lot like meeting another dog...well, it can be in my case anyway!

When Mum was editing my 'up close and personal video' back a few months ago, she was struck by all the calming signals I was giving the camera.

Remember the book by Turid Rugass - Calming Signals? It's one of the first books Mum read about dogs and added to her library. Very interesting info on dog body language and behavior, but especially information on how dogs communicate to work together, play together and get along together.

Norwegian dog trainer and behaviorist Turid Rugaas is a noted expert on canine body language, notably “calming signals,” which are signals dogs use to avoid conflict, invite play, and communicate a wide range of information to other dogs and people. Turid says from her website..."these are the dogs’ attempt to defuse situations that otherwise might result in fights or aggression. The dogs have about 30 calming signals, perhaps even more. Some of these signals are used by most dogs, while other dogs have an incredibly rich ´vocabulary´. It varies from dog to dog."

Turid also says...."that while dogs utilize some signals for warnings (like growling or teeth baring) they use calming signals much more to communicate with each other." And if humans learn what those signals are, and understand and work with their pups on early and proper socialization, they can communicate even more effectively with, us dogs, as well as better understand what we are communicating around other dogs.

So what are these calming signals?

They are movements dogs make like...licking lips, looking away with just the eyes or turning the head to the side, yawning, walking slowly, sniffing the ground, blinking, tail wags and more.

Turid explains on her website, "when a dog is displaying calming signals it means that he is friendly and wants to avoid a conflict. It’s only natural that (another dog) wants to greet a dog with these signals. And in the same way (that dog) keeps (their) distance to those who act more threatening....The calming signals do not mean that dogs want to be left alone, they mean that dogs wish to avoid conflicts."

Mum isn't an expert on calming signals but she's learning and thought she saw me display a lot of them in the video. So she wanted to get a couple of folks that are more knowledgeable to provide their opinion on the video and my signals, too.

So we sent it off to two friends of ours, April Johnson, who has been studying calming signals and dog communication for a while now, and another friend of ours, Astrid Smith, PDT, CDT, who is an experienced instructor, who we met on Facebook, and have admired for her positive methods and techniques. These two generous people provided some further insight beyond Mum's scope of knowledge, and we'd like to thank them for their help!

So here's the video...take a look and see how many calming signals you see. We've indicated some of the more obvious, but there are other similar ones throughout the video. And big, big thanks to April and Astrid for helping me out with this interesting experiment!



  1. Great post on calming signals - as a matter of fact, I got all calm just watching you, Johann!

    Did you see kikopup's video on calming signals? It's good too!

  2. Very cool and very informative! I have Turid's book, it's great!

  3. Very Interesting!!!! Thanks for sharing the video. Mom really liked it.
    Ernie, Sasha, & Chica

  4. Important work. I've left you a comment on youtube too. Great job!

  5. Calming signals or no, that video is incredibly cute.

  6. I just want to jump through that camera and give you a big smooch! I especially love when you sniff the lens. So cute! The Duchess says I do lot's of those calming things too, but she never knew that is what I was doing!

    Emma Rose

  7. Wow thank you for sharing this! I'd never heard of calming signals before and have added the book you mentioned to my Good Reads list. We've only had our dog (first dog mind you) for a little under a year and there's so much to learn! I love following your blog/fb :)

  8. Thank you Gina!!! I'm my Mum's first dog ever too! There is so much to learn, and learning is fun :)


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