Dog Training Today with Will Bangura for Pet Parents, Kids & Family, Pets and Animals, and Dog Training Professionals. This is a Education & How To Dog Training Podcast.

Dog Training Today with Will Bangura: #135 Decoding Canine Body Language Part I: Behavioral Issues, Stress and Calming Signals Explained

December 07, 2023 Will Bangura, M.S., CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, FFCP is a World Renowned Dog Behaviorist, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, Certified Professional Dog Trainer, and a Fear Free Certified Professional with over 36 years of experience with the most difficult of Season 4 Episode 135
Dog Training Today with Will Bangura: #135 Decoding Canine Body Language Part I: Behavioral Issues, Stress and Calming Signals Explained
Dog Training Today with Will Bangura for Pet Parents, Kids & Family, Pets and Animals, and Dog Training Professionals. This is a Education & How To Dog Training Podcast.
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Dog Training Today with Will Bangura for Pet Parents, Kids & Family, Pets and Animals, and Dog Training Professionals. This is a Education & How To Dog Training Podcast.
Dog Training Today with Will Bangura: #135 Decoding Canine Body Language Part I: Behavioral Issues, Stress and Calming Signals Explained
Dec 07, 2023 Season 4 Episode 135
Will Bangura, M.S., CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, FFCP is a World Renowned Dog Behaviorist, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, Certified Professional Dog Trainer, and a Fear Free Certified Professional with over 36 years of experience with the most difficult of

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Ever wondered why your four-legged friend does that peculiar thing? What if you could unlock the silent signals of your dog and understand their emotions and intentions better? As pet lovers, we all wish we could converse with our dogs. While their language is different, it's just as sophisticated. Our latest episode is a deep dive into the world of canine body language, with a special focus on dogs with behavioral issues such as anxiety, fears, phobias, or aggression. Knowledge of these silent signals can help predict and prevent unwanted behavior, improving your furry friend's quality of life.

We kick off with a discussion on canine stress signals - subtle signs of distress that are often overlooked, yet crucial for understanding your pet's emotional state. Recognizing these signals can help you provide the support they need in uncomfortable situations. We then move on to the fascinating realm of canine calming signals, deciphering behaviors they use to communicate non-threatening intentions and diffuse tension. You'll learn to interpret common signals like yawning, lip licking, sniffing the ground, play bowing, and even rolling onto the back, enabling you to connect with your dogs on a whole new level.

The episode wraps up with an in-depth exploration of tail positions, barking, and other vocalizations, underlining the importance of considering context when interpreting these signals. Remember, just as in human communication, body language in dogs can be ambiguous and multifaceted. So buckle up as we guide you through the complex world of canine body language, helping you build a stronger bond with your canine companion. Understanding and interpreting these signals can make a world of difference in managing and resolving behavioral issues. So, are you ready to become a canine body language expert? Listen in and let's embark on this journey together. Dog Training Today with Will Bangura.

Support the Show.

If you need professional help please visit my Dog Behaviorist website.
Go here for Free Dog Training Articles

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Ever wondered why your four-legged friend does that peculiar thing? What if you could unlock the silent signals of your dog and understand their emotions and intentions better? As pet lovers, we all wish we could converse with our dogs. While their language is different, it's just as sophisticated. Our latest episode is a deep dive into the world of canine body language, with a special focus on dogs with behavioral issues such as anxiety, fears, phobias, or aggression. Knowledge of these silent signals can help predict and prevent unwanted behavior, improving your furry friend's quality of life.

We kick off with a discussion on canine stress signals - subtle signs of distress that are often overlooked, yet crucial for understanding your pet's emotional state. Recognizing these signals can help you provide the support they need in uncomfortable situations. We then move on to the fascinating realm of canine calming signals, deciphering behaviors they use to communicate non-threatening intentions and diffuse tension. You'll learn to interpret common signals like yawning, lip licking, sniffing the ground, play bowing, and even rolling onto the back, enabling you to connect with your dogs on a whole new level.

The episode wraps up with an in-depth exploration of tail positions, barking, and other vocalizations, underlining the importance of considering context when interpreting these signals. Remember, just as in human communication, body language in dogs can be ambiguous and multifaceted. So buckle up as we guide you through the complex world of canine body language, helping you build a stronger bond with your canine companion. Understanding and interpreting these signals can make a world of difference in managing and resolving behavioral issues. So, are you ready to become a canine body language expert? Listen in and let's embark on this journey together. Dog Training Today with Will Bangura.

Support the Show.

If you need professional help please visit my Dog Behaviorist website.
Go here for Free Dog Training Articles

Speaker 1:

One of the most important skills that you can have if you've got a dog that has problems with anxiety, fears, phobias, reactivity or aggression. The number one skill that you need when you have dogs with those issues are understanding all the nuances and the complexities of canine body language. If you are a pet professional, if you're a dog trainer, a behavior consultant and you take on cases working with dogs with anxiety, fears, phobias, aggression, reactivity, you absolutely have to understand canine body language. Don't go anywhere. We're going to go in depth with canine body language here on dog training today.

Speaker 2:

Raised by wolves with canine DNA and his blood. Having trained more than 24,000 vets helping you and your fur babies thrive, live in studio with Will Bangura answering your pet behavior and training questions. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome your host and favorite pet behavior expert, Will Bangura.

Speaker 1:

Good day pet lovers. It's Will Bangura. Thanks for joining me for another episode of dog training today. As I said in the opener, this episode is going to be devoted to understanding canine body language. You know, it would be nice if our furry companions could talk to us and let us know what they're thinking, let us know what they're feeling, let us know what they need. But they don't speak our language. But they've got their own sophisticated language. It's canine body language and there are many, many nuances to canine body language. It's not as simple as just understanding.

Speaker 1:

Hey, a dog is fearful if their tail is tucked. Or a dog is aggressive if it's showing its teeth. Those are very obvious outward displays of canine body language that we might all understand. For example, if you've got a dog that's trembling with its tail tucked, we all know that that's a scared dog, it's a fearful dog. But when we can see the huge displays, when we can see the very, very overt displays of canine body language, oftentimes it's too late. What do I mean by that? Well, if you truly have a good grasp of canine body language one of the benefits you're able to prevent a lot of unwanted behaviors from happening. You're able to intervene with your dog if your dog is fearful and change that underlying emotional state of fear. If you've got a dog that is reactive or aggressive, if you understand the canine body language, you're going to know that your dog is starting to get stressed. Your dog is getting nervous well in advance of any of those big displays. So one of the great benefits of understanding canine body language you're able to predict behavior. Now think about how important would that be if you've got an aggressive dog, to be able to predict behavior. Now, I talked to a lot of pet parents that have dogs that are aggressive and they'll tell me that there was no warning when in fact there were many warning signs in their canine body language. They were communicating hey, this is a problem. I need distance, I need space, and because nobody understood the canine body language, that message was not heated and whether it be a dog, whether it be a person, they got too close. And then we've got the big displays, the lunging, the growling, the snapping, the biting. And how heartbreaking is it when we've got dogs with fears and phobias and anxiety watching them suffer.

Speaker 1:

One of the ways that we help dogs, this population of dogs again dogs with fears, anxieties, phobias, aggression, reactivity, dogs with low confidence. Okay, one of the ways that we help them is by understanding the canine body language, because when we're exposing dogs whether it be to triggers that cause them to be aggressive or whether it be triggers that cause them to have phobias the way that we address it is through counter conditioning and desensitization. You could call that exposure therapy very specific, evidence based, science based protocols that have been around forever, that are time tested and true, that actually work. If you want to help a dog that has aggression, anxiety, fears, phobias, you have to understand counter conditioning and desensitization. You need to understand how to apply the protocols for counter conditioning and desensitization to help your dog get over their fears, anxiety, phobias, aggression, reactivity. And in order to be successful with exposure therapy, in order to be successful with behavior modification to turn that around in these dogs, in order to be successful with counter conditioning and desensitization, you must have a great understanding of canine body language, and canine body language is like any other language. It's something that you have to study. I liken it oftentimes to learning American sign language, because when we learn American sign language, we're looking at all of the different pictures of how we're using our hands, how we're using our fingers, how are we signing, and it's a visual representation, that language, because it's not auditory, because it's for deaf people, so it's a visual language. Well, when it comes to canine body language, that's also a visual language. The problem is is that most pet parents, most of you, are not seeing the canine body language cues and you don't understand what they mean. And your dog is trying to communicate and it wants you to help them. So in today's episode we're going to be going through many, many, many nuances of canine body language and, like I said, this is a critical skill, especially if you're a dog trainer, especially if you're a veterinarian or you work with dogs in a shelter setting or you're a groomer or a vet tech or a behavior consultant or even a behaviorist. These are critical skills. So let's start to get into this now.

Speaker 1:

Before we can start talking about canine body language cues and signals. It's important to understand that when we're interpreting canine body language, we need to be looking for patterns. We need to assess the dog's behavior over time, also assess that in various situations to identify consistent patterns or signals that can help you to better understand your dog's emotions and intentions. See the canine body language that lets us know how your dog is feeling. What are those underlying emotions and where is your dog going with those emotions in terms of behaviorally? Another thing that you need to consider when you're studying canine body language and looking at your dog, you need to observe other body language cues. You need to pay attention to your dog's entire body, including their eyes, their ears, their posture, their facial expressions. You need to take into consideration all of the language that they're giving you to gain a more comprehensive understanding of your dog's emotional state. And again, the canine body language is going to be critical for understanding your dog's underlying emotional state.

Speaker 1:

Now, when interpreting canine body language signals, you also want to evaluate the environment. You want to consider external factors that might be influencing your dog's behavior, such as unfamiliar settings, the presence of other animals or loud noises. And when we're considering canine body language, when we're trying to interpret that, we also need to be mindful of very breed-specific differences. So, for example, some dog breeds might display unique body language signals or have physical traits that affect their ability to communicate. For example, breeds with naturally curly tails or cropped ears may display different tail and ear postures than those with straight tails and natural ears. Also, you need to really stay in tune with your dog's individual personality. Remember, every dog is an individual and each dog has its unique personality and communication style. So it's essential to consider your dog's individual characteristics when interpreting their body language and you need to take everything into context. And in some cases, when we're talking about canine body language, there are a few gray areas. It's not 100% black and white. There are some areas that can be a little obscure. There are canine body language cues and signals that can fall into more than one category. They can fall into multiple categories. So we need to take the whole dog in consideration, all of their body language, and we also need to take into consideration the environment, okay, and possible breed-specific differences. All right, let's get started into the meat and potatoes of the canine body language.

Speaker 1:

Now. One of the most important things that you can understand are canine body language stress signals. So here I'm going to be talking about various different stress signals that, for the most part, are going to indicate that your dog is experiencing stress. That's their underlying emotional state. Okay, yawning is one of those stress signals. Dogs yawn when they're stressed or they're uncomfortable. The yawn might be a prolonged yawn. It might be more exaggerated than a typical yawn, but that's a stress signal. Now, again, take into consideration the context. If you don't see any other stress signals, you're only seeing a yawn and you're seeing other communication from your dog that it's happy and it's okay. Maybe a yawn is just a yawn. Okay, they yawn like we do. It might not be a stress signal, but, again, if you're in a stressful situation for your dog and you notice yawning, that's a signal that your dog is giving out, that it's stressed, and when it's stressed, it wants space from whatever that trigger is, whatever the stressor is.

Speaker 1:

Another stress signal and this one's a little more obvious, is panting. Now, dogs pant a lot, especially in warm weather. Okay, but dogs will pant. Many of them will pant when they're stressed out, even if it's not hot, even if they haven't been exercising. So if it's not hot, they haven't been exercising and your dog is panting, it might be a stress signal. They might be stressed out about some trigger, some stimulus in the environment.

Speaker 1:

Another stress signal that dogs give out are lip licking. Dogs may repeatedly lick their lips when they feel anxious or when they feel nervous. Okay, do me a favor. I know all of you think that your dog loves to have. You kiss your dog and grab its head. Now if you have an aggressive dog and you know that's gonna make your dog aggressive, please don't do that. But if you've got a dog that has never shown aggression, do me a favor and approach your dog and get your face very close to your dog's face, start kissing their head, grab their head with your hands and note are they doing lip licking? Sometimes they're called tongue flicks, but that's a stress signal. Now, a lot of dogs are very tolerant of us pet parents kissing them, holding their heads, but in general, for the most part and I said tolerant because dogs don't like that For the most part it stresses them out. So check it out, see if you start getting canine body language stress signals when you're doing that.

Speaker 1:

Another signal, another stress signal is pinned back ears. A dog's ears may be pinned back against their head when they're stressed. Now, remember I talked about taking everything into consideration the environment, the rest of the dogs, canine body language. I've personally had dogs that when we were playing and when they were extremely happy, they had their ears pinned back. But if I got that same dog in another situation where it had a fear of dogs and it was too close, the ears would be pinned back again. However, in the context where the trigger, where the strange dogs were, I'm also seeing other canine body language, stress signals in the dog, not just the one that we're talking about here the ears being pinned back, but I might see panting, I might see the hackles up, I might see the tail start to tuck. So again, looking at everything in context, okay, all right.

Speaker 1:

Another, and this is one that a lot of people don't know about sweaty paws. Did you know that dogs can sweat through their paws? Yeah, they can sweat through their paws, their pads, and when they're stressed and anxious. We're really going to see that. If I've got a dog that's really stressed out and anxious and I'm walking them on the sidewalk, I might actually see paw prints because of the sweaty paws. That's a stress signal. All right, we talked about tails being tucked, all right, often between the legs, and that can definitely indicate stress, fear, submission.

Speaker 1:

Okay, are you familiar with a term called whale eye in canine body language? Well, whale eye is something that occurs when the dog turns its head away but keeps its eyes on the source of stress, showing the whites of their eyes. Yeah, so it could be a situation where your dog's uncomfortable with a person, or maybe another dog. They're getting too close. Your dog turns its head away from the stressor. However, because of anxiety, it's keeping its eyes on the stressor. So, yeah, the head is turned away but the eyes are not, and when that happens, you're going to see the whites of the eyes. And when you see whale eye that's the term we give to seeing the whites of the eyes like that, that could mean that the dog is getting ready to bite. That is something you really want to pay attention to, all right.

Speaker 1:

Another stress signal is the furrowed brow. A dog may furrow its brow when feeling stressed, creating wrinkles on their forehead. If you see that, that forehead wrinkles, if they're furrowing their brow, that's a good indication that they're uncomfortable, that they're stressed. Again. Take all of this in context. Make sure you're checking out other body language and the environment Pacing, being restless and pacing Pacing is another stress signal. Stress dogs may pace, they might circle. They've got difficulty settling down. That's a stress signal. Here's another one that a lot of people don't look for. They don't know about Dilated pupils. Yep, when a dog is stressed out, even a person when they're stressed out or anxious, their pupils may dilate, making their eyes appear larger and darker.

Speaker 1:

Another stress signal refusal of food or treats. When a dog is really stressed out or anxious, when they're afraid, they may refuse food. They may refuse treats, even if they would typically accept them eagerly. That's a sign that your dog is experiencing stress and anxiety. All right, here's some additional stress signals Cowaring Well, that's a little more. That's not so much nuance, that's a little more overt. A lot of what I'm going to be talking about are these little tiny, covert canine body language signals. But cowaring A dog may crouch down low to the ground or attempt to make themselves appear smaller when they feel stressed or frightened.

Speaker 1:

Another stress signal avoidance Stress dogs. They may attempt to avoid the source of their stress by turning away or hiding or moving to a different location. You need to be aware of that. Another stress signal a flattened body. A dog may press their body close to the ground as a sign of stress or fear or submission. Another canine body language stress signal is stiffening or freezing. A stress dog might suddenly become very still or rigid, as if they're freezing in place.

Speaker 1:

Another stress signal that you need to learn about is excessive shedding. Yes, there are dogs that might shed excessively, but when they're extremely stressed and anxious, dogs can shed more than usual. And let's say, you're doing a really good job of brushing your dog and your dog doesn't shed much in most contexts and all of a sudden you are in an environment and your dog is just shedding like crazy. Well, that could be a stress signal. You want to look for that. Another stress signal would be hypervigilance. A stress dog might become hyperalert, scanning the environment for potential threats and reacting to even the smallest stimuli. Another stress signal to look for this is one that's more overt than covert excessive drooling. Some dogs may drool excessively when they're stressed, even if they're not anticipating food, remember I talked about when you're looking at the canine body language cues, you need to take everything into context. So if I've got a dog and I've got food out and that dog is drooling, most likely the drooling is because of the food. But, like I'm saying here, if there's no food involved and your dog is drooling, that may be a canine body language stress signal that your dog is really having a hard time.

Speaker 1:

Other stress signals vocalizations. Sometimes they may produce stress related vocalizations such as whining or whimpering, or perhaps they do a low growl. Another stress signal is sudden scratching or grooming. A dog might suddenly start to scratch or groom themselves when they're stressed, even if they do not have an itch or need grooming, why one of my miniature schnauzers, when it starts to get a little anxious or nervous, will start grooming itself. Another stress signal that dogs can display is air snapping. Again, this is more of an overt one. This one's not as covert, but a stress dog may snap at the air without making contact with anyone or anything, as a warning and also to relieve stress.

Speaker 1:

Another stress signal that you might encounter are chattering teeth. Some dogs they may chatter their teeth when they're stressed and that can be a sign of anxiety or fear. However, again, remember I said there are some gray areas. I've had dogs that were incredibly toy crazy. I had a Belgian Malinois and when the dog got aroused, when the dog wanted to play, there was so much arousal that the dog chattered its teeth. Now that was stress, but that was more of a good kind of stress instead of stress that leads to problematic behaviors.

Speaker 1:

The next one kind of goes with the scratching and the grooming. Another stress signal is excessive self-licking, and that's what my dog really does when we're talking about the stress signal. When it comes to sudden grooming, it's the excessive self-licking, and other dogs as well as my dog might lick themselves excessively when they're stressed and in some cases dogs do it so much because they've got so much anxiety that it potentially leads to skin irritation or hotspots. All right, keeping with the stress signals. The next one I want to talk about is jumpiness, or a startle response. Stress dogs might become more sensitive to sudden noises or movements, reacting with a heightened startle response. Another stress signal bowel or bladder accidents. A stress dog may have accidents indoors, even if they're house trained, but due to the emotional pressures that they're experiencing, they might have accidents. Okay. And of course, we know also a dog that is absolutely scared out of their mind. They could lose the function of their bladder and their bowel Okay.

Speaker 1:

Another stress signal behavior would be dogs displaying displacement behaviors. So stress dogs might engage in behaviors that seem out of context or unrelated to the situation, like sniffing the ground or pawing at objects or focusing on a toy, when they're usually indifferent, all right. So let me give you an example. I had to do a bite assessment case with a dog that bit somebody and I did a setup where I actually had a mannequin to simulate a stranger and we had the dog come out of the house and the dog ended up in the garage. The garage door was open, then there's the driveway that goes to the sidewalk. On the sidewalk I had the mannequin. Well, the dog saw the mannequin and the dog started sniffing all over in the garage. Now that behavior in my mind okay was a situation where it was a displacement behavior. That dog was anxious about the mannequin. That dog if that mannequin, if it was a real person made the wrong move the dog might go after and bite. The dog was stressed when it saw the mannequin. Yet it started sniffing and normally it would not be sniffing all over the place in the garage. It's been in that garage many times. So that was a displacement behavior, a stress signal.

Speaker 1:

Another stress signal is the inability to focus. Stress can make it very difficult for a dog to pay attention, to follow commands or cues, even if they're well trained. Klinginess another stress signal. Stress dogs might become excessively clingy or needy, seeking reassurance and comfort From you, the pet parent or other family members. Another stress signal is excessive barking. Some dogs may bark excessively when they're stressed or anxious, as a way to express their emotional state or seek attention. Another stress signal escape attempts. A stress dog might try to escape a situation that they find overwhelming or frightening, such as digging under a fence or attempting to break free from a leash.

Speaker 1:

Now, these are just some of the many stress signals that dogs can display that are communication to you. And again, like I said, when you are very familiar, when you become fluent in canine body language, you can understand what your dog's underlying emotional state is, what their intentions are going to be. You can predict behavior. It allows you to be able to get in there and make sure nothing bad happens. It's also critical when you're exposing your dog to triggers, if you're trying to get them used to things that they're afraid of, that they're anxious or that they're aggressive towards. If they're being exposed to those things and they're displaying stress signals, you have them too close, too soon. If it's a sound issue that they're stressed out about, the sound is too loud too soon. The exposure needs to be less. Now.

Speaker 1:

This podcast is not about counter conditioning and desensitization. This podcast is not about exposure therapy. It's about the canine body language that gives us cues and signals to know, hey, if I'm getting stress signals and I'm trying to expose my dog and get my dog more comfortable and relaxed around strange dogs and my dog is displaying stress signals, that's feedback, that's language to me. I need to create more distance between my dog and the strange dog, because exposing my dog to another dog and it having stress signals is the opposite of what I want. I want to expose my dog to the things it's afraid of or aggressive towards, at a distance where my dog is comfortable. When they see those triggers, I can pair that with something very positive, like high value food, rewards or the dog's favorite toy, or a lot of love, praise, affection and play. Eventually, as I'm pairing positive associations with the things that my dog doesn't like, but again at a safe distance where my dog doesn't care, where I'm not seeing the stress signals when I'm doing it. That way I'm going to have success. But if I'm trying to do the same thing and my dog has stress signals, I'm either not going to have success, or I'm going to have minimal success, or I'm going to start hitting roadblock after roadblock after roadblock. I'm only going to get so far.

Speaker 1:

Now, like I said, this particular podcast is not about exposure therapy. It's not about counter conditioning and desensitization, which you need a great understanding of canine body language to be effective with that. But if you don't know a lot about counter conditioning and desensitization, make sure that you check out my podcast that is very specific on counter conditioning and desensitization. If you go to I believe it's episode 81, episode 81 on the dog training today audio podcast. Wherever you get your podcast, whether it's Apple podcast, spotify, wherever you listen look for episode 81 and that is an hour long episode on counter conditioning and desensitization. Also, you can go to my website at dogbehavioristcom. Again, that's dogbehavioristcom. Go to the menu and look for articles. Click on articles. There's about 80 articles. One of those articles is specifically titled counter conditioning and desensitization.

Speaker 1:

So the canine body language is a skill that allows you to be successful with counter conditioning and desensitization, aka exposure therapy, to help change the dog's underlying emotional state, how it feels about the trigger, through behavior modification. You've got to understand the canine body language. All right, let's go into. Let's go into some calming signals. So what are some things? What are some canine body language displays that dogs can give us that are calming signals to let us know they're getting more relaxed. They are relaxed, okay. Well, one of them is softening eyes. A dog might make their eyes appear softer and less intense to show that they're not threatening, okay. Another calming signal slow blinking. Dogs may slowly blink to signal that they're not a threat and they're trying to calm the situation. Its communication. Another calming signal is turning the head away. A dog might turn their head away to avoid direct eye contact, trying to signal that hey, I'm not a threat. Another calming signal could be sitting or lying down. Dogs may sit or lie down to show that they're not a threat and, again, that they're trying to calm the situation. But you've got to take these things into context, right? Dogs sit and lay down all day long. Is there a stressor when they do it? Well, maybe, if there's a stressor or a trigger when they're doing it, it's a calming signal they're trying to calm the situation.

Speaker 1:

Another calming signal sniffing the ground. Dogs may suddenly sniff the ground to signal that they're not interested in confrontation. Remember I talked about that bite case and that dog that I was evaluating. We had the mannequin set up. The dog came out the garage and I talked about the dog was displaying displacement behaviors. It was sniffing. Those behaviors were out of context for the situation At hand. There was a, for all intents purposes, a stranger that normally it would go after, but the dog had some training after the attack, all right. So not only was that dog sniffing a displacement behavior, but it was also a calming signal. Yes, when the dog suddenly started sniffing the ground, it's signaling that they're not interested in confrontation. Now, wouldn't that be important to know as a pet parent? Absolutely All right.

Speaker 1:

Another calming signal a lot of us know this playbough. Do you know what a playbough is? That involves a dog lowering their front end while keeping their rear end raised, signaling that they want to engage in friendly play. A lot of us know that. Here's another great calming signal a shake off. Now you know when you bathe your dog and they shake all the water off, all right, a dog might perform a full body shake, similar to when they're wet, but they're not wet and they do that shake off as a way to A release tension and, b to signal their intent to calm the situation. They might be in a stressful situation with another dog and you might see stress signals and then you might see the dog get more relaxed, start showing calming signals.

Speaker 1:

There can be a shift when we're doing counter conditioning and desensitization, when we're doing exposure therapy to these dogs that have anxiety, fears, phobias, aggression and reactivity. One of the critical things that we're looking for, besides the stress signals, are calming signals. I want to reward, I want to reinforce every single calming signal that I encounter. So every time I see a dog, every time I'm working with a dog that has anxiety, fears, phobias, stress, reactivity, aggression, whenever I see a calming signal, I'm going to reward that, I'm going to mark or I'm going to click my clicker and reward that.

Speaker 1:

Now, in my program of training we use a marker training system. A clicker is just one kind of marker. That marker training system, using a clicker or another kind of marker in training, is critical in order to have fantastic timing, and timing is so important when we're training our dogs. You literally have about one second to reward your dog, to connect that reward to your dog's behavior in its own mind, cognitively, for it to connect the dots, you'd have to get the food in your dog's mouth within a second. Well, sometimes you can't do that. Well, a marker system is a system of communication that lets the dog know hey, you're getting a food reward.

Speaker 1:

Now, if you don't know about marker training, if you're not using markers, if you don't know about clicker training, if you're not using a clicker in training, you need to again go to the dog training today audio podcast and I want you to look for episode 80. Episode 80 is an entire hour on using markers and training, on marker training, on clicker training. Also, you can again go to my website, dogbehavioristcom again dogbehavioristcom. Go to the menu, click on articles and then you can find the article as you scroll through. I've got an entire article on counter conditioning and desensitization and you know what I've done for you. I've actually taken the audio podcast. I've embedded that at the bottom of that article, so you can get both by going to my website.

Speaker 1:

Okay, all right, let's talk about some additional calming signals. One of them is lifting a paw. A dog might lift one paw off the ground to indicate that they are not a threat, and they do that sometimes to diffuse some tension. Okay, another calming signal curving the body. A dog might approach another dog or a person in a curved, non-linear path to show that they're friendly and not threatening. Okay, now here's where things get a little crazy. Normal calming signals, right, yawning Remember we talked about yawning as a stress signal.

Speaker 1:

Well, a dog may yawn in a tense situation, yeah, to display non-aggression and an attempt to calm the environment. So yawning can be both a stress signal and a calming signal. It can have two things. It can indicate they're stressed, they've got an underlying emotional state of anxiety or fear, yet they're trying to diffuse the situation and communicate hey, I'm not a threat. Yawning, all right.

Speaker 1:

Another calming signal lip licking. And we talked about lip licking as a stress signal. This is another one that can fall into multiple categories. Dogs might lick their lips in the presence of other dogs or humans to signal that they're not a threat and that they're trying to de-escalate the situation. But lip licking can be a stress signal. And then it flips into communication of hey, I'm not a threat. But they do that when they're stressed and it helps them calm down. Also, and they're trying to calm down a possible tension-related event Okay. Another calming signal wagging the tail, however, however specific tail wagging wagging the tail in a low wide arc. A dog that wags its tail in a low wide arc is often displaying friendly intentions and trying to calm the situation. Okay.

Speaker 1:

Another calming signal is offering the side or the back. A dog might present its side or back to another dog or a person to show that they're not a threat and that they're trying to calm the situation. Okay, here's another calming signal that oftentimes is misinterpreted rolling onto the back. A dog rolling onto its back can be a calming signal, exposing their vulnerable belly to show submission and non-threatening intentions. In many cases you're misinterpreting that and you think your dog wants a belly rub, but you may have a dog that doesn't have a lot of confidence. All right, if you've got a dog that doesn't have a lot of confidence and your dog rolls on its back, your dog might not be asking for a belly rub. Your dog might be exposing their belly to show submission and that they're trying to communicate. They're not a threat, all right.

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Another calming signal blinking or looking away. A dog might blink or look away from the source of their tension to avoid direct eye contact and also to signal that, hey, I'm not a threat. Another calming signal sighing A dog might emit a deep, relaxed sigh to signal that there it is, and this can have a calming effect on other dogs and sometimes on people that are nearby. All right, another calming signal stretching A dog might stretch their body or their legs in a relaxed manner to show that they're comfortable, also showing that they're not a threat, and this helps to calm the situation. Another calming signal taking treats gently. A dog may take treats gently from a person's hand to demonstrate they're not a threat. Another calming signal slow, deliberate movements. Have you seen that you know where a dog might move slowly and deliberately, avoiding sudden or quick movements? Yeah, that's to signal that, hey, I'm not a threat. They're attempting to keep the situation calm, all right.

Speaker 1:

Another calming signal gentle nuzzling or sniffing. A dog may gently nuzzle or sniff another dog or a person and that's to demonstrate friendly intentions and help calm the situation. Okay, another calming signal to look for are relaxed ears. A dog with relaxed, neutral ears is signaling that they're comfortable, they're not a threat, and that can have a calming effect on others. Another calming signal is a gentle tail wagging. A dog wagging their tail slowly and gently can signal that they're non-threatening, that they're friendly, that that particular wag is helping to calm the situation. Another calming signal a relaxed mouth. A dog with a relaxed, slightly open mouth is signaling that they're comfortable, that they're not a threat, and that helps to contribute to a calmer atmosphere and to help calm the dog and perhaps strange dogs or people that are around that dog.

Speaker 1:

All right, so we have gone through stress signals, we have gone through different calming signals and in part two, because this is going to be a multi-part series, in part two of canine body language, we're going to be talking about distance increasing signals. What kind of canine body language do dogs give off to communicate to other dogs or to other people? Hey, I need space, I need distance, I need you to increase your distance between me. And in addition to that, we're going to talk about appeasement signals. How do dogs show appeasement signals? And then there's also distance decreasing signals. When a dog wants you to get closer to them and when they're trying to indicate, hey, I'm friendly, come on over, they will display distance decreasing signals. Okay.

Speaker 1:

And then we're going to talk about what are some different play signals. We're going to be talking about tail position, because that can be very confusing, along with tail wagging. Everybody thinks, hey, if the dog's tail is wagging, it's happy and friendly. Well, that's not necessarily the case. There are many different ways that dogs wag their tail and it means different things.

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Also, barking signals there are different kinds of barking. There are different kinds of vocalization where the dog is communicating different intentions to us. Do you know all the different signals that dogs can send, with different barking and different vocalization? Okay, that can be absolutely critical. And then I'm going to talk a little bit more about some of the conflicting canine body language signals, the ones that can fall into multiple categories, the ones that you really have to take everything into context as far as what's happening in the environment and the rest of the dog's body language. All right, well, that's part one of canine body language. Make sure that you check back for part two. Watch your dogs Check out and see if you find these things in their body language. I'm out of here.

Dog Body Language for Behavioral Issues
Canine Stress Signals and Body Language
Canine Calming Signals and Communication
Understanding Canine Body Language Signals