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Communication: How Dog's Talk

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charlotte mallion

on 18 September 2013

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Transcript of Communication: How Dog's Talk

How Dogs "Talk"
Communication Breakdown
Calming Signals
Stress signals
Increasing Signals
the Signals

Body language, emotion, energy, and arousal (IN CONTEXT) are the keys to unlocking communication with dogs.
Penis Crowning
Teeth Chattering
Sweaty Paws
Lip Licking
"Whale" Eye
Dog Won't Eat
Ears Pinned Back
Slow or Little
Tucked or Low Tail
Stiff Posture
Muscle Ridges
around eyes/mouth
Urogenital Check
Excessive Salivation
Shallow or Fast
Turning Away
Head or Body
Paw Raise
Shaking Off

Lip/Nose Licking

Sitting or Lying Down

Moving in an Arc on Approach
Means: "Back off, freak show!"
Recognizing these can keep you from being bitten!!!
Marking Territory
Hard Eyes
Showing Teeth
Ears Alert/
Tense Body
or Face
Heightened Posture/
Height Seeking
Lowered Head
and Neck
Almost exclusively associated with "Resource Guarding"
Piloerection/Hackles up
Tail Position:
High, Fast, Flagging
Play Bow
Easy Wagging Tail
Tongue Flicking
(Not Tapout)
Decreasing Signals
Ground Scratching


Very Brief Look-Aways

Whale Eye
Usually with soft eyes
It all started here . . .
From This Magnificent Gray Wolf
Over 15,000 years ago humans began to domesticate wolves and cross and in-breed them to match traits that we liked. We brought about the evolution to what we now know as the "dog." We now have over 400 recognized breeds of domesticated dogs. But no matter what size or shape the dog may be, he came from WOLF!
Isn’t it amazing and somewhat difficult to imagine that this little creature is still part Wolf?
To This Little One
Means: "I mean you know harm."
These signals are used for “cut-off, deference, or diffusion.” Threatening signals like walking straight at, reaching for the dog, bending over the dog, staring into the dog´s eyes, fast movements, and so on will cause the dog to use a calming signal.
The dog may yawn when someone bends over him, he’s at the vet, someone speaks angrily to him, there´s yelling going on around him, when someone is walking directly at the dog, when the dog is excited with happiness and anticipation, and in many other situations. There clearly always the possibility that the dog is just tired.There are about 30 different calming signals, so even when many dogs will yawn, other dogs may use another calming signal. All dogs know all the signals. When one dog yawns and turns his head to the side, the dog he is “talking to” may lick his nose and turn his back - or do something completely different. Unlike humans, a dog's communication skills are international and universal. All dogs all over the worlds have the same language.
Licking is another signal that is used often. All dogs use licking, and all dogs understand it, no matter how quick it is. The quick little lick on the nose is easier to see if you watch the dog from in front.

Sometimes it´s nothing more than a very quick lick, the tip of the tongue, is barely visible outside the mouth, and only for a short second. But other dogs see it, understand it and respond to it. Any signal is always returned with a signal.
A dog can turn its head slightly to one side, over to the side, or completely around so that the back and tail is facing whoever the dog is calming. This is one of the signals you will see A LOT, especially if you are approaching a dog from in front or SCOLDING YOURS.
When a dog is approached with anger, aggression or in a threatening manner (staring), you will also see these variations of the signal. When you bend over a dog to stroke him, he will turn his head away from you. When the dog is taken by surprise, he will turn away quickly. In most cases, this signal will make another dog calm down. It's used a lot by all dogs, whether they are puppies or adults, high or low ranking, and so on.
Going down with front legs in a bowing position 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 by itself because the dog is making a potentially dangerous situation less tense and diverts with something safe.

When two dogs approach each other too abruptly, you will often see that they go into a play bow. This is one of the signals that are easy to see, especially because they remain standing in the bow position for a few. YOU CAN INVITE A DOG TO PLAY THIS WAY.
A sign of arousal (not sexual) often around food or a resource.
Sign of arousal
Can be from excitement, frustration or stress
Dogs don’t like to approach (or be approached) straight on as it is “rude,” like staring. They find it uncomfortable and threatening and will avert their gaze. Walking toward each other in an arc or a curve is an nonthreatening signal that can give a clear meaning to other dogs.

This signal is frequently used as a calming signal, and it is the main reason why dogs may react so strongly when they are forced to walk straight at a dog or human. They instinctively know better and if forced, they can get anxious and defensive. What you can get is a dog who barks and lunges, and eventually an aggressive dog.


Don´t walk directly toward a dog, but walk up to it in a curve. The more anxious or aggressive the dog is, the wider you make the curve.
Even when hot, dogs paws don't usually sweat.
Dry or "raspy" breathing or panting
When a dog stops moving, stands completely still, or lays down and remains in that position, unmoving, it can be a calming signal.

Other times the dog may walk slowly, stop, and then move slowly again. The dog may be in a conflict situation with a human or dog, and unable to escape. In this case, stopping and being completely still may be one way to calm the other dog or person.
A dog who is insecure will move slowly. Move slower to make a dog feel safer. If a calming signal is used by a dog when approaching, immediately respond by moving slower.
If a dog comes very slowly when called, check the tone of your voice - do you sound angry or strict? If that isn’t enough, you may have to GET SILLY! GET HAPPY! Let him see that you have a treat 
Occasionally used in conjunction with sitting, or an even stronger signal like sitting down with the back turned, to calm a situation or the other party.

Some dogs will do this when scolded in a very angry tone of voice.

Different that a behavior they've learned that earns praise or treats, i.e. "Shake."
Can see the large portion of the white part of the eye
Really good indicator of stress
Often called submissive urination
Usually appear glued to the back of the head
Usually mouth is closed.
Eyes are usually tense, not soft.
Looks like somebody hit "pause."
Not usually back and forth, but rather in random directions
Usually there's a quickness to the pace
Likely paired with tense eyes and stress vocalizations
Most recognizable and a signal of high stress
Easily recognizable
Face just looks tense.
"Is it still there?"
Both male and female.
Usually when being handled or encountering invasive behavior.
Also, manifests as urogenital licking
More slobbery than normal.
Usually paired with high respiration rate
Usually will sniff the ground when approaching another dog.

Makes the head lower to the ground, which is the opposite of what dominance or aggression usually looks like.
Usually part of a sequence.

Rarely because of something up the nose.
Looks almost like they just woke up and it's TOO BRIGHT!

Eyes don't really open all the way in between blinks.
Often because of something invasive. It can also be a compulsive behavior or "tick."
Probably most common calming signal.

Looks like when they get out of the pool.

This usually indicates the end of a stressful event/stress sequence.
"Back off, this is MY area"
Sharp delineation between pupil and iris, which is normally a bit fuzzy.
Progressively worse the more teeth you see.
If you can see the molar, bite comes next.
Usually paired with hard eyes and tense face.
Very persistent jumping or trying to climb on top of a person.
Some dogs will growl and/or snap when approached while chewing a toy, eating or lying on a favorite spot. These dogs are guarding what they consider to be a valuable resource.
It's a natural behavior for dogs.
It could be caused by temperament of the dog or it may be a learned behavior.
Please do not label a dog as “aggressive” or “dominant” for this behavior. It is simply not true.
This can be a volatile situation and an Assess-A-Hand is recommended for testing for this behavior!

Approach the dog on an arc
Don’t make direct eye contact
Do not have a ventral position over the dog - don’t tower over the dog
Get down to the dogs level without facing the dog straight on
Wait for the dog to approach you and offer your hand if they are interested to sniff
Don’t have a nervous demeanor
Don’t smile at the dog, because they can see that as a tooth display and take wrong
Don’t pet a dog unless they show you care soliciting signals, even a dog Offer treats, if the dog doesn’t eat them you know it is stressed and probably doesn’t want to be touched.
How to Properly Approach a Dog
Marilyn Norma Jean
Shoulder and back to tail piloerection
Similar to goosebumps.
Can be shoulder, back and tail
When a dog's tail is “flagged,” it means that it is raised up and over the dog's back with the tip pointing towards his head. This is a very distinctive signal in dogs that usually have a lower tail set, and it's difficult to see in a whose tail is typically curled up and over her body.

The dog may wag his tail, which further lends itself to the impression of a flag waving in the wind. Unfortunately, most people are taught that it's safe to approach a dog who is wagging his tail. This is generally true if the tailset is lower, but in the case of the high tail, it's absolutely not the case (although it's even worse if the dog goes still).
Often in an circular motion called the "Windmill Wag"
Or when the dog’s entire hindquarters get involved and swivel back and forth as if he’s hinged in the middle.
Tongue just flicks outside of them mouth slightly and usually multiple times.
Tries persistently to lick person or another dog on the side of the mouth.
A distance decreasing signal that is associated with tail wagging and play.

A distance increasing signal in which a dog reaches its threshold and just collapses, usually slowly, and shows its belly.
Means: "Come on in! The water's fine!"
Only in males...obviously.
Also usually very intent on something
This Doberman is NOT enjoying this!
Arousal and Alertness
Really Stiff - could be pre-attack
Remember to look closely - this can also just be a sign that the dog is alerting to something!
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