I thought this might be a good topic to start or even make into a sticky.
Calming Signals - Dogs use these signals as soon as there is anything to calm down. Often signals come in quick movements and you have to really look to see them. By experience you will learn to see them, just as other dogs see them, even other animals, like cats. All it takes is a little patience and practice. Just imagine being able to travel the world and everywhere you go you speak the same language! No matter what size/sex/breed/color/shape all dogs inherited this language. Dogs and Wolves have strong instincts for conflict solving, communication and cooperation.
Listed below are examples of calming signals:
1. Turning of the head - This can be swift, turning the head to the side and back, or held to the side. This is a sign the dog is not comfortable. Examples of this are often seen: His head may turn if you stoop over him, or if another dog approaches him too fast, or if she finds a camera being pointed in her direction scary. You can use the turning of your head to communicate to a dog that seems scared and starts to growl or bark at you. Sometimes it’s not the head, but the eyes only from side to side and look away to avert a direct stare. Your dog may use it if you stare at him or approach front to front.
2. Turning away - Turning the side or back to someone is very calming. When dog’s play and that game gets Wild dogs will start turning their side or back, just to calm the game down a little. Your dog may use it if another dog acts threateningly, or growls at him. You can use it when a dog shows signs of nervousness or aggressiveness to you. If he jumps at you, turn away and most times he will stop. If your approaching a strange dog and you see the dog getting nervous, turn your back and more often than not the dog will come to you.
3. Licking Noses - A quick movement of the tongue, so quick it is often missed. Your dog may use it, along with other signals when approaching another dog, if you the owner bends over the dog, holds him tight, grabs him or talks to him angrily. It is one signal we as humans cannot use, we are not quick enough!
4. Yawning - The most intriguing of the signals, at least people seem to enjoy using it. Your dog may yawn when you visit the Vets, when you fight or quarrel in the family, when you hold your dog too tight, when a child comes up to hug him, and many other situations. You can use it when your dog feels uncertain, a little scared, stressed, worried or when you want him to calm down a bit.
5. Shaking off - Not to be confused with shaking off water after a rainstorm or bath, this calming signal is used quite often with dogs. Here’s an excellent example: an adult dog that is not normally aggressive is playing with a young puppy that becomes a bit too rambunctious. As a result, the adult dog ends up getting accidentally bitten in the ear by the puppy. The adult dog, in turn, puts a big paw on the puppy, ‘pins’ him to the ground, ‘makes eye contact’ with him and ‘stares him down.’ The puppy sees these signals and stops the behavior. The adult dog then releases the puppy, backs up just a bit and ‘shakes off.’ By exhibiting this physical behavior, the adult dog is ‘diffusing’ or ‘shaking off’ the nervous energy around him as if to say ‘I’m sorry I did that to you, but don’t bite me again!’ Hopefully, the puppy will get the message and will be more respectful of the adult in the future.
By paying attention to canine signals, we can help dogs feel more secure. For example, we can lead a dog in an arc around a person she perceives as threatening. Also, a vet or groomer can approach a nervous dog from the side to gain the dog's confidence.
Additional calming signals include:
* Moving slowly in an exaggerated motion.
* Moving in an arc.
* Sniffing the ground.
* Sitting or lying down.
* Lip licking -- a quick little flick of the tongue is usually a signal to calm down.
* Blinking, averting eyes, turning away, displaying their back or side to another dog or person.