Calming Signals: What is your dog trying to tell you?

Click here for video transcript:

Canine Calming Signals: What is your dog trying to tell you?

Hey, it’s Tenille here from Dog Matters. Today I want to give you a tip about what’s called canine calming signals. Which just means the signals of your dog’s body language that they’re putting out to try and send a message to you or someone else that is making them feel a bit uncomfortable with their situation. And that’s basically what it means. “I’m a bit unsure about this.” “I’m a bit uncomfortable with the situation, and I’d like it to stop.”

And as we all are around dogs, we should all have at least a basic understanding of dog’s body language and what it means, especially if it’s telling us that they’re uncomfortable, not because they should never feel uncomfortable, because there’s always some stress in learning and in every day life. Right?

But because sometimes if they’re uncomfortable and we keep pushing too far, then it’s only going to get worse, and it can end up that the dog feels helpless and that you’re not getting the message that they’re trying to put across. Then they can lash out with aggression even. So that’s why it’s important to know when your dog’s telling you that they’re uncomfortable.

Now sometimes our dogs might get a little uncomfortable with things that we have to do as their owners, but if they’re getting uncomfortable with a stranger especially, you want to be able to see that and stop the interaction, and make that your dog is okay and able to deal with that or take them out of the situation altogether.

Classic example of this is that a lot of dogs don’t like to be hugged by strangers especially. They might be okay with you as their owner, and something that generally that they have to deal with. But they can really dislike being hugged by someone that doesn’t know them. So for example, if a young child comes up and hugs your dog, and you are able to see that your dog is putting out these calming signals and showing that it’s stress, you’ll know that you need to change the situation and end that interaction for everyone’s safety.

Now one of the top calming signals is “lip licking,” and the dog just simply licks its lips to say, “I’m a bit uncomfortable with this.” And that’s one of the early signs that a lot of people miss. It’ll also happen if your dog’s about to react to something. That’s often one of the first signs that it’s about to happen. So that’s one of the first ones to look out for.

We then have “wild eyes” where your dog has really wide eyes. We have stiffening of the body, where they get just really stiff, walking slowly, obviously trying to move away from the situation. Some dogs can do an anxious licking behavior of licking their paws, and that sort of thing. And yawning is another one.

Now things like licking their lips and yawning, obviously can happen at other times. Right? Because a dog can yawn when it’s tired or it could be licking its lips because it sees some food or just ate some food. So it’s really important to take these signals into context. For example, if your dog is being hugged by a child and licks its lips, you know it’s probably feeling a bit uncomfortable.

Pay attention the next time your dog has someone interacting with them, and maybe that person is a bit over enthusiastic or a bit over affectionate. See if you notice your dog doing that early signal of lip licking or one of the other behaviors that we mentioned. I’ll put up a list with this video so you can see all of the common calming signals that get discussed.

Now another important thing to remember about keeping it in context is not to freak out when you see your dog licking its lips or something like that. And this happens a lot on social media where someone will see a dog licking its lips in a photo or a video and assume that that dog is so stressed that it cannot handle it. You’ve got to take it into context. If it’s a dog training interacting with the dog, sometimes there is going to just be a little bit of stress in learning even if it’s all very positive learning. So keep in mind to be aware of it, but don’t panic about it.

Hope that you’ve enjoyed that tip today. I’m Tenille from Dog Matters. Now it’s time to go and be your dog’s best friend.