Home Forums Training Calming signals – The Art of Survival

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      AvatarLena Griffin
      Keymaster

      Author: Turid Rugaas, ©, 2013.

      For species who live in packs it´s important to be able to communicate with its own kind. Both in order to cooperate when they hunt, to bring up their offspring, and perhaps most importantly: to live in peace with each other. Conflicts are dangerous – they cause physical injuries and a weakened pack, which is something that no pack can afford – it will cause them to og extinct.

      Dogs live in a world of sensory input: visual, olfactory, auditory perceptions. They easily perceive tiny details – a quick signal, a slight change in another´s behavior, the expression in our eyesÉ Pack animals are so perceptive to signals that a horse can be trained to follow the contraction in our pupils and a dog can be trained to answer your whispering voice. There´s no need to shout commands, to make the tone of our voice deep and angry – what Karen Pryor refers to as swatting flies with a shovel.

      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.

      THE PROBLEM
      Dogs use this communication system towards us humans, simply because it´s the language they know and think everyone understands.

      By failing to see your dog using calming signals on you, and perhaps even punish the dog for using them, you risk causing serious harm to
      your dog. Some may simply give up using the calming signals, including with other dogs. Others may get so desperate and frustrated that they get aggressive, nervous or stressed out as a result. Puppies and young dogs may actually go into a state of shock.

      TYPICAL EXAMPLE
      Dad calls Prince and has learned in class that he needs to sound strict and dominant so that Prince will understand who is in charge. Prince
      finds dad´s voice to be aggressive, and being a dog he instantly give dad a calming signal in order to make him stop being aggressive. Prince will perhaps lick his own nose, yawn, turn away – which will result in dad becoming angry for real, because dad perceieves Prince as being pig-headed, stubborn and disobedient. Prince is punished for using his calming signals to calm dad. This is a typical example of something that happens on an everyday basis with many dog owners.

      BASIC KNOWLEDGE
      We need to learn to understand the language of dogs so that we can understand what our dogs are telling us. That is the secret of having a
      good life together.

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