Calming Signals: On Talking Terms with Dogs was not the least bit boring but still put me into a state of happy stupor. Turid Rugaas describes how every time a dog does certain behaviors out of context, she is probably trying to communicate calming signals. When a dog yawns, shakes, lick her lips, or looks away, she is telling other dogs to calm down and relax--there's no threat here. Dogs use them to avoid fights and establish peaceful relations among groups.
This was just so exciting to me. Imagine the possibilities for communicating with our canine friends! Imagine whole families yawning at the Fedex guy, just to help their dog cope! Imagine Reactive Dog classes where all the human coaches and assistants stand around licking their lips and shaking!
|Sam, I know you wanna play--but go easy on me!|
She said that most trainers no longer think of these signals the way Rugaas described. She said that using them as Rugaas suggests--training dogs to display them so they communicate clearly with each other, displaying them ourselves to help dogs relax--just keeps dogs in a stressed-out state. According to this understanding, our only response to stress signals should be removing a dog from the situation that is making him stressed out.
Now this trainer, bless her heart, is as I said unfailingly positive in her approach to dogs. Not so much to humans. She can come off as a bit grumpy and dismissive, and maybe she was just having one of those days where she had to growl a little at my gushy effusiveness.
|Can someone make those two calm down?|
The issue fascinates me and I am going to delve again into Canine Body Language: A Photographic Guide by Brenda Aloff--a very in-depth look at calming signals and all aspects of dog communication.
While I bliss out with another good read on positive dog stuff, share your thoughts! Which understanding is more useful? What do you do when you see calming/stress signals? Do you have a dog who's a brilliant communicator, or one with poor social skills?