What is your dog telling you?

What is your dog telling you?

The more often you know when your dog or another dog is stressed, unsure or nervous, the better your chances for more safe and calm dog interactions.

Recently I have been called on for several concerning behaviors between my clients and there dogs which ended up in bites to friends faces, lunging at passers by and other similar behaviors.  Between the dog who bit and the person being bit or lunged at, there were warning signals in almost all cases.  These warning signals are learned by dog trainers either by chance or hopefully because they took the time to learn them ahead of time.  Having said that, when selecting a trainer to work with your dog, if they said they are used to dog bites, you might want to keep looking.  In 4 years I have had one real dog bite due to redirection from breaking up a dog fight.  Since then only nips from chihuahuas and privileged lapdogs who needed someone with no apprehensions to handle them.  Now let’s get back on track.  There are at least 20 cues a dog may give you that they are stressed or uncomfortable.  If you pick up them you will save a lot of worry about how to handle certain situations and be more confident in further dog on dog/people interactions.

The chart above helps to illustrate these behaviors and an even more simplistic resource is a short book by Turid Rugaas titled “On Talking Terms With Dogs, Calming Signals”.  It is an e-book for under $10.

Essentially, your dog yawning, licking its lips from the front or side, sniffing the ground, turning their head, turning their body, laying down, sitting, softening their eyes or lips, raising a paw and even curving around other dogs approaching is dog communication which predicates the fight or flight response we as humans are naturally conditioned to understand.

You can use these signals to calm your dog or other dogs down just as they do and to understand when to remove your dog from a certain situation.  IF YOU FREQUENT DOG PARKS, PLEASE LEARN THESE SIGNALS.  Talk to your friends about these signals so they can engage your dog correctly if they have a nipping problem or any fear issues.  You will learn how leaning forward over your dog or even putting an arm around the dog can make it uncomfortable by noticing the subtle yawn, head turn and lip lick as you engage it.  To add to the understanding of these natural dog signals learn the behaviors that are customary in humans and less compatible in canines like the afformentioned leaning over to greet and body hugs with close eye contact.

Understanding this takes little time and can save someone from a random 12 stich bite to the face which probably had little or nothing to do with the dog being aggressive and more to do with someone intruding on a dogs space and not noticing the 2-3 signs even before a growl that the dog wasn’t into meeting you that day.

Please find me for help at http://www.OCcaninecoaching.com for more info.  Thank you for following.

Bryndon Golya

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About ocdogman

I am a private dog trainer and behavior consultant in Orange County California. I focus on making training and conditioning simple and offer insight to common problems faces by the majority of dog owners. I employ several methods of training using corrections and varied reinforcers. I generally stand by limiting aversive principles and focus on the behaviors I would like to teach using food and marker training. I often encounter nutrition issues and have been successful in remedying many leading to more focused, relaxed and balanced dogs.
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