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Calming Signals

14 Ways Dogs Keep The Peace


Calming Signals

Is this gorgeous eleven-week-old Cane Corso Mastiff pup, Luca, offering a calming signal by lying down?

Image © ktjacobs27

The language of dogs not only communicates with vocalizations and puppy body language, dogs use calming signals. Also called displacement behaviors, these signals help dogs maintain a healthy social hierarchy and avoid fights. Dogs calm each other down and diffuse fear or aggression with very specific canine body language.

These ritualized signals help resolve conflict between dogs without the fur flying. Dominant dogs use these gestures to tell frightened pups they mean no harm. Subordinate dogs use the same signals to show others they mean no harm, in order to appease the “top dog” so he won’t mistakenly attack.

Peace Keeping Language of Dogs

Dogs and puppies use calming signals on people, too, when they feel threatened or want to calm you down. For instance, when you find a potty accident and get upset, even though your puppy may not understand what he’s done wrong, he’ll “act guilty.”

He’s not really guilty. He’s using appeasement and displacement behaviors alone or in combination to show he intends on harm, to make you stop yelling. Become familiar with these 14 common signals to help you understand what your puppy is saying.

14 Common Calming Signals

  • Averting the eyes

  • Turning the head away

  • Licking his lips

  • Yawning

  • Sniffing

  • Pawing

  • Freezing—becoming a statue

  • Moving very slowly

  • Play-bowing, but with front legs motionless

  • Sitting with his back to you—or another dog

  • Lying down with his belly to the ground

  • Crawling while wagging his tail with enthusiasm

  • Curving—approaching in an oblique, not a direct path

  • Splitting—coming between you and your spouse when you hug, or between two posturing dogs, to diffuse perceived aggression

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