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 DogsDogs 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
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