Does it sometimes seem like you and your dog are not effectively communicating? Have you ever yelled for your dog to come to you and asked them to sit in a stern, loud voice only to feel like your dog is ignoring you because they turn their head to the side and look away from you?

Dogs use certain movements and body parts (ears, eyes, mouth, head and tail) along with different vocalizations (barks, growls, whimpers and howls) to communicate and express their emotions.

In addition to body language, there are a number of calming signals dog utilize to communicate. What is a calming signal and how do you know when your dog is using them? Calming signals are a language dogs use to avoid conflicts, calm themselves or each other, and to communicate with people – problems often arise because we don’t understand what our dogs are saying.

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Look away


A dog looking away and avoiding eye contact is a common calming signal and is used when another dog is approaching head on or when a person seems angry or threatening. You may have also experienced the look away when you tried to take a picture of your dog and they turned their head to the side.



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Lip licking


Lip licking might not mean your dog smells something tasty, this is a calming signal that is often a quick flick of the tongue on the nose and is easy to watch for.



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If your dog is yawning does that mean they are tired? Not necessarily, dogs may yawn to calm themselves when they are in a stressful or exciting situation.



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Sniffing the ground is frequently used in groups of dogs to calm each other in play. If someone starts to chase or play too rough a dog may turn and sniff the ground as a timeout.



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Paw lift


A paw lift can be used if a dog is unsure or nervous.They may lift their front paw as an appeasement gesture or to calm another dog.



Click Calming Signals to watch a video clip. In the video some calming signals occur in clusters – meaning a dog may lip lick, look away and do a paw lift at the same time.

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