Posts Tagged ‘calming signals’

Dog and baby videos are not cute

November 25, 2013 12 comments

Troll around on Twitter or Facebook and you’re likely to run across a “cute” child and dog video. I very rarely share them. Why? They make me cringe. Most of the videos you see showing children and dogs together are not what they seem. They are not “cute.”

To a dog owner or parent unaware of dog behavioral signals it can look adorable, but if you know even a little bit about dog behavior, you can see what they do not – most of these dogs are not enjoying the interaction, and in many cases they are being way more tolerant than one would expect. Thank goodness too, because in many cases a dog bite is a death sentence for the dog, even when they were telling everyone with eyes to see that they were nervous or uncomfortable, or felt threatened. To the unknowing owner, they think the attack came out of nowhere, that it was unprovoked, but in truth, this is rarely the case. Most dogs tell you what they are feeling long before they bite.

Recently an online dog-oriented website shared a video of a Golden Retriever and a baby and titled it as “Baby and Golden Retriever share bonding time.” I would have to disagree. What is happening in this video is not bonding. It’s stress and calming signals from the dog, and all the signs indicate that dog and/or baby should be removed from the situation.

What you will see in this video is a series of calming signals.  My guess? The dog is stressed by the closeness of the baby, and possibly the fact that the baby has already grabbed its jowls and pulled on his face, and is very much trying to calm himself and ease his stress.

What dog signals did I see?

Dog and baby videos just aren’t as cute as people think. You just have to be watching to see it.

What is this dog telling us? Do you see his behavioral cues?

June 24, 2013 70 comments

Last year a friend shared a great video featuring a dog and a vet tech. I’ve been searching for it for a while because I though it would be a great one to share with you. It is a great example of how a dog can be speaking to us, but we may not be listening (or in this case, seeing) what they are telling us.

I also thought it might be a great way to test your knowledge on dog behavioral cues.
I confess that watching it again a year and a half later showed me just how out of practice I have become. I missed a quite a few the first time around. Take a look and tell me what you see. (Note: No one is hurt in this video).

Not sure? I’ve posted a list below. Feel free to read the list and then watch the video or watch the video, check the list and watch the video again. It’s amazing what we miss isn’t it?

Just out of curiosity, did anyone cringe like I did as you neared the end of the video? Do you know why? I think I know what made me cringe, but I’m wondering if anyone else caught it. (PLEASE KEEP YOUR COMMENTS RESPECTFUL. THANKS!)

Behavioral Signals seen in this video

Shake off

Eye blinking

Lip licking (hard to see)

Barking and increasing distance by backing up


Looking away several times

Stiff body posture

Stillness or freezing suddenly

Mouth closed tightly (a relaxed dog would have a slack jaw)

Hard stares (this is the one that got me at the end)

At no time does this dog look relaxed. To someone who doesn’t know what to look for, it may look like he is going back for attention, but everything else about his body posture and signals says differently.

So what is this dog telling us?

Based on what I see, I think he is nervous and uncomfortable, with both the petting and the close proximity of the vet tech. He cannot distance himself easily due to the small confines of the room. All his signals tell us he wants her to back off, but when that doesn’t work, he lets her know in a more pronounced way.

The best advice for capturing a lost dog

May 20, 2013 36 comments

Lost not stray v2Many dog lovers have a dog preference, a certain breed, a certain look, a certain size dog – there is always something about a particular dog that we find ourselves attracted to when we seek our a dog.

For me, it was always the shy dogs. It didn’t matter what breed or size or look they had. The dogs who were fearful and scared, and cowering at the back of a kennel; these were the dogs I always gravitated towards. I still do. 

When I was a volunteer at Minnesota Valley Humane Society, you would often find me sitting sideways in front of a kennel in the impound room, using calming signals to help draw a dog out of his/her kennel. The dogs in this room were often more scared than most because these were the ones who had just been surrendered or who were just found roaming the streets and had been brought in to be held until their owner was found. They were overwhelmed by the sights, sounds and smells of the shelter, and as you can imagine, terrified, scared and afraid of everyone. The last thing they wanted to do was come to you and go for a walk outside.

When I saw one of these scared dogs, I would sit in front of their kennel door and use calming signals to draw them out – lip-licking, bowed head, averted gaze, a sideways profile, these were all behaviors I employed when working with a shy or scared dog. They are the very same signals I used with Cupcake when she was running around that abandoned truck loading dock after being lost for 12 days.

Knowing and using calming signals can be so helpful when working with a fearful dog. They can also be helpful in trying to capture a lost dog. When you use them, you are speaking in a language that most dogs understand. What could be more reassuring than seeing someone speak to you in your own language? 

A friend recently shared this video with me. It’s about using calming signals to capture a lost dog or to calm a panicked dog (and what lost dog isn’t panicked?). It’s not very long but it is definitely worth watching. Maybe you don’t have a lost dog, but some day you may have one. Or you may come across one. Knowing what to do when you do is so important. Please watch and then pass it on. The more people that know the more chances we have to reunite lost dogs with their owners.

Remember, most dogs on the run are LOST, not stray.

Dogs: Listen With Your Eyes

September 11, 2009 Leave a comment

DSC00089A dog trainer friend of mine posted this on Facebook and I felt it was worthy of sharing with other dog owners.

A lot of people don’t realize how much a dog communicates with its body. A raised foot, licking and looking away can all be appeasement signals to another dog (i.e., I mean no harm to you, I am no threat to you, etc.). While pricked ears, a rigid tail or a stiff wagging tail, placing head over the shoulder of another dog, can all be signs that a dog may not be so friendly or socially inclined.

As a dog owner, it pays to educate yourself on dog behavior and body signals. Here is a great video (slowed way down) that demonstrates examples of the behaviors I mentioned above. It is worth watching, especially if you want to understand dogs (even your dog) a little bit more. I also recommend watching some of the videos Petsmart has put together on dog behavior. I blogged about it just a few weeks ago.

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