A Possible Use for Calming Signals?

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    I posted this on the college forum and thought it might be a good one for on here too, so here it is  🙂

    Hiya, a little background, i have a 3 yr old badly bred farm collie that was never socialised by breeder and was very sick when i got him, after i got him i did everything wrong you can imagine, i knew he was scared of people so i avoided them, he learned that people would back off if he barked and warned them and he soon associated these people with their dogs, as i avoided people on our walks out (who were generally dog walkers) beau moved this on to being agressive towards a few dogs, so then i started putting him on his lead when i saw a dog coming i thought he wouldn’t like and so became lead agressive….by the time he was 6 months old he was a complete mess and the vet told me he would be put down if he continued, he told me to sign up for training sessions…i did and that was another big mistake, won’t go into details now though.

    Anyway after alot of training and work i have a happy dog in areas he feels secure and happy, i can walk on the common at college and he is a happy doggy, but NOT in college.

    So currently if a person speaks directly to him he lunges all big and bouncy barking and snarling, if a dog looks at him the wrong way, the same.

    Now at college last time i decided that actually i wanted his attention, and so everytime he started i turned my back to whatever he was barking at and i noticed he did the same…i then started researching canine communication for my cd assignment and read rugaas artical about her dog turning its back on horrid dogs which in turn caused them to calm…

    do you see where i am heading?

    my thouhgts are now maybe i can use this and move it on, eventually stop the lunging and barking etc.

    BUT, what am i saying to beau? that i think everything is safe and so should you? and he is trusting me when he turns his back too?

    if this is the case and i chose the wrong dog/person to turn my back on anf it attacked(tried to touch beau if a person) then that would cause alot of damage wouldn’t it as he has trusted me and i allowed the attack, therefore he shouldn’t trust me?

    I have lots and lots more info and questions but this is already longer than some of my essay allowances so i should probably stop now and see what direction we go in….



    Turid Rugaas stuff is very good but take it in context, it is still derived from wolf pack communication 🙂

    Her book “on talking terms with dogs” is only a small book and is a lovely read – am sure if you google sheila harper she sells them.  Sheila is also in contact with Turid herself so you might be able to ask her direct lol !!

    Claire x


    There you go you can even ask her a question on her site


    there are also a few courses through SHCE led by her this year – she is amazing to hear and watch I must say 🙂

    as with all approaches – she’s one of many to be considered in context, not a “wholistic fix to everything” 🙂

    Claire x


    Hi Claire,

    the articles i read about her, her work seemed to be based on observing dogs, not wolves?

    i don’t expect anything to be a quick fix or an overall fix as the problems i have created need many many steps of repair and will probably incorporate a great many different ways of doing things ….

    my current goal is to break this cycle and start to desensitise the fear that sets off the reaction.

    Hi Val,

    Thanks for the link, i have that and its has been a very intersting read  :yes:

    The purpose of my post was more to discuss calming signlas, and the possible use of, and my situation as an example for a discussion, sorry if it didn’t read like that  🙂


    Kerry – all the stuff you outlined in your first post is totally alien to me, am reading this with lots of interest.

    It certainly sounds like Beau has a lot of trust in you, and yes, calming signals sound like a brilliant way of helping a dog get over fear issues.  Like I say tho, I know nothing about them, so will just lurk watching this until someone who does can help to clarify!


    i’m just learning all this too, but i had one of those ‘moments’ i have 2 of them this year, the 1st when we went on a ‘quiet’ walk, we have these now and then, no toys just moochy walk sniffing and chilling  🙂 anyway we set off and he will instantly go and search for an old bottle to play with, if its a quiet walk i’ll ask him to leave it, which he does…well one day we were half way around our walk when i realised he had stopped…i turned around and he had a lovely look on his face, i knew he wanted something but i had no idea what, so i walked up to where he was stood and he was stood over an old plastic bottle, looking down at that and looking up at me and i suddenly realoised he was asking me if he could have the bottle….he got it  😉 this maybe see silly to most people but for me it was a major omg beau and i are actually communicating moment!  ;D

    the 2nd was the above mentioned behaviour when i turned my back and he followed suit  🙂

    its all facinating and i feel as though i might actually be able to help beau enjoy life a bit more  :yes:




    in my book only one thing reduces fear..that is tknown rust in me and….

    sorry hun..but asking if ‘can i play with a bottle’ is not a fear issue..that a ‘want’ issue

    a fear issue is when in a cued behaviour such as a sit a stand a stop etc etc and dog knows/wants to follow cue but is scared shitless and has to make an operative choice to protect self or follow cue in the hope that carer knows best,,,


    no the bottle thing was completely irrelevant! lol i was just saying that was a good moment for me and beau and another good moment seemed to be the thing at college….i know the bottle thing was just him wanting to play lol it was just the first time i actuallt felt that i understand you feeling which for me was a big thing….that had nothing to do with his fear issues.

    i should probably remove that as it has obviously just confused the whole post…whoops….sorry everyone!


    i think i get what you mean – an “aha” moment when you actually realise that you can ‘speak’ dog even just a little bit 😀

    i love them moments !!!

    I can ‘see’ calming signals in William he seems to use them all the time but I rarely catch Bonnie using them I think this is their pack positions showing through.  William does some fantastic slo-mo easy read signals 🙂

    Like everything thats “doggie” – i would argue that humans are incredibly clumsy at doing it and miss alot of the subtleties in much the same way as pinning dogs and barking back (like they do to each other) isnt very successful if humans do it !! 

    I would say calming signals are of most use when observing dog – dog interactions to inform you when to step in and when to step back.

    Claire x


    yeah thats what i meant  ;D thanks, not very good at explaining myself!

    i have been watching ben & beau interact and beau does do some good slow careful obvious moves too, the large arch when approaching ben if he is laying down as he tends to air snap and be grumpy if he is disturbed without warning  🙂


    mmmm ok…i have a problem with this ‘broad’ selling/issue of so called calming signals…and this good for debate kerry so not having a go or nec. disputing but…

    let me put it this way…

    define ‘calming’ signal

    then define appeasement

    then need/offer of social appraisal

    then ask…why would beau use a ‘calming’ signal in order to approach a dog that air snaps when said dog is asleep….wouldnt learnt behaviour have taught to actually don’t go there….
    with me…..

    have a think ..read your first post re whys and whens to use etc…


    To me a calming signal is when a dog uses communication to either destress themselves or situations.  Like a sort of grounding.  They are feeling a bit overwhelmed by what is happening so use them to indicate to others they are not happy bunnies.  Head turning, noselicking, freezing, walking in curve.

    Appeasement – I am of no threat to you

    Sorry dont want to take over thread will sit back and learn….



    calming signals is just a fancy name for a group of behaviours that dogs use to communicate with other dogs that they are OK to approach or to tone down an approaching dogs behaviours.

    in your terms Bev i am thinking this would cover appeasement exchanges and social interactions in a dog which is a competent communicator of dog.  it is part of what you would call the ‘sentance’ of communication and this flags up why some dogs (typically black dogs, docked breeds, flat faced breeds …) cannot be read as easily as others as their physical attributes mask their behavioural intent.

    thats what i think anyways 😀

    I wouldnt expect a dog to approach a sleeping dog that they already know snaps unless there was something very wonky going on with that dogs learning ??

    A dog would use a calming signal behaviour if an incoming dog was appearing to break ‘dog social norms’ making the original dog uncomfortable somehow – it will say ‘i am friendly, calm down’ and the other dog will respond ‘i am friendly too, and calmer now i know about you’ (obviously if you dont have a socialised dog they are going to f*** this up and thats where you get escalation of 4F’s and the potential for conflict.

    claire x


    no mudgie…join in..this a good debate


    i change my recall because i am in a panic over something…dog recalls but for first time ever comes in  on a curve…calming or appeasing or offering social appraisal ?

    dog goes out to greet in a situation where she thinks the greet to person is assured…but another person there that is a possible threat…changes run to include the curve…calming or appeasing


    lets expand…exactly the same behviours offered in exactly the same situations but 2 different dogs in a different time frame so each are alone not with each other …if you with me….

    dog 1 is a good pack manager…mentally balanced and well cued

    dog 2 is a more anxious type with some baggage history

    offered behaviours same with each dog

    with me?

    calming, appeasement, offering appraisal

    it just too sweeping for me….

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