Calming Signals

Sep 18 2010

Kate and Sawyer are 6 mos. old border collie mix sisters, but they have different play styles. Kate enjoys more chewing and laying down play while Sawyer is more raucous and enjoys more vertical play. Sam, 6 mos. old Rhodesian Ridgeback, is trying to be flexible to accommodate both friends! Watch as Kate produces several calming signals to try to calm the play down to her desired level. Dogs use calming signals when they are stressed or anxious, but Kate is using them here to encourage her playmates to adjust their play. When a dog is anxious, you will often see these calming signals repeated in rapid fire progression. Here, Kate only does a few strategically placed signals. Can you find them?

The most obvious signal Kate was producing was sitting. Didn’t it seem odd that a dog would be sitting in the middle of playing dogs? Not only was she sitting, but she was deliberately positioning her bottom on the ground! As if to say, could I be more clear?!! And her sister, Sawyer, even helped her out by joining her for a second! Kate also did some quick lip licking and yawns. Lip licking (where the tongue juts out quickly and licks the lip and/or nose area) and yawning are very common calming signals. Hers are quick, can you find 5 lip licking and 2 yawns? Her yawns are not very wide, short and quick. At the end she tries a different approach, sniffing the ground. These three dogs were the first dogs to arrive at the daycare that morning, but they had plenty of time to sniff the area. The area did not, all of a sudden, have a new smell! Sniffing the ground intensely is a very common calming signal that is often overlooked as normal sniffing. Kate is a very good signaler. She is very clear and distinctive in her movements. When she sniffs the ground, it’s as if she is fascinated by the area. As if to say, “Hey guys, look over here! You just gotta smell this!!”

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