Believe it or not, dogs are not a conflict animal. Meaning they do not intentionally want to start a fight with another dog or human. I know that 99% of conflicts between dogs was initiated by the human who does not know or have the abilities to communicate correctly with their dog. Wrong messages are seen through your body language and/or the tone of voice. You are using signals that the dog does not understand with the language they were born with since their existence and act on the attack and protect mode with miscommunication.
Humans must understand that you can not communicate with a dog on a human psychology level. Dogs are wired completely simple and we as humans are wired as a complex being. Again, dogs communicate 100% body language. When you speak to your dog in english, the only thing they hear is the tone of your voice.
This being all said, the title is “Calming Signals” that dogs use with other dogs and yes, even their human owners. Anytime there is unease in the air, the dog will start its calming signals. For example, If I am driving my car with my wife and my Belgian Malinois, Ida, who is two years old, is sitting in the back seat and my wife will for some reason or another take a sharp tone with me. Immediately, Ida senses the stress with my wife’s displeasure with me and Ida will check on me by getting up and laying her head on my right shoulder over the car front seat. She has just tried to calm the situation down and make sure everything is alright and hoping to change the tone and energy in the vehicle between my wife and myself. She will stay there until I tell her that everything is Okay.
Conflict Signals / Conflict Solving
Head Turning Softening the Eyes
Sniffing Turning Away
Yawning Liking Nose
Lifting Paw Freezing
Walking Slowly Play Bow
Curving Splitting Up
Laying Down Wagging Tail Freely
You must spend the time to get to know these signals and have patience for the other dog(s) to start showing Calming Signals also. This is when the dogs can be turned loose and just do their thing without human involvement. Do not use high pitched tones of excitement or high energy during this introduction. Do not show any signs of body excitement with yourself. Control yourself and take some deep slow breaths.
Dog fights are caused by stressed symptoms. Meaning, that their mind is in a state of confusion and is either in an insecurity, fear or high anxiety mode. Example of what your dog’s state of mind is in at this time-
Your'e driving your car and not much traffic is on the road, as you approach a stop sign and proceed to clear the intersection, a vehicle from nowhere, runs the stop sign missing you by feet. An accident was diverted and yet your blood pressure just rose by forty points, you may feel a little sweat, you become upset or angry, shaky or even thirsty just to name a few. Your mind is spinning and trying to compile all the information at once that you have escaped injury, maybe even death.
When your dog becomes stressed and has not been socialized properly or at all, this is what is racing through his mind and needs time to calm down. If I was in this state of mind and someone confronted me, I know I would loose it if someone got into my face. After some time though, I start to regain my composure and appreciate the safety I am now in parked on the side of the road. It takes a few moments as I calm down and drive off.
Dogs do not know the difference between right and wrong, they just react to a situation or a trigger that has not been dealt with from the past. If your dog has triggers of unwanted actions, they should be evaluated by a behaviorist, not a trainer.
It is important that dogs visit dog parks or walk with other dogs not in their immediate pack. A good walk will stimulate your dog’s mind.
This is why humans are the initiator of the dog fights. Trying to introduce a dog to another dog that has stress and not knowing the calming signals will result in a visit to the veterinarian’s office.
When you go to a dog park, let your dog calm down before it even leaves your vehicle. Take a slow walk toward the park and stop if your dog becomes excited. Wait for a calming signal and proceed. The other dogs in the park will notice if your dog is stressed while you approach.
Remember, humans save the weak, dogs kill the weak. A dog under stress is a weak dog and the same goes for the owner. How can a dog feel safe if the human leader shows signs of weakness that can appear in many feelings. Trust me, you can not hide your feelings from your dog let alone another dog.
The most important understanding of this article is that you must have patience and give the dogs their time to calm each other. Yes, this may take fifteen minutes. But it is well worth it. Do it for your dog’s sake as well as your own.