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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
The Language of Dogs
By Sarah Kalnajs and my personal notes

* Body language, emotion, energy, and arousal are the keys to unlocking communication with dogs.

* Two key indicators of internal emotional state of your dog

1. Is he/she eating or taking treats?
2. Is she/he responding to simple known cues? ~70% of dogs know “sit” and “shake”

*Signs of canine stress: the further down the list, the higher the stress level for the dog, typically.

1. Yawning
2. Dilated pupils (like flying saucer huge)
3. Lip licking
4. Stretching
5. Ears pinned back (could mean stress or appeasement)
6. Excessive shedding
7. Slow or little movement (could mean stress or distance increasing)
8. Not eating
9. Urogenital “check out”
10. Inability to settle (restless or pacing)
11. Low body posture, tucked tail, weight shifted back (could be stress or distance increasing)
12. Muscle ridges around eyes and mouth
13. Increased respiration rate and shallow breathing.
14. Trembling
15. Sweating paws

*Signs of Stress or Arousal:

1. Excessive salivation
2. Smiling
3. Penis crowning
4. Vocalization
5. Teeth chattering
6. Cheek puffing
7. Piloerection (hair on back stands up), not aggressive but just arousal.

*Signs of Canine Appeasement/Deference/Cut off:

1. Head turn or body turn
2. Paw raise
3. Sniffing out of context
4. Sneezing, quick and rapid is a sure sign of a happy dog
5. Scratching
6. Blinking a lot
7. Shake off
8. Arc on approach, dogs never greet each other straight on or face to face. Imagine walking in a straight line towards someone you don’t know and stopping several inches apart. How comfortable would you be?
9. Change in position (sitting, lying down, standing up)
10. Lip licking
11. Yawning
12. Stress signal sequences (many of the stress signals given in sequence can be a way for a dog to show appeasement)

*Distance Increasing Signals: the dog really wants more space between it and whatever is stressing them out.

*Active Reflex Defense: is a confused or conflicted dog who doesn’t know whether to fight or flight which can be the most dangerous type of dog because they show mixed signals.


1. Marking territory or possessions
2. Ears or body weight forward
3. Tense body and face
4. Lowered head and neck
5. Tail raised high and wagging fast (aka Flagged)
6. Heightened posture or height seeking (standing up straight or moving to higher ground). Only confident dogs will do this and is often a sign of behavioral problems. Considered “rude” behavior to other dogs as well as humans. Can also be jumping up on people but not as an attention soliciting behavior.
7. Muzzle punching is always directed at the face and is meant to be painful (my younger brother had his two front teeth knocked out by our 5 month old Aussie puppy probably because the dog didn’t like the way my brother was playing too rough with him)
8. Distance increasing bark is very loud and sharp, not welcoming at all and is easily distinguished from playful/arousal barks.
9. Hard eyes are very aggressive, the rim of the pupil is very sharply defined from the iris which is why its called hard eyes.
10. Freeze almost always is the precursor to a bite. If an intruder doesn’t listen to previous signals to back off, the dog will freeze and a second later lunge for a bite. If you see a dog freeze, move away as fast as you can.
11. Mouth open or closed? A tightly closed mouth is an indicator of a highly stressed dog.
12. Whale eye is where the dogs head is turned and the white of their eye is making a crescent shape, this is also an indicator that a bite or lunge is about to happen.
13. Variety of different tooth displays.
14. Tap out is not the same thing as rolling over as an appeasement display, but it is the showing of the inguinal area of the belly. Dogs who do this are typically not confident and is essentially the same behavior as the height seeking dog and can be an indicator of a behavior problem. Sometimes will lead to a bite. **Height seeking is “rude” while a tapout is more “polite” for a dog to communicate that they want you to back off. The difference between a tapout and a rollover is that a tapout is a distance increasing signal and the rollover is an attention seeking signal, otherwise they look identical.

*Distance Decreasing Signals (attention seeking and happy dogs!):

1. Play bows
2. Easy wagging tail or crazy circle wag like a windmill. A wagging tail isn’t always the sign of a happy dog. I can easily just be arousal alone.
3. Submissive grinning
4. Submissive licking other dogs
5. Care soliciting signals
6. Relaxed posture
7. Soft eyes

*How to properly approach a dog:

- personal space is important

-approach the dog on an arc

-don’t make direct eye contact

-do not have a ventral position over the dog, don’t tower over the dog

-get down to the dogs level without facing the dog straight on

-wait for the dog to approach you and offer your hand if they are interested to sniff

-don’t have a nervous demeanor

-don’t smile at the dog, because they can see that as a tooth display and take wrong

-don’t pet a dog unless they show you care soliciting signals, even a dog showing appeasement signals probably doesn’t want to be pet.

-offer treats, if the dog doesn’t eat them you know it is stressed and probably doesn’t want to be touched. A lot of people think that a dog who doesn’t take a treat is just “picky” when in reality their dog is super stressed out to the point where they are not comfortable enough to eat. Lots of owners say that their dog will eat the treat at home, which tells me that they actually do like the treat when they are calm enough to eat.

*Canine behavior and signals may occur simultaneously with others or not. Usually it is a sequence depending on the animal.

*Stress can produce physiological and behavioral changes. Dogs that are under chronic stress will develop behavioral problems that usually lead to aggression.

*Physiological changes due to stress take 5-7 days to return back to normal levels of neurotransmitters. So if a dog gets highly stressed once every 3 days the dog’s threshold will be easier to get to each time a new stress is introduced. Soon enough that dog’s threshold will take very little to elicit a response that could be aggression.

*A dog under extreme stress is more likely to trigger into fear or aggression (flight or fight)

*Ways to decrease stress for a dog:


-create balance of adequate rest and healthy activity. Dogs require about 17-20 hours of rest/sleep per day (lucky dogs!!!)

-create routine and stable environment within limits

-do not create firm or fixed schedules because a dog who gets accustomed to a fixed schedule can be a setup for disaster if that schedule were ever to be interrupted which is inevitable with life.

-use differential reinforcement (DRI) for incompatible behaviors to outlet energy in a good way and to keep dogs from practicing bad habits

-understand and utilize your dogs sensory system to provide mind stimulation which is just as important as physical stimulation. Types of mental stimulation:

1. You can get mind stimulating games. The ones that I like are the ones made by Nina Ottosson

Nina Ottosson Interactive Toys

2. Play the “find it game” where you hide lots of treats around the house for the dog to sniff out
3. Work on training and teaching a dog new cues

-start puppy socialization as early as possible and safe. Once a dog reaches 4-5 months old the window of opportunity closes to introducing new things.

*LIMA training technique: Least invasive, minimally aversive

- Training dogs is an ongoing and constantly changing subject. I for one like this method the most, even over 100% positive reinforcement because there is no such thing as 100% positive reinforcement training.

-Punishment is not a bad thing at all, it just has to be appropriate and as least invasive to the dog as possible.

-Putting a dog in time out is not a good punishment because it is “invasive” and attentive to the dog.

-Using positive punishment (adding something to the “equation”) like a spray bottle or a “no” word or sound are appropriate.

-Using negative punishment (subtracting something from the “equation”) like removing a resource or withholding praise/treats are appropriate.

-You do NOT want your punishment (whether is negative or positive) to have ANY fallout, which is failure to be effective and NOT fail the dog. Meaning the dog doesn't have any resulting behaviors because of the punishment!

-Some dogs will do what is called an extinction burst, which is a behavior will escalate until it stops. Once the dog “extincts” the bad behavior, you reinforce the good behavior which can often times be doing nothing.

-Variable reinforcement is the best kind and is very important but can only be done when a behavior is set almost at 100% compliance. Keeps the dog on its toes because it doesn’t know exactly when its going to be reinforced and keeps the dog from becoming dependent on the handler/trainer having treats.

-A dog not listening is not a stubborn dog, they just haven't been given a good enough reason to listen.
 

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This is great.
It is amazing how many people don't even realize this.
Sure it might seem simple to us, but it really isn't obvious to most people.
Thank you for posting this.
I don't know how many times people have said to me "He bit me, but he was wagging his tail!", etc.

I think photos would help too, if you can find them.
I have a book by Patricia McConnell that illustrates a lot of what you are referring to. :)

http://www.amazon.com/Love-Dog-Unde...r_1_5?s=gateway&ie=UTF8&qid=1285628838&sr=8-5
 

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Thank you for taking the trouble to type up and post this info. I already use a lot of the points mentioned to gauge and control my dogs' stress, but I'm happy to see there are quite a few points that I didn't know.
*Physiological changes due to stress take 5-7 days to return back to normal levels of neurotransmitters. So if a dog gets highly stressed once every 3 days the dog’s threshold will be easier to get to each time a new stress is introduced.
Now this is interesting - something I most definately did not know. I just assumed a dog would get 'use' to being in a stressful situation and it would eventually accept it as being normal. So, that alone has given me some food for thought.
 

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when you talk about canine stress... could you further define that?


yawning
stretching

i never knew that....can you give an example of a situation where a dog stretches and yawns and it's stress....

and it's not an act of waking up from a nap or overnight sleep?

i presume most dogs yawn and stretch when they wake up.....

also, i don't understand what urogenital 'check out' is.....could you explain that, please?
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Sure! Of course every yawn and stretch isn't a sign of stress. It all has to do with context the dog is in. Let's say you go to the vet or groomer, which your dog do not like. They may show any of the signs of stress, all of them, or maybe not all of them but they will show signs. Every dog is different and will show their stress level differently. Definitely the next time you take your dog to a high stress situation, keep tabs on what your dog does, keep a close eye on their body movements. That way you can tell if you dog is stressed out in a context that you wouldn't think was stressful. I notice if Jon and I are talking loudly or sternly to each other all the dogs will start yawning and pacing, which tells me that when we get into arguements it stresses the dogs out. Remember that the two best ways to gauge your dog's stress level are 1) Will they take treats? And 2) Will they respond to simple known cues like "sit"? If a dog doesn't want a treat and doesn't respond to cues you know that they are pretty darn stressed and you should either remove the stress or try and figure out what the stressor is.

The urogenital checkout is when a dog will abruptly sit down and check out their "parts" as a was to distract from the stressor. The dog is still keeping tabs on whatever is bugging them but this is a way for them to "hide" the fact that they're stressed which on an evolutionary scale is a good defensive behavior.

Hope this helps :wink:
 

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ok....since i have you in an answering mood....

i get the part about vet visits...malia sheds entire dogs as she shakes and trembles....never noticed yawning, but i'll watch out for that....

forgive me if i'm not using the right terminology...but there are fear stressors and excitement stressors for humans. i presume it applies to dogs...

so when my dog won't come because he's so excited about crashing through the door to get to the ups guy.....what IS it with those brown trucks....that's an excitement stressor, yes?

and when my dog's teeth are chattering (more like quivering -- not out and out teeth bangers) but is seemingly not exhibiting any other behaviour, what would that be? a fear that i haven't connected to yet?

and how do i figure out what fear....

very interesting....very interesting....and something else to think about before i go to bed LOL....

i'm just a dog owner who tries not to stress my dogs...but dennis and i raise our voices..it's normal in marriages...i'll have to watch the dogs to see what they do....and, as i'm sure you know, i'm pretty vocal....i actually talk out loud as i keyboard.....not surprising, i'm sure....

as a human psychiatrist, i examined human behaviour and there is some cross over....and i know dogs have emotions and memories and behaviours that are either directly or indirectly affected or caused by their surroundings or their humans....

i just want happy balanced dogs ....which may or may not be possible, since both were horribly treated from birth to when we got them....and some memories are burned in.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Having well balanced dogs takes recognizing their behaviors to stress and excitement so you can provide them the most balanced and relaxed environment possible. Both stress and arousal (whether it's fear based or excitement based) has the same physiological effect on the body of the dog.

You are correct, dogs will display different signs of stress or excitement depending on the context. Like Bubba going after the UPS guy is an arousal/excitement stress but it's still stress. It gets him all worked up and that gets him that much closer to threshold...or the point of no return so to speak when dogs shut down, and that is when behavior problems tend to crop up. So what you want to do is not let him even know the UPS guy is at the house with some kind of distraction like a game or toy or food, etc. Eventually you'd want to start to desensitize him to the UPS guy but just like with switching to raw, this takes a lot of time and patience and gradual step like work. May takes months or years to get him to be 100% relaxed when the UPS guy comes around.

I don't want people to think that all excitement stresses are bad but really depends on what it is. My dogs get excited when they play and also when the mail man comes to the door. Which do you think is the negative excitement and which one is positive? Which one could possibly lead to a behavior problem? Recognizing good excitement from bad excitement is important. While it may be "cute" when a tiny dog goes for the mail man, it's still not a constructive behavior at all.

Teeth chattering is a sign of VERY high stress, so at that point I wouldn't expect Malia to really exhibit many other signs. Maybe as you're getting into the car and pull up to the vet office will she show the lesser signs of stress. Keep an eye out for this.
 

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stress is stress, as far as i'm concerned....positive or negative....the body reacts to both.

what you say makes perfect sense...and yes, we are working with bubba on that one...this poor mess is so much better than a year ago....there's just so much to work on, that we take them as we see them....or we choose the battles that are a priority...

distraction. that may just work......i'll try that...don't ever want to use negative anything with this one....he cowers if i raise my voice...because he starts as the truck is coming up the street.....

i would think playing is the positive excitement and going after the mailman is the negative one?

did not realise that about the teeth chattering....thing is....i expect it when we go to the vet or there is lightening or thunder or firecrackers or wind....those are a few of her stressors....but sometimes, she's just lying there, being petted and she chatters....maybe it's something she hears on tv ....but i'll watch out for that one, to be sure.

we've spent ten years trying to provide an environment of safety for her....she's damaged goods....from birth in the woods to crawling up our driveway at about five weeks....she's ever so much better now, but she still has her things...

thanks.....you've given me much to chew on.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I would suggest ordering one of Nina Ottosson's mind stimulating toys for bubba. They are really interactive and get a dog to give his undivided attention which causes him to block out much else. And since he's so food motivated I think these would be perfect for him!

Nina Ottosson - Pet activity toys & treat puzzle games
 

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*Physiological changes due to stress take 5-7 days to return back to normal levels of neurotransmitters. So if a dog gets highly stressed once every 3 days the dog’s threshold will be easier to get to each time a new stress is introduced. Soon enough that dog’s threshold will take very little to elicit a response that could be aggression.

Im curious as to where you got "5-7" days? From my knowledge a single stressful event relieses dopamine and epinephrine which trigger the reliese of (the stress hormone) cortisol . adrenalin is very short lasting. cortisol lingers longer but I believe can dissipate in as little as 20-30 minutes.

cortisol levels vary through the day

as to aggression with repeated stressful events. I think that would be more prevalent with a cause that is considered uncontrollable and random
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I got the "5-7 days" from the lecturers material. She had a reference to it but I don't know if I have access to it anymore.
 

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Great Resource, Thanks! They should post one of these at every Dog park!
 

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V Crane, i read in your signature line where you said
it's not good training to have a dog snuggle at your feet
on the bed. having a dog snuggle at your feet in bed is
excellent training. i can pat the bed, hand signal, call him
or just lay there and my dog will join us in bed. if i'm sitting
on the sofa i can lean over as if i were going to tie my shoe
and my dog will jump on the sofa, walk behind me and lay down
at the opposite end of the sofa. bed and sofa training rates
high on my list. :wink:
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Do you mean do the two dogs *know* that they live together? Or "tell" each other they live together?
 

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Do you mean do the two dogs *know* that they live together? Or "tell" each other they live together?
I mean they live together (I have 2 chihuahuas) so my concern is if maybe my oldest chihuahua (3 years old) can get stressed from the little one, she is 1 year old, because I work all day, they spent a lot of time alone till I get back home from work.

Thanks
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Does your oldest one act stressed? Does your older dog like the younger one? Do they play together?
 

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Does your oldest one act stressed? Does your older dog like the younger one? Do they play together?
Yes, the oldest one play with the little one, but sometimes she looks over excited because of the little one, and she want all my atention and don't let the oldest stay on my legs or close to me, she wants her place all the time..
 

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brilliant thread,i know now that annies itching is stress related,she will go hours without a scratch then a visitor will come to the house and she will start scratching until shes told to stop ,but shes happy to see people so shes excited never fearfull !,but i guess shes still relieving stress would that be correct?,karen
 
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