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Canine University 71 Clinton St Malden MA



Canine Behavior

Canine Conversations

Socializing dogs with other dogs is a crucially important aspect of raising a puppy. Dogs learn from other dogs how to communicate with each other. Communication in dogs is not as subtle as you might think once you know what to look for.

Most of us acknowledge when a dog does a play bow (front end down, rear end up) it is a friendly gesture that invites another dog to play. But did you realize when two dogs approach each other from a distance and begin sniffing the ground they are actually communicating friendliness ?

Turid Rugaas, a dog trainer from Norway has spent years observing dogs and the ways they tell each other through their body language that they want to get along. She believes that dogs, like their wolf cousins, are dependent upon their communication skills to cooperate with other members of their pack. Cooperation, not aggression or conflict, is the key to survival for any canine species.

Dogs have inherited this way of communicating through body language from their wild ancestors. This language is further developed within their litter and later with dogs they meet and play with. Eventually, they become fluent in being able to communicate their intentions with any other dog.

If dogs are not socialized with other dogs or are taken away from their litter too young, they never become fluent in their own language, becoming social outcasts. These are dogs that "go nuts" when they see another dog, either in exuberance or aggression or fear. They behave inappropriately and are not able to read any of the calming signals exhibited by normal dogs.

If you don't socialize your dog with other dogs of all breeds and ages he will never be a normal dog. These are the dogs that attack other dogs without warning and seem uncontrollable even when the other dog is displaying very obvious calming, friendly signals. Dogs as a group are supposed to get along with members of their own kind. If we would only socialize them more (with lots of different ages and sizes of dogs) their quality of life would be that much better. Some examples of calming signals dogs use to communicate peaceful intentions:

Yawning- how many times has your dog yawned at the vet or when you've yelled at him ? Dogs yawn to calm themselves or you or another dog and to communicate no harm.

Sniffing the ground- how many times has your dog started busily sniffing the ground when you've called him in a harsh or worried voice? It may have made you more angry but it was meant to calm you down.

Sneezing - have you ever watched two dogs playing somewhat roughly and then one dog starts to sneeze as he plays? That sneeze is not the same as an itchy nose, it's a signal that tells the other dog that this is play and helps keep it from escalating into something more serious.

Head turning- when your dog greets a strange dog or person have you ever seen him turn his head or eyes to the side or even turn completely sideways. This head turning isn't snobbish behavior it says "I mean you no harm".

Pawing - have you ever met a young puppy that was insistent on greeting you by raising it's paw? All this while you thought you were teaching it to shake, when in reality the pup was teaching you how to be friendly and inviting you to play.

This is just a handful of all the neat ways that dogs communicate with us and with each other. Once you start observing dogs interacting with each other you will never look at dogs the same way again. It is an exciting peak into the world of canine language and is a joy to watch in an experienced dog. If you'd like to learn more about calming signals order Turid Rugaas' book, On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals, by contacting Legacy by Mail at 1-888-876-9364