Dog Training

Reading Body Language

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Pacifying body language

It is a very important aspect of dog psychology to be able to convey pacification gestures to dogs, as these gestures play such a crucial role in canine communication.

As with wolves' submission, the gestures can be separated into two groups, active and passive (mech, 1965). The gestures used for each can be used in either situation although some gestures are more apt in certain situations.

Let us first consider the basics, and look at how a dog will pacify another, in a case of passive submission.

Passive submission is an innate juvenile behaviour which involves the ritualized lying on the back with the tail sometimes covering the exposed underbelly. Lets look closer and see if there is any signals or gestures we can use for our own good. we will look at the head.

The dog will first turn the head away from the aggressor (although Iknow he/she/it/whatever may not always be the aggressor, im calling it that for ease of terminology, ill use pacifier to mean the opposite). the eyes are then half closed, or blinking in an almost nervous expression. The mouth is then left slightly open, with the corners of the mouth often pulled back in a characteristic 'c' shape. the ears are then pulled down against the head. So by taking these gestures we can try to now translate how we can 'break into their social circle' and communicate with them.

Wide opened eyes, characteristic of fear in humans is a very aggressive signal to dogs so to pacify make sure and close your eyes! the eye has a coloured section, the iris, and the area surrounding the schlera, is white to show a contrast. This contrast allows humans (and canids)to determine both direction of gaze and the intensity of opening of the eye. The dogs eye also has a white schlera surrounding the iris, although the iris is much larger compared to a human. When a dog is very aggressive and wide eyed, the white schlera is visible as the eye opens fully. The muscles that pull the lips up to aggressively bear teeth can actually pop out the eye slightly, making it buldge in it's socket. So to pacify, your eyes must be relaxed, possibly even throw in a blink or two, and dont look directly at the dog.

It is unfortunately this signal that undoubtably accentuates or may induce an attack by an overly aggressive dog. It is the natural reaction of a human to open their eyes very wide when in a fearful sitution, and opening your eyes wider may amplify the aggressive tendencies of the dog. The human being attacked will most often stare directly at the dog, which will also increase the aggression level.

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