Calming Your Dog

Stella-Major-Win

This is picture of Stella about to complete her championship.

Being able to read and respond to their signals can go a long way in calming your dog.

To illustrate: We have a puppy named Stella.

But really her name should be “STELLA!!!!!!!” She gets into everything and is one of the most mischievous and certainly one of the loudest dogs I’ve ever owned. She barks at absolutely everything. She basically lives in all caps and exclamation points.

We had Stella at her first shows in January. I think you could hear her two tents over.

“WOW!! MOM, DID YOU SEE THAT CHIHUAHUA?? DO YOU THINK HE WOULD PLAY WITH ME?”

“WOW!!! MOM, THAT POODLE LOOKS REALLY REALLY COOL CAN I PLAY WITH HIM MOM CAN I HUH CAN I HUH HUH????”

And she would literally launch herself off the grooming table in an effort to get at the objects of her extreme curiosity.

Feeding her nonstop distracted for a minute and long walks were okay but I was having a hard time getting her to calm down.

One day I saw a book had arrived in the mail from Dogwise. It was “On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals” by Turid Rugaas. Turid is a Norwegian dog behaviorist and her book is simply written and full of photos of the calming signals dogs make.

One thing is to yawn.

Of course I’d seen dogs yawn lots of times. But Turid was recommending that we humans apply these calming signals with a nervous dog, to quiet them.

Hmm. Buzzy was hanging out with me right then. Buzzy is kind of like a Marine. Big, sweet and goofy. But also with somewhat of an air of “Don’t Tread On Me”.

Buzzy has a secret vice. This somewhat forbidding looking male has a favorite toy. He adores his Big Ducky, a shop worn, eye missing stuffed toy. He will spend hours circling the house and back yard, nervously looking for just the right spot to hide his baby.

I could hear behind me the gentle squeek, squeek of Ducky, firmly held in Buzzy’s mouth and his toenails tapping quietly on the terrazzo.

I turned to Buzzy. I yawned. His ears flicked forward. He looked up at me enquiringly. I yawned again, and then again. Buzzy was fascinated, watching my mouth stretch and expand. Then, still watching me, as if his butt was made out of jello, he sank down on his haunches, then slowly slid forward on the terrazzo until he was lying down. He sighed and closed his eyes.

Wow. Would this work with the Live Wire as well?

At Stella’s next show, I had her on her grooming table, ready to go in the ring. She was dancing around the table, nervously looking for her next subject of fascination.

I turned to her and yawned. Her ears flicked forward. I yawned again. Her dancing quieted. She watched me. I had become her next subject of fascination.

She behaved better at that show than she ever has. She took her first step in learning to watch me, rather than to be distracted by every passing dog or person.

The power of a yawn. Amazing! I feel like I’ve gotten the key to calming my dogs. These signals have always been there but I never knew how to put them together.

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