Calming signals in dogs

Calming signals allow the dog to communicate his emotions and state of mind. What are the main signals and what do they mean?

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In a dog, the signals of calming signals have two outcomes: expressing discomfort and/or calming an interaction with an individual. It is very important to know how to observe, identify and analyze these signals to adapt our situation if necessary and always better communicate with your animal.

The good understanding of a dog's calming signals also makes it possible to better target what our dog prefers or dislikes because, unfortunately, he does not have the words to express his emotions. Here is a list of the main calming signals and the meaning of each:

Turn your head

Often imperceptible but nevertheless very clear, this signal can be very brief or, on the contrary, very marked. The dog therefore remains motionless while turning its head to the side.

This signal allows the dog to calm down a situation vis-à-vis an individual, be it a human or another dog. To put words on this signal, turning the head means for a dog “I come in peace”. It is mainly observed during first meetings.

As a human, you can use this signal when you want to interact with a dog. Do not hesitate to turn your head before approaching him so as not to face him and give the impression of a “threat”.

Turn Away

" This is a very clear signal that should not be overlooked. A dog that turns away (turns its back on its interlocutor and leaves) is a dog that wants to be left alone."

As humans we can also use this signal when we want to help our dog calm down. Indeed, turning around and completely ignoring your dog when he gets excited allows him to understand that the interaction is over and that he needs to put the pressure back down.


As a form of politeness, dogs use this signal to make contact calmly, whether with a human or another dog. It allows the dog, just like turning his head, to signify that he does not wish to enter into conflict. It allows the dog to make his interlocutor understand that he does not want to introduce himself too suddenly into his living space.

As a human, when you want to approach a dog, it is best to use this signal to avoid coming head-on. Thus, we make the dog understand that we are coming as a friend.


It's a signal that I personally use a lot. I like it a lot because it allows you to come into direct contact with your dog and to express an intention of appeasement quite easily.

Slowly closing your eyes, squinting, considerably softens the gaze and therefore communicates a form of appeasement.

Try to look at your dog slowly squinting, you will see that he will almost certainly respond with the same signal.

Lick your nose

Very common and often not understood, this signal is very important to know and identify. A dog that repeatedly licks its nose (outside me altimes) is a dog that expresses discomfort.

If this signal is not identified or interpreted correctly, the dog can go to a higher stage and even end up biting in the most extreme cases.


This signal is mainly used by a dog to indicate to the other (human or dog) that it does not constitute a threat. He therefore seeks to calm the situation.

When two dogs meet, often one of them stays completely still, freezes, this allows the person who comes to sniff it to understand that he will not have any particular problem with him.

Walk Slowly

Slowing down is a way for the dog to calm the situation and relieve the pressure (whether it's his own, his master's or another dog's).

We often notice this attitude in dogs who are a little "scolded" by their master (especially for the reminder), for two dogs who meet or for a dog who is in the middle of a situation very rich in stimulation. This signal can quickly turn into total immobility to really try to calm a situation.

As a human, you can of course use this signal to make your dog understand that you are calm, relaxed and serene.

Call to play

Here, we call this signal the call to play but it is actually a double meaning: a dog that takes a call to play position by jumping from left to right is a dog that is really trying to play .

" On the other hand, if he remains motionless in this position, it is more of a calming signal to make others understand that he is not dangerous and that he wants to create a happy atmosphere with his interlocutor."

As a human, we can use this signal by stretching our arms downwards.


Sitting down is a way for the dog to both calm down but also to soothe the other, whether it's his human or a dog. It means he's cool and doesn't seek conflict.

Do not hesitate to sit next to your dog when you feel a little nervous or anxious.

Lie on your stomach

Lying down is even stronger than sitting in terms of a calming signal.

During a play session between several dogs, when one of them goes to bed, we can notice that gradually, everyone ends up calming down and going down in pressure at the sight of the signal sent by their congener.


Contrary to what many people think, it is very rare for a dog to yawn because he is tired. Yawning allows the dog to communicate discomfort and it is very important to take this into account during an interaction.

We often notice that a dog can yawn when we caress him (it's because this contact does not put him at ease), when we scold him, when we take a picture or when a slightly too long and repetitive education session begins to bore him.

As a human, don't hesitate to yawn at the same time as your pooch to make him understand that you understand his condition, that you take it into account and that you too want to soothe the situation.


A dog that smells is a dog that seeks to calm down. He is indeed on the lookout for a soothing scent that will calm and reassure him. It also allows him to become aware of the environment in which he finds himself.

You can also notice this signal when you call your dog with a certain irritability. The dog first starts by sniffing around him before coming back.

Similarly, during a meeting between congeners, a dog that begins to sniff indicates to its interlocutor that it is not looking for conflict.


This signal is often sent by dogs that are called “regulators”. They will indeed come between two dogs who are starting to come into conflict.

We can also observe this when the family dog comes between his two arguing masters, just to say: “Hey oh! I'm here, look at me and everything will be fine”.

Wagging the tail

I often hear people say: "look, he's wagging his tail, he's happy" No no! A dog that wags its tail is not necessarily a dog that expresses joy. Excitement can be both positive and negative.

In addition, a dog can wag its tail when it is “scolded” to calm the situation. It is often quite infuriating because you clearly have the impression of having no credibility or authority in front of your dog. But here, our dog is just waiting for us to relax.

Slow down your breathing

Finally, we can talk about dogs who slow down their breathing to soothe themselves. This is of course a very difficult signal to spot, unless we focus on the dog's abdomen.

But what is important here is to understand that we can, with our own breathing, soothe our dog when he is in an advanced state of stress. Thus, place one hand at the level of your dog's chest and the other at the level of his shoulder blades (on the back) and breathe very slowly. This will help calm him down.

You now have all the tools to better understand your dog and above all better communicate with him thanks to this range of calming signals.

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