What is your dog communicating? A Guide to Calming Signals


Ever wonder how a dog trainer figures out how the dog is feeling? Calming signals are behaviors a dog may display to another animal or human when stressed or made uncomfortable for any reason. Usual calming signals are:

  • Lip Licking
  • Yawning
  • Head turns
  • Sniffing
  • Play bows
  • Sitting
  • Freezing in Place
  • Closed mouth
  • Tight, concerned brows
  • Panting
  • Wrinkles at the corner of the mouth
  • Ears straight back
  • Whale eyes (whites of the eyes are visible)

Any of these signals can be combined. Each dog uses different signals and different intensities of each signal and some dogs may have some signals of their own. Knowing your dog well is important for you to understand when he or she is uncomfortable or stressed. Below I have placed some pictures that are controversial for most knowledgeable dog trainers, but which may seem adorable to the average person on the street. I believe all people who choose to own a dog should be educated about calming signals. It would certainly help people prevent many dog bites and prevent innocent dogs in bad situations from being put down.

Look at the images below with this new knowledge and think about how the dog might be uncomfortable. A common exercise for educated dog trainers is to look at images and videos and write down what behavior is observed. It is a skill that can and should be practiced as it is key to understanding your dog. Be sure to leave a comment below saying which picture you are looking at and what you see in that picture! Don’t be afraid to list some behaviors that have not been listed! :)

Photo A

Photo B

Photo C