Home > Emergencies > We Used Calming Signals on Aggressive Dog: A Case Study

We Used Calming Signals on Aggressive Dog: A Case Study

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 4 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Calming Signals Aggressive Dog Safety

Laura had always loved to visit her grandfather – he lived on a farm and was very wise about all animals. In particular, he knew a lot about dogs and was always teaching Laura interesting things about them. One of the things he had taught her about was “calming signals” – these are special body language signals that dogs give each other to make each other less angry or less afraid.

Laura had loved learning about these “calming signals” but she hadn’t realised just how useful they would be until one day in her teens when she was walking home from school and met a big furry brown dog.

“I just came around a corner and nearly crashed into him!” Laura recalls. “I think maybe he was lost or something because he looked a bit scared and he must have got a fright when I came running up to him because all the fur stood up on his back and neck and he showed his teeth and started barking at me really loudly.”

Frightened, Laura froze, unsure what to do. She knew you should never run away from dogs because they would probably make them want to chase you. And she also knew that you shouldn’t scream because that might make them even more angry or scared…

“Then I remembered what my grandfather had told me about calming signals and how dogs use them to calm each other,” Laura explains. “So I thought maybe I could try the same thing too.”

Avoiding Eye Contact with the Dog

First, Laura made sure that she did not look at the dog in the eyes, because dogs find staring very threatening. Next, she turned slightly so that she was facing away from the dog, with her shoulder towards him, making sure that she was moving very slowly all the time.

“I didn’t really expect it to work but the dog stopped barking! He was still all bristly and looked wary of me but at least, he wasn’t so aggressive anymore.”

In fact, the dog started to approach her. Laura remembered that her grandfather had told her that dogs can feel threatened if you walk straight up to their heads so she kept her shoulder turned away from the dog and carefully approached him in a curve, just like she had seen dogs do in the park when they go up to each other and circle to sniff bums.

As it came up to sniff her, Laura slowly crouched down, keeping her shoulders still turned away from the dog and making sure that she didn’t stare into its eyes. She was surprised when the dog started to wag its tail slightly. Gently, she put out a hand and after letting the dog sniff it, she carefully stroked its chest. She knew that it was best not to pat a strange dog on the head because many dogs find hands coming down towards their heads very threatening.

The Dog Even Followed Her Home

By now the dog was looking quite friendly – its ears were relaxed back on its head and its fur was not standing up on end anymore. Its mouth was open and relaxed, panting gently. When Laura slowly stood up and started walking again, it followed her, trotting happily beside her. When she got home, Laura gently checked its collar and found a tag naming the dog as “Rocky” and giving contact details for its owner.

“Rocky’s owner was really surprised when he turned up to collect him,” giggles Laura in memory. “He told me that Rocky is usually very scared of strangers and gets aggressive easily if he feels frightened or threatened – he’d even bitten a few people in the past! He couldn’t believe how Rocky was sitting happily with me, letting me pat him and play with him.”

“I told him that people often get bitten because they approach a dog the wrong way, like rushing up to pat it on the head or staring at it…but my grandfather had taught me how to use ‘calming signals’ to communicate with Rocky in a way that he could understand so that he didn’t feel threatened by me,” smiles Laura. “After that, Rocky’s owner started telling other people to do the same things I had done with Rocky and the great news is, Rocky never bit anyone again!”

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • catgirl
    Re: Are Feral Cat Colonies Dangerous?
    TNR does work! Once you get the colonies managed.( Getting all cats fixed and ear tipped) If you get kittens about 5 weeks…
    7 July 2020
  • Guilliano
    Re: Dog Laws in the UK
    Good morning I have a neighbor on Hurkur Crescent Eyemouth who lives her dog 5 days in a week lock up in her flat. That dog howls and barks…
    25 June 2020
  • Kaz
    Re: Pet Injuries That Can be Treated at Home
    Hi I have a 10 week old pup lab cross collie he as scratched is ear inside I've been bathing it but he keep…
    18 June 2020
  • Moira
    Re: Are Feral Cat Colonies Dangerous?
    Can someone help me ? I feed a feral cat and the last two nights her eyes are watery and her breathing is terrible!…
    15 June 2020
  • Bec
    Re: Dog Laws in the UK
    Advise please? We live on a small lane with approx 8 houses. We have a neighbour across the street who has a dog. Their property is not fenced…
    13 June 2020
  • None
    Re: Pet Injuries That Can be Treated at Home
    My dog lost a large tooth from his bottom jaw. There was a swelling nearby on his jaw/chin. I think it was an an…
    8 June 2020
  • Alfie
    Re: Pet Injuries That Can be Treated at Home
    My springer has a cyst on his chest that has burst can't get thru to vets due to covid19 any advice?? He has a cone…
    28 May 2020
  • Mark.s
    Re: Vet's Fees
    My vet rang me yesterday to tell me that my cats medication has side effects which I already knew as they tell me every time I visit the surgery then…
    21 May 2020
  • Kitty kelly
    Re: Are Feral Cat Colonies Dangerous?
    Cat's aren't the harmful one humans are. Human's are the most ignorant species I've encountered. I have never had one…
    17 May 2020
  • N/A
    Re: Are Feral Cat Colonies Dangerous?
    Mention of a favor second best if it would be other being.What tape af PEOPEL is that
    15 May 2020