As I've said previously, I've included photos when I've had them. If you have a picture of your dog doing one of the signals for which there is no photo, please email it to me (address is in the contact tab). I'd love to post it (with credit, of course!).
Look Away or Turn Away
When your dog deliberately looks away from you (and not to look at some distraction in the distance), he's doing it to tell you he's uncomfortable. True to the category, this gesture communicates that the dog is no threat. Interestingly, every time I pull a camera out, Maisy looks away, and sometimes it's quite challenging to get her to look at me. Turn aways are similar, and include the whole body, not just the head.
Here's a great example of the look away in action. Via (the puppy) tells Maisy she's feeling stressed by licking her lips. Maisy responds by looking away in order to tell Via she's not a threat.
This happens when the dog lifts just one front paw.
Although all signals must be taken in context, this is especially important with sniffing. Pay attention to what causes it, when it ends, and what else is going on. If there is truly a good smell, and the sniffing takes place independently of what's going on around the dog, then it's nothing to worry about. On the other hand, if another dog approaches, or something odd is going on in the environment, and the dog begins sniffing at nothing, it's probably because he doesn't know what else to do.
Trust me- the ground is not that interesting!
This picture was taken during the middle of an over-the-top play session.
Photo courtesy of Sara Reusche.
Sneezing is another signal that can have multiple meanings. Sarah said that if the dog gives fast, repetitive sneezes, it's probably excitement, not stress. However, if there are just one or two large sneezes, it's probably appeasement.
This dog is about to sneeze. Photo courtesy of Sara Reusche.
Again, this signal is very context-dependent, and you'll need to pay attention to what's going on when the dog scratches.
This was taken during an off-leash hike with five other dogs,
three of whom Maisy hadn't met before. Photo by Laura Waudby.
Although you might think it would be difficult to pick out appeasement blinking, Sarah said it really isn't because you won't notice a normal rate of blinking. Therefore, if you notice blinking, you can assume it's an increased blink rate, and an appeasement gesture as a result.
Jess blinking following a too-long photo session. Picture courtesy of Sophie.
Sarah said this is a very common gesture, and perhaps the most common appeasement signal. She said it is akin to a “reset” button, which is a very apt description.
In this video, Maisy's play with Malcolm gets a bit intense, so she sniffs the floor, shakes off, and then sneezes before resuming play again. What a great combo of appeasement gestures! She uses them to say she's just a bit uncomfortable. Like Sarah noted, it's not that Maisy wants the play to end. Instead, it seems more like she just needs a bit of a break before it continues.