Calming signals

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ON TALKING TERMS WITH DOGS:
“Turid’s work has revolutionized the way that I deal with rescued Poodles as well as rescued Border Collies for the Border Collie Trust of Great Britain. From shy dogs entering training classes to the severely traumatized, unsocialized dogs rescued from breeding establishments, I now have another language for our communication. Such a benefit for me and a huge relieffor the dogs.” Alison F. Rowbotham Association of Pet Behavior Counsellors, England “As do most ingenious inventions, Turid’s work on calming signals leaves the reader wondering why no one has ever written it before. It is down-to-earth, practical and so logical. The only problem is that it’s addictive -- I never consciously watched dogs yawn before! This is essential reading for everyone whoworks with dogs.” Dr. Gaille Perry Veterinarian, Professor, Dog Trainer, Australia

CALMING SIGNALS

by Turid Rugaas

Introduction by Terry Ryan

Vesla’s Story

The big Briard attacked violently and with a roar. At full speed he went for the little Elkhound, who stopped moving, stood quite still, and turned her head to one side. just a few feet away from the Elkhound, the Briard stopped andlooked bewildered, as if he didn’t know what to do. Then he started to look around for some replacement activity, sniffed a little at the ground, and turned back to base. The place was my training field. The client was a Briard with dog-to-dog problems. The little Elkhound was my own Vesla, thirteen years of age. Vesla always knows what to do and she always manages to calm down other dogs,whether they are aggressive, afraid, stressed or just harassing. For eleven years no dog has been able to throw her off her mental balance. She is the picture of a survivor, a conflictsolving dog with all the communication skills needed to survive. Vesla wasn’t always like that. She came to me as a stray dog, and we meant to re-home her, as she upset my own dogs with her aggressive and violentbehaviour. She fought, she quarreled, she was stressed, she was impossible, and I didn’t feel for starting to work with her. But nobody wanted her, so with a sigh we kept her, and 1

started to try to incorporate her into the family of people and dogs. It was a time of trials. I am sure she was the worst dog I have ever had in the house. But gradually things got better. She stopped climbing the curtains.She could go for walks without trying to bite the others all the time. She could relax now and then. And then one day I saw to my astonishment that she actually started to communicate with the other dogs. Their work had started to get through to her! When I discovered that she actually was getting back her dog language, I tried my usual method for training. I praised every step in the rightdirection, every time she had a glimpse of a calming signal, I praised her. She got better and better. I realized to my surprise that it was possible to reinforce her own language by praising, and then things happened very fast. She was now helped by both my dogs and me. In a very short time she was a miracle of dog language. One year after I got her, she had stopped all her aggressive behavior, andfrom then until today, twelve years later, she has not once been in trouble with any dog. They just cannot make her lose control. The story of Vesla made me realize that it is possible to teach back lost language to dogs. Since then I have made this teaching a life-style and my main job. And it has enriched my life, as I now understand better, see better, what dogs feel. I truly feel that I am ontalking terms with the dogs. And that gives me a good feeling, just like the childhood dream about talking to animals. Thank you Vesla, for all you taught me, it changed my life.

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Introduction by Terry Ryan

The occasion was “Animals and Us,” the Sixth International Conference on Human-Animal Interactions in Montreal. A quiet, polite seminar attendee, Turid Rugaas, sat a couple of rows...
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