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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi,
I've had my dog for 7 months now. First dog. He's a 1.5 year old sheltie/shepherd mix. Temperament wise, he's really sweet, snugly.

I think I've noticed some things that he does as nonverbal communication. Well, I guess ALL his communication is nonverbal. But these I don't quite understand. I'll give the signal and the context. Also, he's a very submissive dog (dog park interaction) but very playful and outgoing. So his submissiveness is just his personality, it's not because of general fearfulness or uncertainty. He seems well socialized.


1) Sitting back and scratching his haunches. He seems to do this when I tell him to "go poop" or "go pee" (both commands he knows), but he doesn't need to. Do your dogs do that? He also sits back and scratches when he disobeys my sit command and I have to be repeat and be more firm.


2) Lick lip / lick nose / make delicious mouth smacking sounds. He does this when I tell him to go to his spot and he knows I'm about to pet him. Sometimes I pause before petting him to make eye contact, tell him he's a good by for going to his spot. I have a habit of looking at him straight on, and then putting my face on his face. I get the feeling he doesn't like that, and I've read dogs generally don't. I'm wondering if the lip smacking / lip licking is his sign to me that he's nervous when I do that? He sometimes gently licks my hand.


3) Yawning and making a high pitch sound. He does this sometimes, and not always when he first wakes up. He yawns and stretches when he first gets up, but doesn't make that high pitch sound. So, I'm assuming the high pitch yawn is a sound he's choosing to make.

4) Shaking. I call it the lion shake. I don't know what it means, and I can't remember a consistent context in which he does it. But, he shakes his head like he's shaking off water. I think he does it more often on the leash? I'm not sure.


Does your dog do any of these things?
 

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Mine yawns with the high-pitched squeak. It's super adorable. But she always does it right after she wakes up or right after I get home from work (so I assume she had been sleeping). Her "stress yawn" has no squeak. I know this because she stress yawns sometimes in the car (she's had car sickness before).
 

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Only one of mine does that. But he has perfected that noise to sound like the word "out". I just kept doing the sound back to him only made it sound more like the word and he picked up on it. When he does this on purpose I take him out to go potty. He is the only dog I have ever had to actually do this to ask me to go outside. Maybe you can take advantage of this and train yours to do this. It would be an interesting thing to see if it works. :)
 

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Yup. :) I am glad that you are noticing the way your dog is choosing to communicate with you. Have you read The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell? How about Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas?

I would describe everything you wrote as calming signals. It is your dogs way of communicating that she is uncomfortable/unsure/nervous. I know that licking (their own lips and your hands) is a way of diffusing any tension. I like to rest forehead to forehead with my dogs too, but I know it isn't their favorite so I don't do it often. Hugging is a similar 'not so great' way to show affection. Try instead to pet her under her chin, on her chest or on the sides of her muzzle.

The yawning with squeak can be a way of showing discontentment. Either in wanting more of what you were doing or asking you to hurry up and do something. I haven't quite figured out why my dog does this either! And only one of the two actually make an audible noise.

Shaking is another calming signal. I've noticed it a lot in dog-dog interactions. It seems to signal a change in pace or game and offers all parties a break to calm down. If no other dog is present, I assume pretty much the same thing. Tyler shakes before we enter a building... going from outside / inside.

Scratching/cleaning is one way to also 'take a break' and diffuse a situation.

There have been a bunch of 'calming signal' threads lately, so do a search and you might come up with some more good info!
 
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