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on November 6, 2000
This is a simple little book. It's cheap and doesn't look like much, but the content can revolutionize your communication with your dog. It's about dog language, but not about the "big" wolf postures of dominance or submission that many of us already know about. This book is about the wide range of subtle signals (about 28, I think) that dogs use to communicate "please calm down" towards other dogs - or their owners. Because owners stress their dogs a lot, unintentionally. Like when we practice obedience exercises. In the middle of training, the dog starts looking away, yawning or sniffing the grass! Bored? Stubborn? Dominant? No, it's probably sending you signals to ask you to calm down!
I attended a weekend seminar with Turid Rugaas last year which opened my eyes and I know that this works. Since then, and also since looking at video recordings from dog meetings, I now understand that dogs "talk" all the time. When meeting us or another dog, every single move or glance can carry a meaning. The other dog understands, if he has been allowed to "practice" dog language in lots of meetings with other dogs, but we, the humans, the supposed alphas, don't understand. Instead we try to teach the dog OUR verbal language. How frustrating for the dog! Shouldn't we first learn the dog's language?
This is a book that makes you understand that dog language is so much more than where the tail or the ears are. It's about signals that our own pets send to us daily. With this book we can start looking at our own dog and see much, much more than we saw before. We will actually start to understand what our dog tells us. And, even more thrilling, we can use the dog's language ourselves and be understood by the dog! We can use the same calming signals to help the dog for example in a stressful situation.
There is a cultural diffence between the European look on dog training and the American look. In America there is much focus on teaching a dog through reinforcing behaviors, like operant conditioning. Clicker training is very good, and I'm all for it. But when "Culture Clash" by Jean Donaldson came, it was considered to be a revolution, because some Americans had actually forgotten that dogs are dogs, with dogs' needs and drives and motivations!
In Europe, we've always been interested in dog behavior. Konrad Lorenz is a good example. Swedish "dog psychologist" Anders Hallgren wrote about a dog's calming signals more than ten years ago, inspired by Ms Rugaas. Unfortunately his books are not spred in the US. Turid is Norwegian and also represents the European way: to look at the dog as a dog and try to understand how it thinks and feels and acts in a pack. So therefore I think that this is a very good book for every single dog owner, but especially (no offense) for American clicker-trainers. This book will make them even better trainers, because it will probably give them an important missing piece in the training puzzle.
I think I can make a promise: If you read this book and use it, you'll never be able to look at a dog again the way you did before. It's a simple little book, but, at best, it's breath-taking!
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on September 27, 2001
This an exceptional book that should be mandatory reading for all dog owners. If you have a problem dog, or just want to understand why dogs do what they do, this book is for you. This book will make for more happy owners and dogs. It is a great book for those of you who dont like to or simply dont have the time to read a lot. It is a to-the-point, no-nonsense and easy to read introduction to canine communication that explains dog behavior and interpreting dog communication signals in an easy to understand way. This a a short but very enlightening volume, filled with a ton of great information. A bit off-beat and quirky at times, it is a wonderful resource no dog owners library should be without. And the affordable price makes it even more worth while! I will continue to buy it as a gift for my dog-training friends and students.
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on November 10, 2003
During my five, post-retirement years as a shelter volunteer, I've accumulated over six shelf-feet of dog books, most relating to behavior and training. Many were skimmed and forgotten; others required several readings to achieve maximum effect; some I kept only as examples of what I have come to consider bad practice.
In contrast, OTTWD produced an immediate "Ah ha!" reaction, and I reread it occasionally as much to renew the sense of inspiration as to glean more information from its scant pages. (As other reviewers have pointed out, there are other, far more exhaustive treatments of the vocabulary of dogs -- such as those by Roger Abrantes and Stanley Coren.)
I had barely finished reading the author's first, rather sketchy, case-study (which describes the role of her dog, Vesla, in communicating with the client's dog -- a recurring theme throughout) when I started to think about a pair of Border Collie mixes, Amelia and Cinder, at our shelter.
They are as close to feral as any dogs I've ever been around. We suspect they grew up from puppies as junkyard dogs. Among the dozens of our all-volunteer staff who have tried to befriend them, only three of the most empathetic, female volunteers have progressed to the point where they can leash them for a walk. Amelia and Cinder always responded to me by barking and retreating, even though I already knew to avoid assertive body posture, eye contact, use of my deep, male voice, etc. I eventually quit trying to connect with them.
The possibility that Ms. Rugaas opened for me was to use another dog as an intermediary. I decided to enlist the services of Mercedes, a young, high-strung, female Pit Bull that I was already teaching basic obedience. She will do anything she can understand to earn a quarter-inch cube of doggie salami.
After Mercedes had learned the "down" command, both by hand signal and verbally, we began practicing it closer and closer to Amelia and Cinder's run. At first they barked constantly whenever Mercedes and I were within sight. However, after daily repetitions over a few weeks, "the girls", as I call them, would stop barking and posturing within a second after Mercedes would lie down. After a few minutes of calm, sometimes the girls too would lie down -- often at a closer distance to me than they had ever approached when I was alone. I rewarded their calm by flipping tiny treats into their run.
Within a few weeks I was able to approach the girls without Mercedes, enter their run and feed them by hand. Although they still approach me with great caution, I am now able to touch each of them around the muzzle.
I don't know where my efforts will lead. I do know that what little progress I have made would not have been possible, were it not for the breakthrough I achieved with help from Mercedes -- and Turid Rugaas.
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on February 14, 2001
For the first time, I am now able to understand my best friends, my dogs. Not only my dogs, but all dogs. This book should be read by all people not just by persons who love dogs. This book should be required reading in elementary or junior high schools. I am absolutely convinced that the number of dog bites in children and adults would be much lessened were we all to know what is within Turid Rugaas' Calming Signals.
An example of my new wisdom: I walk my two dogs every day and every once in a while my one dog will stop and sniff at nothing. Now I don't mean she stops for a few seconds and sniffs at a bush or rock; she stops and refuses to move forward at all while she continues to sniff at an empty spot on the ground, all the while looking up at me. I would tug and pull on her leash, becoming more and more upset. Not realizing that when we had started the walk I was already tense and stressed, that I was hurrying and not paying attention to anything around me because I was concentrating on something disturbing. All this time she was telling me to calm down. Once I learned what she was saying, I forced myself to stop for a moment and take a few deep breaths and relax. Good for me, good for her and a much more enjoyable walk.
Thank you Turid.
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on April 11, 2003
I am an American who lives in Germany. My husband and I are training our Labrador to be a search and rescue dog with a German organization. This book comes highly recommended by our group. I am in the middle of reading it and applying its teachings to the training of our dog; I can't believe the difference in my relationship with him. It takes time and consistency to make it effective...patience too, but it is oh so worth it!
A couple of things that I have learned are:
1) If you think that your dog has messed up, look at yourself...99% of the time it's the trainer who has messed up.
2) It is usually the trainer who has hindered the dog in speaking and understanding "dogese", that is "calming signals", and therefore it is the trainer who has to learn and "re-teach" this language to the dog. Calming Signals is just the book to teach this.
During our search and rescue training, my dog used to get so wound up just before he searched a pile of rubble for a "victim" that he didn't work well. Calming Signals has helped me to effectively calm my dog down by using HIS language, and not mine. When I was stern with him, he would only get more wound up. Now, we sit down on the ground, I don't look him directly in the eyes, and yes, I even yawn at him. It works!
Dog training is an investment of time (and lots of it). Dogese IS a foreign language for humans, and if our dogs are important to us, it is our responsibility to learn their language! Don't expect to give your dog a few signals here and there and have everything magically fall into place. You and your dog are learning to "communicate" with each other and Calming Signals is the "phrase book" to this language.
I very much appreciate the insights from Gunilla Melkersson's review of Calming Signals and especially the cultural difference in American and European dog training. It is absolutely true!
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on August 4, 2003
Having looked at other customer reviews for this book, I felt I had to write one of my own. I am a professional dog trainer, behaviorist, Delta Society licensed Evaluator, and Instructor, and I also train Service dogs.
I always insist my clients read this book. I always show the video to clients.
For the people who rated this book low in their reviews, I suggest you read the book several times again, watch the video several times.
After reading, and viewing, go to a dog park (bring the book with for reference) and watch dogs interacting with each other. Try to predict what the dogs will do next by looking at their body language, and use of Calming Signals.
Calming signals work. I look for them and use them myself when evaluating dogs for training, & when doing Delta Society Evaluations. I use them when working with aggressive dogs. The reason I am writing this today, is because I came to Amazon to order more copies of the book. One to keep for myself, one to lend to others. I have to do this, because I lent my first copy to one person too many, and it didn't come back. My next copy just became too worn out.
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on July 15, 2005
Turid Rugaas' book is basically a simple book on one facet of canine body language.

Most dog owners are aware of the concept of dominance: how dogs use growls, stares and other forms of ritualised aggression to raise their position in the pack hierachy. This is the other side of the coin: the language that dogs use to keep the peace in the pack and avoid conflict. Although Turid calls these postures "calming signals", most of us would probably call them signs of submission.

Although the information in this book is interesting, I found the book unrealistically simplistic. Obviously, communicating with your dog in a format he can understand is immensely valuable for trainers and owners alike. However, Turid seems to think that any problem can be cured by using calming signals. There are numerous anecdotes in the book where dogs with behavioural problems are cured in a few minutes by the proper application of calming signals. Turid does not not discuss any cases where calming signals alone were insufficient to cure a dog's behavioural problems. I admit that calming signals are useful in many circumstances, but unfortunately they are not a magic cure for every dog's problems.

I was also mildly annoyed that Turid discourages readers from ever using non-submissive body language with their dogs, no matter the circumstance: in her own words "You have always a choice of being threatening or calming. To me the choice is easy." She seems to feel that using canine signals to convey anything except "calming" is tantamount to dog abuse. However, dominance and threat are just as much a part of canine body language as "calming signals" are. Why should we not occasionally use these as well, when they are appropriate? I might avert my gaze to calm a stressed dog, but if a dog is knowingly overstepping his bounds in the home a more appropriate reaction might be a hard stare. I recommend the Suzanne Clothier article "Learning from the masters" to anyone who would like to learn more about different uses of canine body language([...]

Would I recommend this book? Yes. It is a good primer on one facet of canine body language, and most dog owners could probably benefit from a read of it. However, please keep in mind that calming signals are not the cure for every problem your dog might have!
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on August 2, 2002
The knowledge gained from reading "On Talking Terms" has enabled me to save the lives of dogs that would have been destroyed. As a Dachshund rescuer I have encountered dogs from terrible situations. The worst was Willie, a small, gorgious chocolate and tan, long haired Doxie. He had been a stud dog in a puppy mill with the only human interaction being of a negative nature.
A fear biter, Willie was very difficult to handle when he came to our home. Unable to touch him we literally had to hurd him into the house and out of the house to potty. The only life he had known was in a cage and life in a house with humans was an extreme shock to him.
Desperate to help Willie I ordered several books in search of information which would enable me to break through the wall of fear surrounding him. By using the body language outlined by Turid Rugaas, which Willie understood, I was able to put him at ease and touch him for the very first time. Honestly the boy seemed so surprized that I knew his language.
Four months later we were able to place Willie with a special family who understood how far he had come from his puppy mill days. No longer frightened, he knew the kindness of and the love to be found in a dog loving home. He was and is a dog who owes his life to Turid Rugaas.
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on January 28, 2005
I am part of a 4 dog-pack and Turid Rugaas' book has made life so much smoother! I share a deep bond with my dogs now. Not the typical "Master/Pet" dynamic that happens to most American dogs. It has also made it possible for me to deal successfully with strange dogs when I am alone or walking my own dogs on a leash. I tested the information in this book at a wolf sanctuary (through the wire fence). The man who ran the sanctuary said he had never seen them accept a new human as quickly as they had me. They came right to the fence and greeted me using the behaviors outlined in the book. They understood my body language and answered me with the same language. I showed "submission" to an "alpha" male he invited me to interact! It is invaluable to anyone who loves their dog! I wish every person in America had to read this book! It is worth its weight in gold!
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on February 4, 2005
Wow! Talk about great things coming in small packages. Its a small book and a quick read, packed full of what all dog owners should know. I have 3 dogs. The newest member, a 1 year old australian shephard mix, is hyper and "bothers" my older dog. I began watching them with my new found Knowledge of calming signals, and realized that my older dog wasnt actually bothered, he was trying to soothe the hyper puppy. I began to use the calming signals myself with the puppy and he stopped jumping and running around like a maniac and actually began to pay attention to me. Im truely amazed. Thank you Turid Rugaas for all your work and for sharing it with others.

This is a book all dog owners should read!!
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