March Book Review - On Talking Terms With Dogs

Posted: Mar 05 2009

Originally published March 7th, 2007

Calming Signals Book

Book of the Month: On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals 2nd Edition by Turid Rugaas

Grade: B+

Norwegian dog trainer, Turid Rugaas, provides a fascinating and in-depth analysis of canine body language in her book, On Talking Terms With Dogs. By studying the ways in which dogs use body language to talk to each other we can learn to understand their signals and communicate more effectively with our animals in safe, non-violent ways.

In 1996, Turid Rugaas coined the term calming signals to describe the social skills, or body language, dogs use to avoid conflict, invite play and exchange a wide range of information. Adept communicators, dogs use subtle and not-so-subtle movements such as turning the head, softening the eyes, yawning, and bowing to avoid conflict and mitigate potentially dangerous situations.

Detractors of Rugaas work often misconstrue her use of the term calming signals to mean that one dog is empathetically trying to change another dogs emotional state. On the contrary, Rugaas demonstrates that dogs use calming signals to avoid conflict or more expressly as a means of self-preservation. By viewing canine behavior through this lens we are better able to understand how and why conflicts emerge in the pet dog population. More importantly, Rugaas illustrates ways in which we can work with our dogs to minimize and even prevent conflict.

The success of the first edition, Calming Signals, prompted Rugaas to write this expanded second edition. On Talking Terms With Dogs provides excellent photographic documentation and explanation that elucidate the subtle signals dogs exhibit in their complex system of communication. With the help of this book, readers will learn to identify situations that are stressful to dogs, gain skills that will allow them to rehabilitate a dog that has lost the ability to use or read calming signals and become skilled observers of canine body language.

Turid Rugaas is one of those rare individuals whose compassion and keen insight makes reading her work a transformative experience. While On Talking Terms With Dogs is geared toward those already familiar with positive reinforcement training, novice and lay people will benefit greatly from Rugaas work. For those who want to expand the breadth of their knowledge with regard to calming signals the companion DVD, Calming Signals: What Your Dog Tells You, is an invaluable resource.

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