Canine Communication in the Field and Shelter

Canine Communication in the Field and Shelter
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1 Module 1
Recorded on: 2020-11-11
Unit 1 Slide Deck: Canine Communication in the Field and Shelter
Unit 2 Transcript: Canine Communication in the Field and Shelter
Unit 3 Workbook: Canine Communication in the Field and Shelter
Unit 4 Recording: Canine Communication in the Field and Shelter

With how humans turned pets into family members, the only thing that would probably make things better is if we can talk with them. While actual verbal communication might remain to be wishful thinking for most fur-parents, there are ways that we, as humans, can aim to understand them better.

Diana Rayment and Trish McMillan are this webinar’s instructors to teach us how to better understand canine body language. Diana holds a Ph.D. in Canine Behavior and a Bachelor of Animal Science. She’s got extensive experience in the field and research focused in the application of canine behavior and assessments, and has worked in different academic and industry settings. Meanwhile, Trish holds a Master of Science degree in animal behavior, and is a certified professional dog trainer, certified dog behavior consultant, and associate certified cat behavior consultant. She’s been involved in animal rescue and sheltering for almost three decades, working in different roles.

Specifics discussed in this session are:

  • The importance of viewing animals objectively and seeing their behavior on a spectrum than giving them labels.
  • Understanding dog behavior by looking at the nuances in dogs’ faces and bodies that provide more clues as to what they’re thinking and feeling than just tail wagging.
  • Calming signals that dogs show in an attempt to regulate their interactions that humans may be missing.
    • Tongue flicking, lip licking, and looking away as ways to communicate discomfort over the situation or interaction.
    • Yawning and shaking off to release tension.
    • Tail positions, tail wagging, spine position, and paw raising that convey their feelings and intention on an interaction.
  • Behaviors to look out for that indicate a dog’s stress and pain level, what they want to do, and where they intend to go next.
  • A dos and don’ts list on how to greet dogs that underline the concept of consent and dogs’ personal space.
  • Using all these information when interacting with dogs by paying attention to observable behavior as well as the environmental, social, and physiological contexts.
  • How the presence of a bonded individual can alter a dogs’ reaction and behavior.
  • The concept of arousal in dogs – how this manifests and affects their ability to focus and their reactions.
  • Recognizing the key role of distance when interacting with dogs and how this can influence their arousal and determine their threat response.
  • Utilizing human body language to get a dog to ease up when it is fearful or aggressive.
  • A rundown of the most important things to remember when working with dogs to:
    • Understand what it’s thinking, feeling, and its arousal level.
    • Predict its movement and direction.
    • De-escalate it effectively.

Questions from the audience were about:

  • Interpreting hackles.
  • Secure attachment of the dogs with the humans that they trust and bond with.
  • How secure attachment work for dogs who come from terrible environments.
  • Reasons why a dog may be hypersalivating.
  • Defining the term “aggression” in dogs.
  • What the term “soft mouth” means.
  • Dogs sensing and picking up the stress of the humans they’re interacting with.



This is part of a two-part series:


Resources and Handouts


Audience Comments

  • “I really liked the videos and pictures of what to look for in body language. I thought this webinar was excellent!” — Martylee
  • “Loved the 3-second rule. Tapping out is often overlooked, so I was happy to hear that mentioned. Also really liked secure attachment as I work in intake in a shelter, and that is something that we see almost every single day.” — Katherine
  • “Information from the people that are actually in the field and not just academic.” — Michael
  • “Everything was very helpful. Parole agents deal with all types of families in the community and are faced with various challenges with dogs in particular. Some officers are bit because dogs are used as weapons or used for threats to scare officers away from criminal activity. Some officers witness signs of abuse and neglect and report it. Probation officers receive very little training in this area so this was beneficial.” — Sabrina



This webinar has been pre-approved by the Maine Animal Welfare Program for 1 Continuing Education Unit for the State of Maine’s ACO annual training. You can find more information about Certification, required annual training or submitting materials for credit at Maine’s Animal Control Officer Resource Page.




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