I'm fascinated by Turid Rugaas' "Calming Signals," and think it would be fun to put together a Speaking Dog Workshop based on it.
I was wondering if anybody had any ideas on what to add that may be above and beyond the signals Rugaas gives. The book is kind of sketchy.

I thought this would be a very interesting and informative workshop to do, because so many people don't know the first thing about how to read a dog. I can't count how many new puppy owners have asked if they should give up their puppies because they're too aggressive, when all the pups are doing is playing. Play growls scare the pants out of first-time dog owners.

One male owner had to shut his eyes during puppy play, because no matter how many times I demonstrated that his little Pom wasn't getting bullied and hurt (by separating the dogs, and letting the Pom go - who would joyfully bound right back into the fray), he couldn't handle it. His wife was fine with it, and kept "tsk"ing him. I have to admit the little guy did get soaking wet with dog spit, but that's about it. He LOVES play.

Then there are the people who approach strange dogs by bending over them, looking directly into their eyes, and reaching their hands over the top of their heads. Especially kids, but many adults also.

I'd like to discuss how to tell if play is going to turn into a fight. It's not black and white. It can change from one to the other in a split second, and the signals can be very subtle. Comments?
I know you watch for dominating behavior, like humping or holding the head over another dog, staring, pilo-erection, tail carriage, ear carriage, snarling, etc. But these things do not by themselves signal a fight.

For example, I've noticed that many poorly socialized dogs will initially play with full pilo-erection. It appears that if there is NO other body language that isn't playful but that, it signals a lack of confidence in the dog, but I've never seen it escalate. Instead, it disappears as the dog becomes more confident in play. Is this a valid observation? I'll watch a dog with pilo-erection more carefully, but I've never felt the need to break it up on that alone.
Dominating behavior is a high-risk for fights IMHO, because it escalates if the other dog isn't amused. But I've also had many puppies in class who consistently display "King of the Hill" behavior and never get into a spat.

A combination of signals is a warning to separate the dogs, at least in class (I've seen dogs get away with a lot in the dog park, but I can't risk it.)

What I'd like to know in particular:
* At what point do you usually immediately step in to prevent a fight, and

* List from 1-5, in order of strongest to weakest, indicators of a possible fight.
And any other input.
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