Those of us who always have dogs know darn well that they laugh, they laugh when they play and they smile and show ” twinkle eyes”  when they find things amusing – maybe not quite the same sort of amusing as us but there is definitely a sense of humour going on.
A dog’s laugh is a sort of “ha” –  an exhalation. It may well be used to create a situation of agreement about whatever circumstance is being experienced by two or more dogs together.This communicates a calming feeling toward the others involved, it diffuses any stress in the situation of dogs playing with each other.
If you make a >dog laugh< sound to your dog, he may very well respond with a play face and play bow. Whispering  – which is a breathy sound can often create a play situation. The dog will present the “play face” – bright eyes and something we would call a grin.  To learn a dog laugh is a good tool to have for the instigation of agreeable fun between dog and human.
Patricia Simonet, an animal behaviorist in Spokane who has studied everything from hamster culture to elephant self-recognition, says that when recorded dog laughing was played back to dogs in an animal shelter, it had an immediate calming effect on the dogs there.
It is being used in kennels now as a help to ease the discomfort of kennelled dogs. This may be a signal for peace within a group and helps the dogs feel more secure. Certainly, within human population, where research is much easier to conduct, laughter is found to be enormously positive in both individual and group situations – as if we didn’t know that before it was researched!
So a recording of dog laughter might help a dog feel relaxed, there are other methods of calming a dog besides using sedatives.
For general excitement and racing around, catch him and persuade the dog to sit  –  talk gently and quietly, lean your body over him – a great many dogs dislike being held and may like it even less if overwrought – continue to pet him and talk quietly, praising for being quiet. A distracting treat will help and a drink of water is often a help. Some people believe that giving a dog ice is helpful in calming them.
For fear, yawning at the dog is helpful as a yawn communicates calm within a dog pack and is passed around in much the same way as it is with people. Yawning shows a dog that you are not concerned by the situation and that it is OK for him to be unconcerned as well. Do not reinforce the idea that the fear is logical by being overly comforting, be casual, show him that it si nothing to worry about by example.
In the case of loud noises and/ or flashes such as fireworks outside the house, draw the blinds and put on the TV with the sound turned up  …  I have found that the whole family sitting in the living room with the blinds drawn, fire lit and the TV sound up  quite loud seems to work really well. Its a normal and comforting sort of situation with the events outside excluded as much as possible.
It is possible to buy a CD of firework noises which you play, gradually increasing the volume and accustoming the dog to those sounds.
However in the case of dogs that are very fearful, who shake and hide from the threat of loud noises etc. it seems to be kind to help more than just improve the situation in the house.
There is a pheromone, known as Dog Adaptive Pheramone – DAP – available for both dogs (and a cat version)  which may help in stressful situations such as when there are fireworks in the vicinity or as a general assistance to help the dog lose his anxiety. These pheromones are based upon the ones a bitch releases to her puppies and are administered through a collar, spray or a plug-in device. They put the pheromone into the air in the house, have no sedative effect and will not affect a human at all.
There are herbal sedatives or ones from the vet available for nervous dogs but it is obviously preferable to teach him rather than drug him – although drugs have their place.
Calming Aggression
Aggression from strange dogs is a bit of a problem in our society, where many people keep dogs and make no effort to socialise or train them, even choosing to use an aggressive dog as a weapon.
There are few naturally aggressive dogs, although it certainly happens that some puppies are born with an aggression problem  – most aggressive dogs are like that due to the manner in which they are handled and the attitude of the people with whom they live toward them.
Aggression may be borne out of pain so make sure that your dog is healthy, does he have hot ears or seem to have trouble chewing, is he yelping or moving oddly?  Take him to the vet.
Remember that throat growling is much more likely to mean   ” I do not like this situation” and that snarling and showing teeth is different and a definite threat.
It is essential to take a dog to training classes with a good positive trainer who will assess the dog’s behaviour and recommend a course of action.
Positive trainers use only kind methods with animals, there are many trainers who will use methods which are not kind and which, through hurting the animal, will cause as much difficulty in his behaviour as improve it.
He may obey out of fear   This is obviously undesirable.  You want your dog to do what you ask because he likes to be in harmony with you and your surroundings.
If someone suggests an electric shock method or a prong collar or shouts at dogs and pulls them around…. walk away.
Would you do this to your child?  Why would you want to be cruel to your dog?
The dog is not being >bad<, he simply does not understand his environment and what is asked of him.
Most domestic animals prefer to cooperate to being difficult – it is just nicer for them …and to get rewarded for your behaviour is a great incentive.   If you went to someone’s house regularly and that person always gave you a present  – would you not prefer that to going to a house where the occupant shouted at you?

Avoiding aggression from strange dogs
Allow dogs to make friendly overtures to you first.
If he does not wish to interact with you, he may become annoyed if you force him to do so.
Do not reach out to touch a strange dog, let him make the first move of touching and do not pat him on the head or dart your hand out toward his head, he may be fearful of those actions.
Do not stare into his eyes –  dogs learn to do this with their owner but it is hostile dog language.
Do not bend down and put your face right in his.
Do not allow your children to do any of the above or to dance around patting at a dog and jumping away.
Do not let your children throw their arms around the neck of a strange dog ( oh yes they do)
Do not let your children poke or tease dogs in any way.
Teach your children that there is usually nothing to fear but that being sensible and respectful of the animal’s feelings is the right way to behave.
If a strange dog comes over to your smaller one – do try to avoid picking up your small dog.
This will cause the bigger dog to be very interested and you may get a snapping little dog wriggling around in your arms increasing aggression from the dog on the ground and it will teach your dog that there is something to fear in every big dog it sees.
Dealing with an aggressive dog which is not your own.
Dog have a clear language of signals which they use to communicate, we tend to notice only a few. The more you understand what is being said,  the more you are able to speak their language to them and avert trouble of one kind or another.
Dogs do not like you to look in their eyes. In dog language this means you are hostile, so avert your gaze.
Turn away slightly, shoulder to dog and take a curved walk around him – walking in a straight line toward a dog is perceived as hostile.
Yawn, demonstrating your lack of concern.
Do not smile – you are baring your teeth in aggression.
Do not run away.
Move slowly and try to feel calm in yourself so that your body language is calm,  he is reading  your behaviour quite carefully as it is instinctive for him to do.
Keep your hands still and away from your sides and do not reach towards him, putting out your hand is a hostile move for him, as would be trying to touch him, particularly his head.
Most dogs have been taught to sit on command. Tell him firmly to sit. It might work. Tell him to “Go Home” it might work
Keeping still, relaxed and turned away is your best strategy.

If he actually attacks you
This is a really, really unusual occurrence, it is extremely unlikely that a dog will actually attack you (unless you are trespassing the house it lives in)
Try to throw your coat over and around his head. Use your coat as a shield.
Make fists to protect your fingers, keep arms close to body,  if you fall, curl into foetal position. If he does bite, try not to pull way as he will not let go and you will be ripped as well as punctured.
If you have an umbrella or stick try to get him to focus on that,  open the umbrella  he will not get a good hold on it.
Let him bite your our coat sleeve  – better than your arm.
Do not attack the dog first. It may work to kick it or otherwise injure it if it is mauling you.
If threatened by a pack of dogs, throwing stones may help.

Helping someone else who has been attacked by a dog
Do not pull the dog away from the person he is biting – it will make a bite into a rip.
Get hold of the heaviest thing you can and hit the back of the dogs head/ neck. Do not hit its head on the top, their skulsl are very thick and you will make it more angry.
The nose and eyes are good areas to attack with a stick.
Try to force a big stick into its mouth to release a bite.
Picking it up by the back legs will make it release – do not even try with a big heavy dog –  you then are holding up an angry dog by its back legs…. try to get the other person to get a coat over its head, tightly.
Make sure you have had a tetanus jab within 5 years and wash the wounds thoroughly, going to a nurse / doctor is probably the best thing if he has bitten you properly.
Notify the police.
reference and links:
Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Environmental Enrichment July 31 – August 5, 2005; © 2005
Dog-laughter: Recorded playback reduces stress related behavior in shelter dogs
Patricia Simonet*, Donna Versteeg, Dan Storie *Animal Behavior Center, PO Box 19429, Spokane WA 99219 Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service, 2521 N Flora Rd, Spokane WA 99216 if it were a human face

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