Because some people showed and interest, I will tell you what we do. But it has been many years of living with dogs, many dogs and we always have at least four dogs. I will be honest from the beginning and tell you that I use these, but my dogs have a good grounding in Obedience and Annabelle's initial training for Dog and people aggression was counter conditioning and desensitisation with the help of a great trainer/behaviourist.
But once she learned to cope, she would still get "stuck" occasionally as some of my other dogs do too. By having so many problems with her and by having a history of re-training problem horses (hubby is a trainer) I knew that we had to look at what dogs do naturally to help her more. Just like we do with re-training troubled horses.
My calming signs for Annabelle and any other dog I know are really quite simple.
When Annabelle starts to show very early signs of possible aggression I use them. It means you have to be able to read your dogs. Annabelle only has to get slightly taller and I will get her attention and lick my lips, blink and if I think she is really stressed I yawn. Turid Rugaas has some amazing books and video on this, but I also saw a guy who studied wolves point this out many years ago.
I can make Tessa yawn, by yawning at her and she will calm right down.
The most important part is reading your dog and knowing the signals they give. Once the dogs are in fight mode this is all too late, you have to see the before.
When Annabelle used to get stressed, which is why she was aggressive, I would again make her look at me and lick my lips/blink, look away.
I have even used this in a couple of Obedience Trails in the "sit/stay" with both Annabelle and Tessa.
Annabelle had a dog break next to her and it first went to her and started licking her face, I looked at her and just blinked and licked my lips....She sat through it all. that was her first CCD leg. The Judge was amazed and said her nearly asked the Steward to get the dog, but saw she was coping. Tessa had a dog fight start next to her in one of her legs and she stayed, because I did the same.
Of course you have to familiarize your dog with the fact that you do calming signs. And you have to do it before the "s...t hits the fan". It is all about being very aware of your dogs.
It has got Annabelle through many tough spots and many people have no idea you are doing it. Initially with strangers, it gave her comfort.
It is what I love about having a "pack"...My Katy is my teacher now. She will let me know when things are likely to happen in any dog environment. katy is a peacemaker and when free, she will run into a pair of dogs that might show some aggression. She runs through them and tries to distract. It worries her when she does it, but she always does it.
She also warns me when Annabelle is tense. If it is directed at another dog, she will often stand in front of Annabelle and lower herself, licking and yawning.
Spend time with your dogs and watch them, you can guide them. you just need to be very aware.
Just like with horses, but slightly different signs. I just love spending time watching my animals and learning from them.