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Appeasement behaviour


From Barbara Handelman Canine Behavior: A Photo Illustrated Handbook.

Appeasement or Pacifying Behaviors:

Canids offer appeasement behaviors, also called pacifying behaviors, to suppress aggressive behavior that might happen. In contrast, submissive behavior serves to turn off aggression already happening.

Appeasement behaviors are often associated with friendly greetings. The dog who lacks confidence might also offer pacifying behaviors to acknowledge his own social inferiority, or announce his fear.

“The differences between pacifying, friendly, fearful or submissive behaviour are generally, small and quantitative” (Abrantes, 1997, p. 184).

Examples: Pawing, muzzle-nudge, twist movement, puppy licking, lowered body posture (groveling, wiggly approach), ears back, submissive grin, tail and hindquarters wagging.

Appeasement signals represent a lack of confidence and serve to avoid hostility.

They are a non-aggressive means of achieving escape or prevention of hostile/

aversive treatment. Appeasement signals are commonly classified as “distance decreasing” signals, but they are rightly categorized as agonistic. Unlike aggressive signals, which are always hostile, and affiliative signals, which are always approach/contact related, appeasement signals may serve an escape/ avoidance function or an affiliative function. Dogs sometimes, but not always, use appeasement signals in order to encourage affiliative encounters (other times they use them when flight is impossible, in order to pacify a hostile encounter).

The only common denominator in the use of appeasement signaling is that the individual seeks to escape or avoid some component of the encounter. This is a distance increasing function. If there is absolutely no reason to believe that the other individual may attack, there is no need for appeasement signals (O’Heare, 2007).