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A well-trained dog is a pleasure to have. Unfortunately, unless you are lucky enough to get one already trained, it takes a lot of time and patience to teach a dog properly.
Most people teach their dog verbal commands and stop there. However, it would be best to consider going a step further and adding in hand signal when training your dog for various reasons. One of the biggest is that it may actually be easier for your dog to understand hand signals than your vocal instructions.
Here you will learn some other benefits of dog training hand signals and ten of the best ones to teach.
Why You Should Use Hand Signals To Train Your Pet
There are numerous situations in which you would want to train your pooch using hand signals. For instance, if you are training a deaf dog, they won’t be able to hear your verbal commands. However, just like humans, dogs often start to lose their hearing as they age. But if you teach them hand signals early on, communicating with them will never be an issue.
Suppose you want to enroll your dog in competitive obedience sports. In this case, you will have to train him with hand signals instead of by your voice.
Furthermore, dogs don’t understand words themselves. Instead, they respond to the sounds. So they have to discern the unique tones from other words that sound similar and react to them over ambient noises in the environment. In contrast, they are quite adept at reading body language, so learning physical gestures like hand signals is second nature.
Hand signals only work if the dog is actively looking at you. So, if you are not in a competition, it is best to do obedience training with both your voice and hands, so they are prepared if they lose their hearing later in life.
A study from the Department of Biology at the University of Naples even set out to determine which type of dog training was better . They took 25 water rescue dogs that were trained on land in both styles with basic obedience commands like ‘sit,’ ‘stay,’ ‘fetch,’ and more. These particular dogs are accustomed to responding to orders from the water or even from behind wire mesh barriers for their job.
There were three rounds of testing. First, the dogs were given verbal commands, while the second test used hand signals. But for the last test, the dogs were giving conflicting verbal and hand commands to determine which one the dog responded to.
The results were quite clear. While the dogs only correctly followed 82 percent of the verbal instruction, they accurately reacted to a whopping 99 percent of the hand signals. Furthermore, they followed 70 percent of the conflicting tests’ hand signals, meaning more than double that of the verbal cue!
Why is this? As mentioned, dogs respond to body language. Consider a pack in the wild. The alpha spots prey. Do you think he is going to bark to his underlings to alert them to it? No! That will scare their potential dinner off. So instead, he will use body language to let them know what is going on.
If all of this hasn’t convinced you to teach your dog these signals yet, then imagine how impressed your friends and family will be when you show them all of your dog’s tricks—no voice required.
Dog Training Hand Signals: Tips to Train Your Dog
It’s not difficult to teach your dog hand signals. First, you show them the command and the expected response, just as you would with voice training. Then, when they respond as you wish, offer a treat or other reward as positive reinforcement. Of course, the better they get at following your instruction, the fewer treats you provide for that particular task.
The following tips will help you along the way:
Get Your Dog’s Attention
You need to make sure you have your dog’s full attention before attempting to train hand signals. After all, if they cannot see your hands, they will not know what they are supposed to do. Make sure your environment is distraction-free so that nothing else is fighting for his attention. Once he is accustomed to what you expect, you can move the training into more realistic scenarios.
Many people find success clicker training dogs, whether they use a hand signal or not. A clicker is especially helpful with this type of training to get your dog’s attention. If you do not have a clicker, use their name or snap your fingers instead.
If your dog already understands the verbal command for the hand signal that you are trying to teach, feel free to use it in tandem so that he knows what you are trying to tell him to do. However, once he has done what you want a few times, only use the hand signal without your voice so that he understands that they are independent of each other. This practice can be difficult for many dog owners to break in themselves—more so than the dog!
Keep Them Separate
If your dog does not already know the verbal command for what you are teaching, use the hand signal by itself. If you try to teach them both simultaneously, the dog may get confused and think that both cues are required for the behavior you want to elicit.
12 Fundamental Dog Training Hand Signals
While you can train your dog with any hand signal you wish to get him to perform any behavior, experts have come up with the easiest ones for dogs to interpret. They are as follows:
The first thing your dog needs to learn is to watch you so that he can see what hand signal commands you are giving him. Teach him to keep his attention focused on you by pointing to your eye with one finger.
The first command a dog usually learns, vocal or otherwise, is sitting. As it is one of the most essential commands, sit is an excellent place to start after teaching your dog to watch you. The hand signal most popular to get the pup into a seated position is to hold your hand in front of your chest, palm open and facing up, then move it in an upward motion.
Lie down is most often taught after sit. The hand signal for this is holding your finger horizontally and up at your chest, then sweeping it diagonally downwards.
Teach your dog to come to you by starting with your hand open and facing outward at your side, then bringing it up to your opposite shoulder.
Stay is an essential command for every dog to master for many reasons. It helps when company comes over when you don’t want your dog to follow you or chase anything when you take him for a walk and many more scenarios. The hand signal for stay is holding your hand away from your chest with the palm facing your dog.
To let your dog know that it is okay to go from a sitting or laying down position into a standing one, hold your hand at your hip, palm open, and facing forward. Then, move it straight backward.
To call your dog to your side, otherwise known as the heel, start with your hand at hip level. From here, you can either make a circular motion with it still there or tap your hip.
Dogs are curious creatures and often get into things they shouldn’t. For cases like this or even just playing a game like a fetch, ‘drop it’ is a handy command. The hand signal for the drop is performed by reaching your hand, palm up but closed into a fist, out towards the dog. Finish the movement by opening your hand.
Sometimes, you want your dog to take something you are offering or something that is near. The ‘take it’ hand signal is the opposite of drop it. Hold your hand out to the dog, open and facing up, then close it into a fist.
This hand signal is pretty much exactly what you would expect. Signal with your whole arm, pointing to the spot you want your dog to go.
Some people like to teach their dogs the nose to finger touch. This action helps redirect the pup’s attention to where you want it. The hand signal is holding out two fingers pressed together near you, wherever you want to direct the dog. The command is followed by the dog touching his nose to them.
Once the training session is over, you can let your dog know she is free to do her own thing by putting both hands up to shoulder level with palms out.
Hand Signals Final Thoughts
Most people use their voices for dog training. While that is effective, you may find that when you teach your dog hand signals, she is more obedient. Hand signals help when the environment is noisy. Furthermore, if your dog loses her hearing as she ages, you will be grateful these commands are in your arsenal.
Even if you have no desire to have your dog in competitions like sports or agility training, canines are more adept at reading body language than they are listening to words. Therefore, you will likely find that it is easier to teach your pup hand signals than verbal commands.
Since the goal is a well-trained and easily controlled dog, why not teach your dog with a method that will be easier for them to learn in the first place?
Dog Hand Signals FAQ
What are the hand signals for dog commands?
While there are many hand signals for dog training, the most common are:
- Finger-pointing to your eye for ‘watch me’
- Open hand with palm up by your chest and then moving it up for ‘sit’
- Pointing to a specific spot for the dog to ‘lie down’
- Holding the hand open and palm out to the dog for a ‘stay’
- Sweeping the hand from your hip to the opposite shoulder for ‘come’
Are there standard hand signals for dog training?
While there are no specific hand signals for dog training, most professional dog trainers use the same basic gestures. Of course, when you teach your dog, you can choose whatever hand signal you wish for each command, but most people use these widely accepted visual cues.
What are the seven basic dog commands?
Most dog training experts agree that the seven best basic obedience commands for a well-trained dog sit, stay, down, come, off, heel, and no.
What is the hand signal for sit when training a dog?
Teach your dog to sit with a hand signal by holding your hand facing up and palm open in front of your chest, then moving it upward.