Dog Sign Langauge: Top 10 Hand Signals for Dogs

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9 Minute Read
Updated May 30, 2022

Teaching basic dog commands doesn't have to be a struggle. Traditional treat training is fun, but you can enhance your dog's training by using hand signals for dogs. 

Teaching hand signals for dogs further solidifies the canine/human bond and takes your communication skills to a whole new level with your pet.

Whether you are training a new puppy or just giving your old dog a refresher course, hand signals for dogs are a great way to teach your dog quicker and broaden their skills. 

 

Benefits of Dog Sign Langauge

Training is an important part of puppyhood, but dog training will continue their whole life. Teaching your old dog new tricks is a great way to enhance their daily routine and encourage mental stimulation that can relieve dog boredom and anxiety.

Dogs often struggle to learn verbal communication. As time goes by, they learn certain words, but the sounds they perceive seem muffled by ambient noise so your dog might ignore you on occasion.

Canines appear to learn hand signals easier than verbal commands. Some dogs even respond better when you pair hand signals with auditory dog commands. 

One study found that dogs learn how to effectively respond to voice commands with an impressive 82% accuracy, but they respond to dog sign language commands 99% of the time. 

 

Hand signal training often proves invaluable as your furry companion ages. Often elderly dogs suffer hearing loss, so hand signals provide you with another communication choice. 

Additional reasons to try dog sign language to help train your dog:

    • Provides the ability to give a command in a noisy environment where your dog can’t hear you clearly.
    • Ability to compete in competitive obedience sports (hand signals are often required). 
    • An effective way to communicate with a deaf dog.
    • Maintain communication with an elderly canine using hand signals. 
    • Teaching hand signals is a fun activity. 
    • Command your dog at a distance without needing to shout.
    • Increases your furry friend’s focus on you. 

In this blog post, we will explore the use of dog training hand signals and how to effectively teach them. 

 

Tools for Training Basic Dog Commands

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When teaching common dog training hand signals, you’ll want to make sure you use the proper gear to help set your dog up for success. You’ll also want to load up on the training treats to reward Fido for a job well done.

Healthy dog training treats are one of the easiest ways to help your dog learn to associate the hand signals with the action. A dog treat pouch is a handy option for quick and repeated treating.

Some trainers encourage the use of clickers when training hand signals. A training clicker is a great tool to replace treat training or wean your dog off of his treat obsession. This won't work for deaf dogs, of course, but it is a cheap and easy-to-use tool for dogs without hearing issues. 

Other training tools will depend on the environment that you are training in. Training at home doesn't require too much gear, but a good quality dog leash and dog collar are recommended for any training that happens away from home. 

 

Top Hand Signals for Dogs 

sit-hand-signal-for-dogs

Canines are visually oriented. They watch and learn about the world around them. Your dog can easily learn to recognize various gestures and they are experts at reading your body language. Typically, all well-trained dogs understand not only verbal commands but also hand signals. 

Using dog sign language commands coupled with verbal instructions, you’ll enhance the trust between you and your furry buddy. Your dog will become a better companion and you’ll feel more confident in knowing that you have trained your pooch well. 

1. Watch Me

When training, you want your dog’s eyes on you. If you plan on using only nonverbal cues and halting auditory commands, then it is essential that your pooch watches you closely. 

Teach your dog the command ‘look’ so they know to keep their eyes on you for an upcoming command. 

Hold a treat in your palm and wait for your dog to look directly at you. When your dog’s eyes focus on the treat, then raise your hand to your face and point to your eye. Your dog will watch the treat hand and start looking at your hand closely. Once the dog’s eyes are on your face then reward with the high value dog treat

The ‘watch me’ is one of the leading dog obedience hand signals and should be the first thing you teach your pup. 

2. Sit Signal

The sit hand signal is essential for any dog and it's one of the easiest to master. Teaching the dog sign language for sit involves holding a treat in your hand. Place your hand by the dog’s nose and move it to the dog’s forehead. Ensure that your palm is facing upwards, and your hand moves in a simple upward motion. 

Initially, use the verbal command ‘sit’ in combination with the hand signal for the greatest success. Your dog will quickly start to get the message. With repetition, you can cut out the verbal command and soon only use the sit hand signal. 

3. Come Command

The come command is still one of the most important commands to train a dog. Teach the dog command ‘come’ by starting with your handheld open by your side. Then bring the hand up diagonally to your opposite shoulder. At first, make the motion when issuing the verbal ‘come’ command until your dog starts to associate the motion with the command. 

4. Stand 

Many pet owners never think about training their dogs to stand. However, your dog can never know too many commands. When your dog is sitting, hold a treat in your hand near your dog’s nose. Move your hand, with your palm open from the animal's nose to the foreword position and then outward to lure the dog to stand. Carry this command out while your dog is sitting by your side. 

5. Lie Down Command 

lay-down-hand-signal-for-dogs

One of the most common commands used when training a dog is the lie-down command. To teach the hand signal to lie down, hold a treat in your hand and then point your finger at your chest while keeping a horizontal position. Flick your hand and finger downward. The motion will let your pooch know to lie down. Combine the hand signal with the verbal lie down command.

6. Stay 

Stay is one of the most basic hand signals for dogs. Any time your dog goes out into public with you, the stay command can come in handy. 

To teach the stay command, Raise your hand with your palm open. Ensure that the palm faces outward from your chest but downward at your pooch. Every time your dog responds to the stay command and stays then give the pooch ample praise or a treat. Combine the stay hand signal with the auditory command if needed until the dog grasps the meaning of the signal.

7. Heel Command

When you go for a walk with your dog, you want the pooch to walk beside you for safety and to behave like a canine good citizen. Typically, the dog will walk on the left side of the handler. Start teaching the heel command by tapping your hip with your hand. You can also opt to employ a circular motion near your hip to encourage the pup to walk beside you in the heel position. 

8. Drop It 

The drop it command is a necessity for any pet owner because it could save your pup’s life. If your dog picks up something that is poisonous or that could injure the animal, you’ll need the doggo to drop the item at once. Also, the drop it command helps make a game of fetch more enjoyable when you tell Fido to drop the ball. 

Kneel by your dog. Hold your hand out in a fist and then open your hand so it is palm up while issuing the command ‘drop it’ verbally. Eventually, when your pup learns the verbal command then they will start to automatically respond to the hand signal without hesitation. 

9. Spin or Rollover

dog-roll-over-hand-signal

Spin is a fun command and not essential. However, you and our pup will love the exercise together. Use a treat and move it in a circular motion above your dog’s head while using the verbal command ‘spin’ to set Fido in motion. Ideally, your dog should make a full spin in reaction to your hand's movement and then you can give the pup a treat. 

The action for rollover is basically the same. Do the same hand signal while your dog is laying down, but instead of making a horizontal circle, do it vertically. Using the verbal command roll or over is better suited to this trick.  

10. All Done!

The ‘all done’ command (often referred to as the free command) lets your dog know that the training session is done. Fido can run and play. To implement the hand signal, simply bring both hands up to shoulder level with palms out. When your dog sees the command then the pooch will know he can start to play, relax, and have fun. 

 

Using Hand Signals in All Your Dog Training

These hand signals work well for lots of basic dog tricks, but don't be afraid to incorporate these visual cues into your other dog training routines. 

Recall training for dogs, for example, can benefit from the come and heel commands. Drop it is an excellent. Sit and stay hand signals can help when you are trying to train better social skills in a dog with leash aggression. 

Drop it is great for just about any dog. When you are one a walk and your dog finds some garbage with a pleasing odour, drop it can be a life saver. 

 

Tips on Hand Signals for Dogs 

Using hand signals for dogs might sound like a daunting task, but it's easy. You are using dog sign language. You use your hands at the same time as you issue a verbal command. Over time, your dog will associate the hand signal with the verbal command, and you can then drop the verbal portion.

    • Always train hand signals in a quiet and distraction-free area such as an empty room or outdoors with no disturbances. 
    • Make sure you have your dog’s complete attention, and the pet is looking at you as you teach hand signals. 
    • Gain your dog's attention by using the pet’s name, a clicker, snapping fingers or some other sort of sound such as a whistle when training. 
    • Reward your dog’s good behaviour with treats. 
    • Remain consistently patient during training sessions.
    • Train your dog using verbal commands and then take it to the next level by working hand signals into the repertoire. 
    • Always give the hand signal first and then issue the verbal command. 
    • Practice several times a week to keep the process fresh in your dog’s mind. 


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Sometimes your dog will act out or start to disobey the visual commands. If this occurs, then it's time to go back to the beginning and start working on each command individually. Usually, it doesn’t take Fido long to pick up on the hand signals again. 

Using standard dog training hand signals for dogs is a rewarding experience for both you and your pooch. Your pup wants nothing more than to spend quality time with you. Working together to take the pet’s training to the next level with hand signals is a fun and fulfilling endeavour for both you and Fido. 

Does your dog know any sign language? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below!

Written by

Homes Alive Pets

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