Dog Sign Langauge: Top 10 Hand Signals for Dogs

13 Minute Read
Updated April 12, 2023

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 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 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 bed 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 food 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 hand command 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

Hurtta Trick Pockets

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 hand signals with action. A dog treat pouch is a handy option for quick and repeated treatment.

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 sit position. 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 


Canines are visually oriented. They watch and learn about the world around them. Teaching your dog hand 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 teaching your dog will become a better companion, and you’ll feel more confident in knowing that you have trained the body language of 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. 

Once your dog can consistently follow the treat to your face, practice the same motion without the treat. If your dog looks, reward immediately. 

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 is one of the easier ones to start with. Hold a treat in front of your dog's nose and quickly raise your hand slightly up and back. Your dog will naturally raise his head and lower his bum to follow the treat. 

Start close to his face to prevent other behaviours like backing up or jumping. Once your dog has mastered this skill, start to swipe your hand up higher and higher until you get to about chest height. 

Next, practice doing the same motion with your hand open and your palm facing up. With a little practice, your dog will learn to associate the hand shape and motion with the action of sitting. You can gradually phase out the treat.

Here's a helpful video of the process:

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 hand held open by your side. Then bring the hand up diagonally to your opposite shoulder.

You can start by showing your dog a treat to get their attention and then draw the hand with the treat up to your shoulder. Use the verbal ‘come’ command until your dog starts to associate the motion with the command. After some practice, you can phase out the treat and the verbal command.

4. Stand 

Many pet owners never think about training their dogs to stand. However, your dog can never know too many commands. When teaching your dog to sit, you hold a treat in your hand near your dog’s nose and draw it up and back. The stand command is the opposite. 

From either a laying or sitting position, hold a treat in front of your dog and draw it back towards your thigh. If your dog wants the treat, he will have to stand to move forward and retrieve the snack. After some practice, you can start doing the same motion, but with your hand open, palm facing forward.

Once your dog understands the shape and motion of your hand, you can phase out the treat and verbal cue.

5. Lie Down Command 

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 point one finger to the ground in front of your dog. 

In the beginning, you will likely have to bend and almost touch your finger to the ground so that your dog follows the treat. Treat as soon as your dog lays down. After some practice, you can start holding your pointed finger higher above the floor while still asking for the down command. 

6. Stay


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

To teach the stay command, raise your hand with your palm open and facing your dog like you are saying stop. When you first get started, it can be helpful to use big exaggerated movements, and as your dog learns, you can switch to a more subtle hand gesture.

Every time your dog responds to the 'stay' command, you should immediately give the pooch ample praise or a treat. Combine the 'stay' hand signal with the auditory command if needed until your 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 good canine citizen. Start by showing your dog the treat and use the treat to walk your dog to your hip. 

If your dog is facing you when you start, you can use a large circular hand motion to lead your dog out, back, and beside you. Don't treat until your dog is beside you and facing the right way. This might require a fair bit of practice to smooth out the wrinkles.

When you are ready, start ending the movement with a closed fist, tapping your hip. Then treat. You can start making your hand motions less and less exagerated, while still ending with a closed-fist hip tap. In time, your dog will be able to respond to just the hip tap. 

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' commands helps make a game of fetch more enjoyable when you tell Fido to drop the ball. 

This trick is taught in sections. First, you want to associate the hand signal and vocal cue with a reward. Hold your hand out in a fist, palm up, and open your hand flat. Say drop or leave (pick one), and treat immediately. 

Now you need to try it while your dog is holding something in his mouth. Give him a toy and follow the same steps as above. Your dog should drop the toy, knowing that there is a treat coming with the word and hand motion. 

With enough practice, you should be able to drop the vocal cue so long as your dog is close by. 

9. Spin or Rollover


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 horizontal, circular motion around your dog. Your dog will spin to follow the treat.

Use wider and slower circles at first, and then make your circle small and smaller as your dog gets better at the trick. Eventually, you should be able to make a small circle in the air above your dog's head, and your dog will know exactly what you are asking. 

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 diagonal motion. 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 and say all done.

This should be followed up by immediately offering an alternative activity. Toss your dog a toy or grab the leash and go for a walk together. 


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 hold your hand from the come and heel commands. Drop it is excellent. Sit and stay hand signals and visual signal service dog puppies' voice command index finger point 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 on a walk, and your dog finds some garbage with a pleasing odour, dropping it can be a lifesaver. 


Tips on Hand Signals for Dogs 

Using 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, the bully sticks the dog already, 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, training session, eye contact, 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 impulse control to ease anxiety on each command individually training tips puppy toy. 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 qualify to purchase a canine buddy to spend quality time with you.

Working together to take the pet’s training to the amazon associate next level with hand signals is a fun and fulfilling endeavor for both you and Fido. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is dog sign language, and how does it differ from regular dog training methods? 

Dog sign language, also known as canine sign language or signing with dogs, is a communication method using hand signals to convey commands and cues to dogs, often used alongside or instead of verbal commands.

Why might someone choose to use dog sign language with their dog? 

Dog sign language can be beneficial for dogs with hearing impairments, puppies, and dogs that respond well to visual cues. It can also aid in training dogs in noisy environments.

Are there standardized dog sign language systems, or can individuals create their own signals? 

There are standardized dog sign language systems like "American Sign Language for Dogs," but individuals can create their own signals as long as they are consistent and easily understood by the dog.

What are some common dog sign language commands or signals? 

Common dog sign language signals include "sit," "stay," "come," "lie down," "heel," "quiet," and "shake hands," among others.

Can all dogs learn dog sign language, or is it more suitable for certain breeds or ages? 

Dogs of all breeds and ages can learn dog sign language, but it may be particularly useful for breeds prone to hearing problems or for puppies during training.

Are there any potential challenges or considerations when using dog sign language as a training method? 

Some dogs may take longer to learn sign language commands, and consistency in using the signals is essential. 

Written by

Homes Alive Pets


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