10 Dog Training Hand Signals – Dogster

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Dogs are experts in reading body language. They read our signals all the time, so hand signals are a natural way to teach your dog most signals. Additionally, studies show that dogs are more likely to respond accurately to hand cues than to verbal cues.

Studies show that dogs’ ability to understand our pointing gestures may be innate, or perhaps they are predisposed to understand our pointing better than other gestures. Therefore, similar hand signals can be distinguished with learning and practice.

Are there dog training hand signals that everyone uses?

There is no set standard for hand signals in the dog training industry. However, the key for you and your dog is not whether you follow certain signals, but rather being consistent with the signals you choose. Consistency is key in all dog training, especially when teaching and maintaining communication. Although there are commonalities among trainers, you decide which cues are most comfortable for you and your dog to understand.

Why hand signals are useful in dog training

Using hand signals is more common than you might think because they:

  • Handy in a variety of situations where you can’t use your voice
    • Hearing impaired dog
    • Deaf dog training
    • Baby sleeping, you’re on a video/phone call, or any other time you want to be quiet
  • Improves concentration: your dog learns to keep an eye on you to direct and guide you
  • Improve cognitive skills
  • Provide enrichment and stimulation to help relieve boredom
  • Support building strong behaviors while having fun

How to Teach a Dog Hand Signals

If your dog already knows the verbal signal, start adding the hand signal.

  • Start in an environment with few or no distractions.
  • Have your dog’s attention (eyes on you) and give the verbal cue with the hand signal. Be clear and deliberate with your signal, and score/click when it executes the intended signal.
  • Repeat several times.
  • Alternate using the verbal signal and the hand signal.
  • Drop the verbal signal and use only the hand signal. Of course, your dog has to look at you first! First say his name to get his attention, then immediately give the hand signal.
  • Keep sessions short and focused.
  • Start mainstreaming hand signals into everyday life on a regular basis.

If your dog does not already know the verbal signal, teach the verbal signal and the hand signal simultaneously using a lure and a reward.

Top 10 Dog Training Hand Signals with Pictures

Come: Fist over your heart with your elbow on your rib cage (much like taking the Pledge of Allegiance)

© Rachel Brix

Sit: Palm outward and facing upwards; bend your fingertips towards the palm of your hand

dog training hand signal to sit
© Rachel Brix

Down: Use all four fingers together or the index finger in a position perpendicular to the floor

dog training hand signal for down
©Rachel Brix

Stay/Wait: Palm open upwards as a “stop” signal

dog training hand signal to stay and wait
©Rachel Brix

look/look at me: Forefinger or index and middle fingers together pointing to your eye

dog training hand signal for the look
© Rachel Brix

Place/Go to Mat: Similar to down, since you typically ask your dog to lie down on their mat, an index finger pointing in the direction of the mat can be used to get a simultaneous down.

dog training hand signal for place
©Rachel Brix

Drop: Closed fist pointing down

dog training hand signal for fall
©Rachel Brix

Talk: Palm open facing your dog, keep your four fingers together and close to your thumb; open and close repeatedly

dog training hand signal to talk
©Rachel Brix

Shake the paw: Use an outstretched hand, palm up

dog training hand signal to shake paw
©Rachel Brix

To roll: Index finger in a circular motion; if your dog rolls both ways, learn to use clockwise to mean roll to the right and counterclockwise to mean roll to the left

manual dog training signal for reversing
©Rachel Brix

As with all dog training, consistency is the top priority. You communicate, so be as clear as possible. Think about the many nuances in our written communication: For example, there (place), their (possessive) and they (they are) mean very different things. Be clear to get the right message across!

The more hand signals you teach your dog, the better you will be able to communicate and the more fun you will have. You can even use hand signals to switch to activities like trick training certifications and canine freestyle.

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