Teaching deaf dogs doesn’t need to be hard; while using training treats can be fun, you can also improve a dog’s training through different hand signals. Using dog training hand signals also deepens the bond between a human and their canine, elevating the communication skills between them and their canine companions to a higher level. Whether you’re doing a refresher with your old dog or trying a new training process, these are the best hand signals to train dogs.
Why Teach Dogs Sign Language?
Dogs will often find it hard to learn a verbal command — while they might learn a few spoken words but these will usually be distorted by ambient noise, so your dog’s attention may not be on you 100% of the time. If you want to teach a new behavior that can be used throughout your dog’s life, implementing training methods in a distraction-free environment is very important. Moreover, canines seem to understand nonverbal cues easier than voice commands.
An Italian study confirmed that dogs can effectively respond to an auditory command with an 82% accuracy rate which is impressive enough, but they can understand dog hand signals with a staggering 99% accuracy. Moreover, a dog of old age may suffer from a loss of hearing, so using hand signal commands is one of the most effective ways for pet parents to communicate with their furry friend. Other reasons why you should teach your dog sign language include the following:
- Help it follow a specific command in noisy environments
- Allow it to become competitive in dog sports where you need to use hand signals
- Helps to cultivate and improve your dog’s focus
- Provide visual cues to command your dog over long distances without shouting
Most Important Commands to Train Dogs
Because dogs are visual learners, they will understand hand gestures easier compared to actual verbal communication. Dogs can quickly learn a physical gesture and are experts in reading our body language. In general, many well-trained dogs will understand both verbal commands and hand signals; below are some basic obedience commands to teach your canine buddy.
1. Watch Me
This should be the first thing your dog learns; to teach this dog command, simply hold a tasty treat in your hand and wait for your dog to look at you. As your dog focuses on the treat, raise your hand to your eye; your dog will keep its eyes on the treat and follow your hand. Once they make eye contact, you can then reward your dog with the treat — with enough repetition, your dog should be able to do it without the treat.
2. Sit Signal
This is an essential command for any dog to learn and is the easiest to perfect. Start by holding a piece of kibble in front of your dog’s nose, then raise up your hand and put it back. You’ll see how your dog will naturally follow the treat by standing up and sitting back down.
Once your dog has mastered this basic action, start swiping your hand up higher until you reach the front of your chest. Next, use the same upward motion with your hand open and the palm facing up. Keep practicing until your dog is able to associate your hand with the action of sitting, then gradually remove the treat.
Not many pet owners think about training their dogs to stand up but this is another basic command that they can easily learn. From the sit position, hold some kibble in front of your dog and take it back toward your thigh. To get the treat, your pup will need to stand and retrieve the snack itself — when it recognizes the motion of your hand, you can phase out the treat.
4. Come Command
This is another common hand signal to teach dogs — you can teach your dog to “come” to you by holding out your left hand open by your side. Then bring it over to the opposite shoulder diagonally; you can do the same with your right hand. You can use dog treats to get your dog’s attention and use it to bring the treat up to your shoulders.
5. Lie Down Command
You might want to use your next training session to teach your dog this common command; just hold a nice snack in your hand and point your finger to the ground in front of your pooch. At first, you’ll need to bend and have your finger to the ground so your dog can follow the treat. As soon as your dog lays down, be sure to feed the treat — once it has the hang of it, you can hold your pointed finger higher over the floor.
This is probably the most basic command you can teach your dog, and can come in handy when you’re out in public where you’ll find common problems such as your dog exploring too much. Start by raising your hand with an open palm and face your dog as if telling it to stop. Whenever your dog responds to your command, be sure to give your pup a treat or some praise.
7. Heel Command
When you’re out for a walk with your dog, you’ll want it to stay close to you and behave like a good boy or girl. Start by showing a treat and use it to have your dog glued to your hip; if your pooch is facing you, to begin with, use a circular motion to lead your dog away and then back to you. Don’t give your dog a treat until it sticks close to you and is walking the same way as you — it might take some practice so it’s a good idea to give your dog time to refine its skills.
8. Drop It
This is one of the most important skills to teach your dog because it may just save your canine’s life. Should it pick up an item that’s dangerous, you’ll want your puppy to drop it right away; this command will also make your game of fetch that much more fun and enjoyable. You can teach this command in sections.
You should start by associating voice cues and hand signals with a reward by holding out your hand with the palm up and then saying “leave” or “drop” (pick one only). When it obeys you, be sure to immediately give your pup a treat. The next thing to do is to provide your dog with a toy, then follow the same steps — your pup should be able to drop the toy in favor of the treat.
Teaching your dog a particular behavior may sound daunting at first, but it’s actually easier than it seems. This is because you’re using a visual signal when doing hand signals, which is easier for canine friends to grasp. When combined with positive reinforcement like treats and praise, you’ll find that the next step gets easier.
- Look for an area without too much background noise like an empty room where there won’t be any kind of disturbance
- Make sure that your dog is focused on you and that it maintains eye contact while picking up on your body cues
- The most common cue for dogs is some form of sound such as your voice, snapping fingers, or a clicker
- Always reward your dog’s accomplishments with treats or praise
- Always show patience in every training session
- Introduce a new prompt if needed and work towards more signals once your dog masters the basics
- A great way to teach your dog is by going with hand signals first and then doing the verbal command after
- Practice a few times a week to make sure your dog remembers every command
Try These Hand Signals to Train Dogs
It might be hard at first but the truth is any average person can teach their own dog non-verbal forms of communication through their body movement. Your dog wants nothing more than to please you, so as long as you’re willing to put in the work, so will they. If all else fails, you can always get a dog trainer that might know of a better way to teach your pooch; but be sure to try again next time!