When it comes to dog obedience training, there are different methods that you can use. While some dog owners rely solely on verbal commands for training their pets, others use hand signals. Knowing how to use hand signals and what makes these gestures work effectively is important if you plan on using this type of training method.
How Hand Signals Work
When you make gestures or certain movements with your hands while also using specific verbal cues, dogs learn to associate these hand signals with the vocal commands. This association helps dogs learn to perform the correct behavior on command. While verbal cues or commands can be effective for training, adding hand signals can make it easier for dogs to figure out what is expected of them. Keep in mind that dogs pay very close attention to body language. In fact, they’re more likely to focus on your body movement rather than the words you’re using when you issue commands.
Benefits of Hand Signals
Hand signals offer a number of advantages for dog obedience training. These include the following:
- Easy to use: Hand signals aren’t complicated for dog owners to learn or use. They’re simple movements that you can easily do while training your dog, whether you’re working on getting him to sit or come to you on command.
- Shorter training time: Combining hand signals with verbal commands can also make training go more quickly than you expect. Since dogs pay attention to body language, your dog is likely to figure out what he should be doing in a shorter amount of time compared to using only verbal commands.
- Effective training for deaf dogs: Using hand signals is also a highly effective way to train dogs that are hard of hearing. If you have a deaf dog in your household, teaching him to obey hand signals offers a great alternative when you’re unable to use verbal commands. Deaf dogs are fully capable of learning to obey hand signals in order to sit, stay, stand and follow other commands.
How to Use Hand Signals
When you’re working on dog obedience training, start by pairing hand signals with verbal commands. Give the verbal command at the same time that you do the hand signal, then wait to see how your dog responds. Just remember that it might take your dog a number of tries before he figures out what he is supposed to do. How do you know if your dog has learned to successfully obey hand signals? You can put this to the test by simply giving your dog the hand signal with no verbal command. If your dog performs the correct behavior after seeing the hand signal, you’ll know that he has learned what your hand movements mean.
What Not to Do When Using Hand Signals
When you’re working on teaching your dog hand signals for dog obedience training, avoid doing any of the following:
- Being inconsistent: Keep in mind that you’ll need to be very consistent with the way you use hand signals and verbal commands. When you make changes to hand signals or verbal commands, such as using a different word, a different tone of voice or a slightly different hand signal, this will end up confusing your dog. When your dog is given inconsistent hand signals, he’ll have a harder time learning what each one means, which will make training take longer.
- Punishing your dog: No matter how frustrated you get with your dog during training, it’s never okay to yell or hit him. Shouting at your dog or physically punishing him will only lead him to fear you, which can result in behavioral issues. Your dog will also learn to form a negative association with hand signals, which will make him more reluctant to go through training sessions. Keep training calm and positive, and your dog will get the hang of hand signals much more quickly and without any stress.
- Giving up: Dogs learn at different paces, so you might find that yours requires more time to learn hand signals. It might be tempting to give up on using a hand signal if your dog does not seem to be catching on, but it’s important to keep practicing with it. Your dog will eventually learn what the hand signal means and perform the correct behavior. When you give up and start with a different hand signal, your dog will become confused, making dog obedience training more frustrating for both of you.
Basic Hand Signals for Dog Obedience Training
There are no official requirements when it comes to which hand signals you use. Although there are certain signals that are commonly used in dog obedience training, it’s also possible to create your own if those work better for you. Just remember that if you come up with your own hand signals, you’ll need to make sure that you use these on a consistent basis. You should also avoid creating complex hand signals that will be difficult for your dog to learn. The following are a few of the most basic hand signals that are often used for training dogs:
- Sit: To do this hand signal, start by holding a treat in one hand and placing it at your side. Lift your hand up slowly past your dog’s nose, and give the verbal command “sit.” Your dog should naturally sit down as the treat rises above his nose and head. When he’s in a sitting position, reward him with the treat and practice this hand signal again.
- Down: In order to do this hand signal, put a treat in one hand and raise it over your head. Slowly move your hand down past your dog’s nose while giving the verbal command “down.” As you move your hand down toward the floor, your dog’s head and body should follow it. When your dog is lying down on the floor, reward him with the treat you’re holding. Practice this hand signal several more times with your dog.
- Come: For this hand signal, hold a treat in one hand, then straighten your arm out to the side. Slowly move your arm toward the opposite shoulder while giving the verbal command “come.” Move back a few steps, then let your dog come over to you. When he reaches you, reward him with the treat. This hand signal might take a bit longer for your dog to learn than “sit” or “down,” but it’s an important one. The “come” command can help you keep your dog out of danger when you’re out in public.
- Stand: To do this hand signal, start by holding your hand out at the side of your hip, then slowly move it straight backwards while giving the verbal command “stand.” When your dog stands up, reward him with a treat.
- Stay: In order to do this hand signal, all you have to do is stretch your arm in front of you and hold your hand up in front of your dog while giving the verbal command “stay.” When your dog stops in his tracks and remains in place, reward him with a treat. Make sure you don’t reward him if he moves after stopping. Otherwise, he’ll think that you’re rewarding him for moving rather than staying still.
Patience Is Key
As with any type of dog obedience training, the key to helping your dog successfully learn is having patience. Plan on practicing hand signals a number of times before your dog is able to figure out what to do on command. In order to make this work more effectively, keep training sessions short, fun and positive. Don’t have your dog practice the same hand signal over and over again several times in a row, or he’ll get bored or distracted. Instead, change things up during each training session. This will keep your dog’s attention focused on you longer and make him look forward to training sessions.
Keep in mind that you can gradually stop using treat rewards with your dog for training. Once your dog is able to follow hand signals without any problems, you can begin rewarding him every now and then instead of rewarding him each time. Eventually, you won’t need to reward him with treats at all when he follows your hand signals. At this point, you can be sure that your dog has learned hand signals and knows what to do when you give certain commands. This means that you have successfully trained your dog with hand signals. Your dog should be able to follow them without any issues.