Can You Train Dogs with Hand Signals, and If So, How?

Pet Training


March 25, 2020

When it comes to dog training, there are many avenues that most people don’t even consider. For example, only a select portion of the population consider getting their dogs into intense protection training.

Other dogs are thoroughly trained to become service animals, working with an owner’s particular disability or issue. Another area where people train their dogs is in show business, although many people look down on this. Out of all the different ways that you can possibly train your dog, one of the least talked about methods is through using hand signals. After all, when would a situation occur when you needed to use hand signals?

You might be pleasantly surprised to learn that there are a number of different situations where using hand signals can actually be more useful, more effective, and generally quicker at getting the dog to do what you want. In some cases, it could be that your dog was born deaf and you are working to make ends meet when it comes to training.

In other cases, it could be that you want another method to ensure that your dog can follow commands besides traditional vocal commands. No matter what the case may be, there are many people out there who understand and respect the benefits of using hand signals for their dog’s training.

In fact, using hand signals, especially in addition to other training methods, may actually be better for your dog in the long run. In a study, it has actually been proven that using combined cues, including sight, sound, and smell, dogs will respond several times faster to the cue that they did when the cue was given through one sense alone.

To put things simply, the idea of using sight, sound, and smell is much more effective for your dog’s training than simply using sight (hand cues), sound (verbal cures), and smells (reward treats) on their own.

With all of this being said, you might begin to wonder if your dog can benefit from learning the universal hand signals for commands. The truth is that all dogs, large and small, old and young, can benefit from learning hand signals. The best part about integrating hand signals into your dog’s training regimen is that most dogs are able to learn and associate hand signals with known commands, given time and patience, of course.

Why Choose to Teach a Dog Hand Signals?

There are plenty of reasons why you might decide to begin teaching your dog the appropriate hand signals for commands, in addition to the verbal cues. For some people, the desire to do this comes from a desire to try and help your dog follow commands better.

If a dog sees the hand cue and hears the verbal cue, they might have more opportunity to hear the command and react to it, rather than just listening to a verbal command.

For other people, choosing to teach a dog hand signals might come from a desire to make it easier on yourself to command the dog. For example, if it is in the middle of the night and you do not want to wake your neighbors up by shouting commands at the dog, you could consider using hand signals instead.

Last, but most certainly not least, there are situations where people might not have any other option than to choose to teach the dog hand signals. Typically, these are situations where the dog may be deaf, you may be deaf, or it might be hard for you to vocalize commands.

In all of these situations, it is often much easier to use hand commands than to try and take another route to train your dog in. By choosing to take the time to teach your dog the appropriate hand signals for commands, you can rest assured knowing that your dog will be able to obey the commands more often, quicker, and with more ease for everyone involved.

What Do You Need to Teach a Dog Hand Signals?

Thankfully, you won’t need a lot of physical material to learn how to teach a dog hand signals. Just as with teaching a dog any new concept, it is going to take some time and patience for your dog to slowly learn what to pay attention to and what not to care about, so you should always be prepared for this type of training to take a fair bit of time.

Aside from that, you are going to need to make sure that you have more than enough dog treats, particularly ones that have a potent smell to them, stocked up for the training process.

To make the most out of teaching your dog the hand signals for commands, you are going to need to do some follow-up on what the universal hand gestures are. Knowing and memorizing what the gestures are before you begin the training process will mean that everything will go far more smoothly for you and your dog as you begin to work everything out.

You will also need to have a good idea of what the “lure-and-reward” style of training a dog is, where it comes from, and how you can apply it to training your dog to understand hand signals. The basic idea of this type of training is that you lure the dog into position with a treat, which is why you are going to want to go for the strongest-smelling ones that you can stomach.

Once the dog is in position, you will give the voice command, perform the gesture, and reward the dog after it reacts when the gesture is finished. This is where the idea of lure-and-reward training comes from.

What makes this easier is that the ideas for most of the universal hand signals for dogs comes from the idea of training the dog with treats, meaning that it will be very easy for you to incorporate praise into the situation. Always remember that when you are working with dogs, positive praise is going to be key, even when the steps seem small and miniscule.

Teaching a Dog Who Understands the Verbal Commands

In the situation where your dog understands the verbal commands already, but you want to incorporate hand gestures into the training, it is going to be incredibly easy for you to do so.

First things first, you are going to want to perform the hand signal for the command that you are planning to give. Once the signal has been completed, you should immediately say the verbal command that your dog knows. You should take note, either physically or mentally, how your dog responds to this.

Now that you have an idea of how to begin, you will need to repeat this step quite a bit to help your dog understand what the hand cues mean. Once you believe that your dog understands the hand signal, you can begin the same procedure, except that you do not say the verbal cue this time. If the dog responds to the hand signal, you should praise and reward the dog to teach it that it’s doing well. If it is taking your dog a bit longer to get the hang of things, repetition is going to be key until your dog finally understands what it must do.

Teaching a Dog Who Does Not Understand the Verbal Command

When your dog doesn’t already have the prior knowledge of the verbal command that you are teaching it, things get slightly more complicated. However, with a reliable owner, it can quickly become a bonding experience between pet and pet owner.

With this method, you will want to start out by calling out the verbal cue. Once you have done this, you will want to perform the hand signal associated with that cue. Make either a physical or a mental note of how the dog reacts to this.

You will want to repeat these steps for as long as it takes for your dog to begin responding properly. The important thing to remember here is that if the dog performs the behavior before you do the hand signal, it should not count as a success. It should only count as a success when your dog performs the command as soon as the hand signal has completed.

As your dog becomes better at this, you can feel more confident in your ability to control your dog, whether it is through voice commands or through your hands.