Teaching Your Dog Hand Signals


Dogs are super active pets and one of the best companion of humans.  According to rough estimates, almost 80% of the U.S. households have the dog as their pet.

These furry creatures bring along a lot of health and social life benefits for their parents.

Although owning a dog that does not respond to your command and disobeys you make this fun-experience embarrassing and frustrating.

Therefore, instead of making your pooch sit beside you on weekends and watch boring movies, you must engage him in activities such as training.

A man teaching his dog how to follow hand signalsTeaching your dog hand signals

Training does not just bring obedience in your pet but it also provides a chance to build a better bond between you and your little companion.

There are different modules and techniques to train your dog.

Training your dog through treats, verbal praises, excursion or by bringing him new toys are some common positive reinforcement techniques.

Hand signals are sign language that is used as a signal to communicate your Fido what behavior is expected of him.

Dogs are visually oriented animals and can respond better to body language as compared to verbal phrases. Therefore, it is easy to teach dog basic obedience through hand signals instead of verbal communication.

In addition to this, teaching hand signals helps pet owners to communicate with deaf dogs.

Not only this but teaching hand signals is another fun activity that keeps you and your companion committed to each other.

Things to remember while teaching your dog hand signals

  • Dogs are co-operative animals.  They get attuned to their parent’s routine very quick but it is a little hard to teach new things to a senior puppy as compared to young ones.  Hence, it is ideal to start training your Fido as soon as you adopt him and make sure that he can interpret your commands by the age of 6 months.
  • Secondly, always try to train your dog in a quiet place.  That does not only keep him undistracted but also helps you to focus on him completely.
  • Be patient- Sometimes it takes ages for your little companion to learn new hand signals. Do not get harsh or frustrated. Your efforts will surely pay off.
  • As mentioned prior while training your pooch to stay positive and reinforce the training process by praise or treat so that they can easily understand what is expected.
  • You can use a pet camera to record your hand signal and his reaction towards your actions. If he is not picking up the current signal, try something else.
  • Teach one to two hand signals at a time. This will be easy for your Fido to understand what is expected of him.
man petting their dog

Starting with Hand Signals:

Hope your little furry companion is familiar with some of your verbal commands.

Now it is time to associate those verbal commands with hand signals for training him obedience and reward him when he performs the desired behavior.

Keep associating different familiar words with unknown hand signals.

He might not be able to understand the correlation at once but you can help him understand what behavior is expected by using your hands to move his body to the position or action that is desired.

You can use a target in the initial training of hand signals and move the target according to the behavior you want your Fido to show.

For example, if you want your Fido to spin, you should also spin the target over your Fido’s head.

Be patient and keep repeating the command and signals.

Once your dog starts understanding your commands and responds according to it, gradually start eliminating the verbal command and kibble from the equation.

What commands can be taught?

Developing a correlation between verbal command and hand signal completely depends on the trainer. 

However, a few common signals such as spinning, sitting, lying and standing can be taught easily by using hand signals.

Here are few common hand signals for you to teach your dog at initial training.

Teach your dog to sit using hand signals

Starting with “sit position”.  Take a kibble in your hand and start with your hand by your side.

Slowly start bringing your hand up and bring the hand near the nose of your dog, his nose will follow kibble upwards and his rear will automatically go down to a sit position.

In the meantime, use verbal command “sit” as well.

When your dog sits, express that you are happy with his performance and treat him with the kibble.

Remember, always use the same motion to teach a particular hand signal.

For sit position keep your hand straight by your side at 180 degrees and slowly bringing it up at 90 degrees by bending your elbow. 

Give the same signals daily to reinforce his behavior.

Get your dog to lay down using hand signals

Stand in front of your dog and stretch your hand out while holding a kibble near your Fido’s nose.

The treat will help you to hold your dog’s attention.

Now start moving your hand downward in a circular motion. His nose will follow the kibble and his body will go into “lay position”.

Praise him and once your Fido learns the hand signal just remove the kibble from the equation.

Teach your dog to follow or to come to you

Stand a few steps away from your little companion so he has space to stand and walk a few steps towards you.

Hold a treat in your hand, bend the elbow and bring it up that it nearly touches your shoulder.  The treat will attract the attention of your dog and he will come towards you to get the kibble.

Final thoughts

Dogs are visually oriented animals and they can respond better when verbal phrases are combined with visual actions.

However, it might take your patience and consistent efforts to teach your pet to learn hand signals.

In addition to this dogs get attuned to their parent’s emotions, therefore, always praise them and express happiness when he performs the desired action.

Start with the treat and as soon as he starts understanding your hand signals eliminate the kibble from the equation.


Wendy is a self-employed beauty therapist, mother of two; life-long pet parent and lover of dogs who somehow manages to squeeze in the time to satisfy another of her loves – writing.  Wendy is the founder, main contributor to and editor of TotallyGoldens.com

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