School is in! Just like any good student, your pup wants to learn and please you. The time you invest in training your dog, in the beginning, will save you and your family from the stress of having a pup with little to no manners. Dogs trained with just the 7 basic dog commands will be much happier responding to your hand signals instead of being yelled at and not understanding why. Let’s get started!
There are well over 50 plus dog training hand signals, but the good news is any hand signal you teach your dog can be right! The key is to be consistent with your signals! Like dogs who learn commands in other languages, such as German, they can learn various hand signals. First, you decide what signs you want your dog to know and what you want them to do. Then, with consistency and practice, hand signals will be your new way of communicating with your pup!
However, sticking with common signs will ensure you don’t forget them and easily teach other family members how to use them.
Training dogs that are deaf and older dogs with hearing loss can benefit a ton from using a solid set of hand signals.
Finding the right set of hand signals can make training a breeze!
Common Hand Signals
There are a variety of online publications about dog hand signals that may have different variations. Just remember that whatever works for you is good enough for your dog! You do have the option to use American Sign Language signs, as these signs will be more consistent and are known by tons of people. I personally taught my Border Collie in ASL because then my Deaf friend could talk to her, too!
We will go through both options so you can decide which one works best for you and your pup!
Common: This first-hand signal has tons and tons of different versions posted. The most common signal for sit is taking your hand, palm facing you with your fingers touching each other, and moving your hand up and towards you.
ASL: Take your pointer finger, and middle finger on each hand with the rest of your fingers tucked away and tap your right hand over your left hand once. Almost as if your right two fingers are resting over your left fingers .
Common: This sign can be seen everywhere! Simply hold your hand up, palm out, and move it towards the dog.
ASL: Tuck your middle three fingers in, leaving your thumb and pinky in a Y shape. Palm down, move your hand forward and down to sign “stay”.
Common: Pointing to the ground or waving your hand towards the floor can signal your pup that you want them to lay down. You can also use this same motion to train dogs not to jump on you or guests.
ASL: Signing ‘down’ is done by taking your pointer finger and pointing at the ground. The ASL version and the common signal are similar!
Teaching your pup not to jump on you or your guests is so important. Even though your pup just wants to love on you and greet you, jumping dogs can be hazardous to young children and the elderly. Big dogs with energy and excitement may knock down a young child and cause them to fear dogs, or they could make an older adult lose their balance and fall, causing injury. So, if your dog is a jumper, time for some homework and tutoring; school is in!
Common: People often use this sign without even realizing it! Taking an open hand, palm up, and motion towards yourself is a common sign for coming here. Making this gesture significant and dramatic is perfect for signaling to your dog that it is too far away that it is time to move closer to you.
ASL: Take your two pointer fingers, palms up, and fingers facing away from you, then move them towards your face then down toward your waist to teach your dog to come.
Common: The common signal for off is simply pointing away from the object they are on. This is similar to telling them to place or go into their dog crate.
ASL: This sign is mostly fingerspelling the two letters ‘O’ and ‘F’ to spell off. Taking your hand and making an O shape is the sign for ‘O’ while keeping your thumb and pointer finger touching with the other three fingers up is the sign for ‘F.’ Moving your hand to the right (or left if you are left-hand dominate) shows that there are two ‘f,’ thus spelling ‘off’!
Common: Pointing to your hip or tapping your hip with your hand can signal your dog that they need to heel. This sign is essential for the dog to understand to ensure they are safe when out walking!
ASL: Stick your left pointer finger and thumb out and tap your right hand on top of your thumb with your palm down. Make sure you watch a video to get the right motions for the ASL signs!
Common: No can have a ton of signals, just like sit. Remember that any signal you choose can work for you and your dog. A common sign for no is to point at the dog and shake your head. Although this might confuse the dog since it is similar to place and crate, we suggest using the ASL sign or another sign you want to mean ‘no’.
An important factor with this signal, since it is more negative in nature, is to make sure you use a signal that people will not accidentally do around your dog so they do not think that they are in trouble!
ASL: Take your pointer and middle finger and tap them against your thumb on the same hand to say no in ASL.
Start easy! Starting with the basic commands can make the transition easier for your dog. They already know a few commands, such as sit and down, so adding hand signals to their existing available commands will not become confusing over time. Once they get the hang of them, you can start teaching them cooler tricks like ‘sit pretty’ which is my favorite trick!
Understanding the command
To start, make sure your dog knows what the command means! For example, it is hard to teach a dog the sign for ‘sit’ when they don’t know what sitting is.
This is difficult for dogs with some hearing loss or completely deaf; they will have to be taught the signal through physical cues only.
Introduce the sign
Show them the hand signal at the same time they are verbally told the command. This will start to have the verbal command, and the signal connect in their head.
After showing them the sign while training and using verbal commands, start to do the physical signal first, then the verbal command. Doing this will begin to introduce them to respond to the physical command without the verbal cue.
Switch to only physical signs
Once they got the hang of the signs and understand what they all mean, it is time to drop the verbal cue altogether! This can take some dogs only a few days, while others need weeks. For example, my dog took about two weeks to fully understand the hand signal for sit without me having to use any verbal commands!
Here are a few more tips to make sure you get the most out of training when using hand signals!
- Be consistent!
- Teach everyone in the household
- Use the same signs for different dogs
- Stick with both verbal and hand signals at the beginning
- Be patient!
- Practice, practice, practice!
Frequently Asked Questions
1) What are the hand signals for dog commands?
Each command has its own hand signal, depending on which one you decide to use!
2) Are there standard hand signals for dog training?
Yes and no. There are tons of hand signals online that can differ from site to site. Even ASL has different dialects and different signs between speakers. As long as you and your household use consistent hand signals with your dogs, whatever hand signals you pick should work just fine!
3) What are the seven basic dog commands?
These seven commands set the foundation for all other training with pets. Knowing sit, stay, down, come, off, heel, and no, will make day-to-day living easier for both owner and pet. Working on these commands for 15-20 minutes a day can improve these seven core skills.
4) What is the hand signal for sit when training a dog?
As previously mentioned, there is not one hand signal for sit. The key is choosing a hand signal and being consistent during training. Many successful trainers use the palm up and slight sweeping motion to signal to the pup to take a seat. Another hand signal for sit is a balled fist with a bent bicep like you just curled a dumbbell. Regardless of the hand signal you choose, just be consistent.
5) What is the hand sign for the crate?
Telling your dog to get in a crate can be as easy as you pointing to the crate. The simpler, the better!
Another option for crate training is to keep the crate door closed until it’s time for your dog to be crated for bed or other reasons. Then, open the crate door, point inside, and once the dog is inside, quietly give some praise and close the door. Practice this several times over several weeks, and eventually, your pup will know precisely what you want when you open the crate door.
6) How can I help my child remember the hand signals?
Only allow children to practice one or two hand signals until they can master the hand signal. Printing out a picture of the hand signal might help them remember! Supervise your child while they are training the dog to allow for correction. The last thing you want is for your newly trained pup to get confused because a hand signal is being practiced the wrong way! Kids want to help, so let them help with a few tools and a little help.
7) Do you suggest using clickers or treats as training tools?
We recommend finding out what works for you and your pup! Clickers are great tools for training dogs, but one main problem, everyone in the house must have a clicker and keep it with them at all times. If you misplace a clicker and switch training methods on your pup, they might get confused, and training may stall. Treats are also a proven training method to add to positive reinforcement. After your pup learns the hand signals and gets rewarded with a treat, you will want to eventually wean them off the treats like you will ease the verbal cues. The purpose of hand signals is so your pup will follow tour hand signals without any verbal, clicker noise, or treat.
8) We adopted our pup from the shelter, and he gets scared when hands are raised. What can we do if we want to train using hand signals?
It is essential first to build a relationship and connect with your new pup to earn their trust. Patience and love will get your new family pup ready to train. You will need to spend a little more time initially, allowing your new pup time to adjust to being in a new home and around new people. Once he trusts you and feels the love of your family, your new pup will want to please you and will be eager to learn to receive your positive praise!