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  • Writer's pictureLisa Olson

How to teach dogs hand signals

Updated: Mar 2, 2021

Pets usually learn commands very fast when you combine hand signals with verbal cues.

Training with hand signals

How to Teach Common Hand Signals to Your Dog

In fact, hand signals are even more useful as dogs grow older as many suffer from hearing impairment in later years. Keep the instructions simple, perform several repetitions and remember to reinforce the hand signals with verbal commands. The underlying objective is to combine hand signals with commands for movement.

1. Open Hand Down for ‘down’

Start by getting the dog to stand in front of you. Open out your palm at shoulder level and show your open palm towards the floor as you say ‘down’.

2. Pointing Your Finger

This command is particularly useful for retrieving dropped treats, toys, or chews. Use a small stick to point to a piece of kibble on the floor and wait for the dog to pick it up. Reinforce the response with a pat or praise – and repeat. You can gradually stop using the stick and use only your hand.

3. Point Your Finger Down (Go To)

This is a great gesture to get the dog to lie down. Start with your finger pointing up to your chest and make a sweeping gesture downwards.

4. Open Palm Upwards for ‘Sit’

Keep your palm open facing upwards and raise it slightly.

Sitting pretty

5. Open Palm Outward for ‘Stay’

Get the dog to stand in front of you, open your palm out and walk backwards from them. Repeat the word ‘stay’ and use another command to get them to come.

6. Hands Parallel to Shoulder for Come

Hold either one (or both hands) parallel to your shoulder and then bring your hand(s) to your chest. You can also cross your hand diagonally across your chest.

7. Take-It

Hold a small piece of kibble and close your hand into a fist. Slowly hold the closed fist in front of your dog’s nose. When it sniffs at it, open your fist and allow it to chew the kibble while repeating ‘take it’ at the same time.

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