Behavior Tips & Tricks Issue #5: Hand Signals
In the last issue we talked about importance of socialization training.
In this issue we are going to talk hand signals and teaching your dog how to interpret them properly.
Did you know that dogs instinctively pickup on human body language? As a matter of fact they can understand body language and hand signals as well as verbal commands.
Chances are if you've been working with your dog for a while they probably already understand several of your physical cues. In fact you may be using hand signals without even realizing it.
Unlike verbal commands, hands signals can be interpreted by your dog from a long distance, which makes them a useful training tool especially for deaf or hyperactive dogs. While an excited or easily distracted dog may not hear a verbal command clearly most of the time they will still be able to see a hand signal.
Hand signals can and should be used in conjunction with verbal commands. They can be used to help correct a variety of bad behaviors as well as teach them new ones. Hand signals work very well, especially in situations where your dog can't hear you. In fact, they are actually a more effective ways to ensure that your dog pays close attention to you even when they are a fair distance away from you.
If you've ever watched an agility show you may have noticed that trainers rely more on hand signals then verbal commands. This holds true for hunting dogs as well. Hand signals are used to control the dog's actions while in the field.
By teaching your dog how to interpret your hand signals properly it is possible to teach them how to do just about anything on your command.
For instance you can teach them to; turn left or right, go fast, stop, sit or stay all without opening your mouth speak a verbal command.
When it comes to teaching your dog how to follow hand signals it's important that they understand your verbal commands clearly before you begin. If they don't follow and fully understand your verbal commands then trying to add in hand signals may only confuse and frustrate both of you.
Let's quickly go over three, and hand signals that you can start teaching your faithful canine companion right away:
– Sit command
For the sit command, bend your arm upwards at the elbow and then raise your hand with your fist closed up to the side of your head while you command your dog with a verbal command to sit simultaneously.
Repeat this action every time you verbally command your dog to sit and eventually they will learn how to associate the hand signal with your verbal command and it will no longer be needed. You will be able to make your dog sit by simply using the hand signal.
– Down command
For the down command, hold your arm out towards your pet and then lower your hand with your palm facing down towards the floor. While doing this, give the verbal command “down” and your dog will follow your hand signal into the down position. Just like in the sit hand signal, keep repeating this until your dog learns to associate the lowering of your hand towards the floor as part of the down command.
– Stay command
For the stay command, put your dog into the sit or down position, then hold out your arm towards your pet, with your palm facing out in a horizontal position similar to that of a traffic officer who's using hand signals to stop traffic.
Just like in the previous two commands, do this at the same time as you verbally command your dog to stay. If your dog doesn't follow, simply repeat the action until they recognize that hand signal means down.
As with any behavioral training it's important to use a firm tone of voice when first teaching your dog how to interpret hand signals. You'll be amazed at how quickly they will learn how to follow your hand signals.
Make sure you look for your next issue soon. We will be talking about games to help enhance your behavioral training sessions.