Utilizing Hand Signals in Dog Training

Utilize “BIG” hand signals so your Dog can see them at a Distance!

I always teach my dog’s hand signals and there are several reasons.

The first is that dogs learn hand signals faster and easier than verbal commands.

Dogs speak to each other with body language and so learning hand signals and reading your body language is like second nature to your dog.

Our dogs often learn to ignore us and our commands.  How often do you “talk” or “chatter” to your dog with no meaning?  We talk to them and tell them how pretty they are, how much we love them, and how proud of them we are and sometimes we even tell them we are disappointed in them.  There is nothing wrong with this constant talking, but since most of it has little to no meaning for your dog he begins to “tune you out” to some degree.

He listens to your tone, and reads your body language but then begins to pay attention to other things in his environment.

Hand signals are often harder for your dog to ignore because dogs communicate with each other using body language!

Hand Signals Are Very Convienent

It also helps when I don’t have to yell commands at my dog when I am on the phone or immersed in conversation with another person.  I can quickly issue a hand signal and tell my dog to lay down or stay in one quick movement without skipping a beat!

And, hand signals are crucial if you ever take your dog off leash and he is an extended distance away!   At such an expanse he might not be able to hear a verbal command so a hand signal can be imperative!

Dogs who are deaf really rely on deaf dog hand signals in order to function and coexist with their people!

When my puppies are tiny I begin giving them dog obedience hand signals at the same time I issue a verbal command.  Often the hand signal is learned quicker than the verbal command!

If your dog already knows his verbal commands you may simply begin giving him a clear hand signal at the same time you give the verbal command.

If he is learning both; just pair the two together by saying the command and using the same hand signal as he is doing it.

Dog Hand Signals For Sit:

Dog Training Hand Signal For Sit

The SIT hand signal

When using positive reinforcement training, getting your dog to sit is pretty basic; you put the treat in front of his nose and slowly bring it up above his head.  As his head comes up his rump usually goes down into the sit position this is the point that you would click and treat.

The hand signal that goes with the “Sit” command follows along those lines.  I use my palm facing upward and do a slight sweeping motion, as if you had a treat and were bringing it up to get him to sit.

Dog Hand Signal For Down

Dog Training Signal For Down:

I use a very obvious hand signal for the “down” command because I need him to be able to see it from 50 yards away if ever he can be trusted to be off leash.  While my dogs were running on the beach, it was critical for me that they could drop on a dime at the sign of trouble and if I had a tiny hand signal they would never be able to see it.

I put my palm straight out in front of my dog’s face (almost like the high five, or stay signal) when I teach them “down”.  This hand signal is unmistakable and can be seen from a great distance.

As you are teaching your dog to lay down use one hand to take the treat in-between his front legs and toward the ground while raising your other hand out in front of him.  It won’t take long for him to successfully pair the two things together; and soon you can simply flash the hand signal and wait for your dog to lay down!

Signal For Stay:

Dog Training Signal For Stay

Drop your Fingers Toward the Ground for the STAY hand signal

When teaching “Stay” I point my fingers to the ground in front of my dog’s nose.  Stay is one of those commands that most people already use a hand signal for!  It is just important that you are consistent and use the same hand signal each time you command your dog.

Dog Training Hand Signal For Come

The COME hand signal

Signal For Come:

As I call my dog to “Come” I use a sweeping hand motion and wave my dog toward me.  Each time you call your dog use the same signal and motion to help him learn.

Once you have started teaching your dog hand signals and you think he understands it is time to drop your verbal command and see if he understands the meaning of the hand signal.

Just give a signal and wait to see if your dog comprehends, be patient and wait several seconds.  If he does not, go back to teaching mode be pairing the verbal and hand signal together with treats.  If he complies you know that he understands your signal!

Now vary your commands, sometimes only use hand signals, sometimes only verbal commands and sometimes both to keep your obedience and hand signals strong!

It does not matter what hand signal you use as long as you are consistent and your dog can see the signal from a distance!

Does Your Dog Know Any Hand Signals?  Please Share Below In The Comments Section.

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  1. Maria Quintero says:

    Yes, I do want him to know sign. We’re looking into therapy dog training and I would prefer him to see the signs as opposed to me vocalizing too loud for those sensitive patients.
    He does have potential, personality is very layed back, even tempered, may be too calm, and loves adults, teens and children. He has not met aggression with other dogs or mean people.
    Very sensitive to other needs, looks for praise and a lot of attention.


  2. Linda Belanger says:

    Thank you for sending the “Hand Signal” command. My dog is only eight weeks old. My question is, is she too young to comprehend teaching her these commands now or should I wait until she is eleven or twelve weeks old?

    I too, like the previous writer, would like her to become a therapy dog and help cheer patients without disturbing them by vocalizing the commands.

    Appreciate any further help.

    Linda Belanger


    Minette Reply:

    You can do both hand signal and verbal command at the same time and at 8 weeks old she will probably learn hand signals faster 😉


  3. bruce says:

    Chet it is now some great number of weeks since I asked for your advice re: stress when travelling! Whilst I fully understand you must receive millions of emails. I would appreciate any advise you can give! Alfie will sit in the back of the car for ages but as soon as I start the engine and drive, within a mile he is getting loud, whining and barking!

    He is missing out on so much fun, having to be shut in his crate because he won’t travel relaxed and enjoying the ride!


    Minette Reply:

    Here are three articles that address your concerns. You are going to have to work on desensitizing him with the engine on. http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/understanding-desensitization-dog-training/




  4. kim wilhelm says:

    the ame sign is the say for gine me your paw.So the sign i use for sit is my palm diwn instead of up.


  5. bahi says:

    thank you so much for these advices


  6. Karen Hodil says:

    I am very interested in learning more I have two toy chihuahuas and they are 12 weeks old and 6 months I would love to teach them quickly with out speaking so far sit and come seem to be the only ones that I have achieved stay seems to be a issue they are very competitve with one another for attention so I am hoping that will be something I can use to my advantage training them. thankyou hope to hear more soon.


  7. Brian P says:

    I completely agree with this article. I always teach my dogs hand signals at the same time I teach them verbal commands. I usally find that you simply just stay consistant with the hand gesture that you use for the command everytime that you say the command and the dog easily picks it up.


  8. Kate says:

    The number of signs you can use with your dogs is endless. I pair [ASL] signs with all of my spoken commands and endearments to my puppies. They not only understand the hand signals sooner than the spoken commands, but they respond much quicker and consistently. Other useful ones for pups to know when you want to be covert are [Go to your] BED, TOILET, and QUIET.


    Shari Reply:

    I just rescued a deaf 10 month old, min Australian Shepherd. I see that you are using ASL with your dogs. Do you use ASL solely or do you use the regular dog commands for sit, down, stay?


    Minette Reply:

    Those are the signals I use.

    As long as you are consistent and the dog can see the signal from a distance then you will have success.


  9. Bill says:

    We aquired a 3 1/2 month old Shepard/Border Collie mix, now at 5 months I cannot believe that this dog responds as well as he does to commands and now hand signals … I think the dog is manipulive to the point he knows that if he goes outside and does his business he gets a treat … He wants to go out all the time just so he can get his treat … I told my wife not to give him a treat for going outside unless he does something … “Riley” was crate trained when we got him and now if you tell him good night, he goes into his crate and gets comfortable … I got a feeling this dog loves to work on training by the way he acts and repsonds to it … I can only hope he gets done teething so he doesn’t appear to be trying to ease the pain with his chewing on ice cubes all the time, they work …


  10. billy says:

    you should actualy put pics of the sybels like “sit” or “lye down” also “jump” you should do that for easyer training tips.


  11. Britney&Crimson says:

    I appreciate very much!


  12. Michele says:

    My dog, Chaser is 3 now, but he has had numerous hand signals since he was a puppy. He has know hand signals for: sit, down, stand, bow, spin, other way, front, to the left, to the right, find…., bow, touch, bark, big bark,shh, wait, heel on the left, heel on the right, over wherever( all we have to do it direct him), crawl, paw, other paw, shake, shake shake( a toy) , drop it, right here, kisses, , free, -okay, there’s a whole lot. Too many to mention. There are verbal commands to correspond with the hand signals. He know even more of those.


  13. Pamela says:

    Sadie is 5 now and she will sit when I close my hand with just my index finger out and will lie down when I place my open hand fingers down moving it towards the floor. I will use your other suggestions for the other commands.


  14. Michelle says:

    Yes, my 7.5 month old german shepherd knows sit, lay down, and stay hand commands. We took a small group class when she was about 5 months old. We are still working on her staying for longer periods and with distractions. She can do about 30 sec to 1 min.


  15. Mike says:

    Hand signals are a must for deaf dogs. All dogs should be taught these signals because as a dog gets older they tend to lose hearing. Stay away from Signals utilizing 2 hands otherwise you will only be able to communicate the-command hands free.


  16. Lynda Fisher says:

    I know hand signals are valuable because they worked on my other dog. With this one it’s not so easy. He ran free on a farm for more than three years and he’s stubborn.


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