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There are so many reasons you should teach your dog hand signals for obedience behaviors.

The main reason is that dogs don’t speak English. The “language” that they use with each other is body language.

Dogs’ naturally communicate via hand signals.

Because hand signals are more natural to them, if your dog is distracted, you will find that he is more reliable with a hand signal than a verbal command. For example, it is often possible to get a distracted dog to lay down with a hand signal, even when he is ignoring a “down” verbal command.

I’ve given three examples of hand signals in the infographic, but you could put anything you have on a verbal cue onto a hand signal.

Some of the hand signals I use with my dogs are:

  • Sit
  • Down
  • Stay
  • Settle
  • Shake
  • Spin
  • Leave it

There are lots of benefits to using hand signals with dogs:

  • Increased reliability: Because hand signals are easier for dogs to understand (since it is their natural language), they will more reliably respond to hand signals over a verbal command.
  • Ability to communicate with your dog “silently”: This is very helpful if the baby just fell asleep! Also, if you are talking on the phone and need to get your dog to do something.
  • Encourages your dog to watch you more: Since your dog will learn that you also communicate non-verbally, he will begin to watch you more for clues about what you want from him. When we only communicate verbally, it encourages our dogs to look at everything other than us, since they can just listen to what we are saying and don’t have to watch us.
  • Your dog will learn faster: Because you are working in your dog’s native tongue, he will learn much more quickly!

Let me know if you use any hand signals with your dog! Are there specific situations you find it particularly useful?