Hand Signals for Dog Obedience Training


Sound is crucial to human communication, but it plays a relatively small role in dog communication. Body language is the first thing dogs use to communicate with each other. Because body language is so important to dogs, they can understand hand signals more easily than they can human language. Hand signals can be used to replace or accompany vocal signals for dog obedience training.

The Benefits of Hand Signals

  • Hand signals are more practical than voice signals for distances because dogs can see people and moving objects from a half-mile away.
  • Hand signals are ideal in noisy situations and locations because a dog might not be able to hear a voice signal over other sounds, but he will be able to see a hand signal.
  • Hand signals work well in in low-level light because dogs have better night vision than humans.
  • Hand signals can be used to train deaf dogs and dogs with hearing problems.

How to Train with Hand Signals

There are some commonly used hand signals for basic commands, but there is not a full set of standard, universal hand signals for training. The key to successful obedience training with hand signs is consistency and rewards. Use whichever hand signs work best for you and your dog and stick to those signs. If you are using both verbal and hand signals, start the hand signal before verbalizing the command. When your dog responds to a signal successfully, reward him with positive attention, a toy or a training treat.

Hand Signals for Basic Commands


Begin with your right arm straight at your side and palm facing outward. Raise your arm slowly from the elbow until your palm is in front of your face.


Start with your right arm bent at the elbow and your palm facing down. Slowly straighten your elbow in a downward motion with your palm remaining down.


Extend your arm with your palm facing up and outward in front of your dog's face, your hand held palm in front of her face. Hold your hand still in this position.


Extend your right arm out from your body sideways with your palm facing forward. Bend your arm at the elbow and move your palm toward your chest.


    • Train your dog in short, 5 to 10 minute, sessions three times a day.
    • Start by training your dog in a place with no distractions. Add distractions slowly so when your dog is fully trained, he will follow directions even when things are going on around him.
    • If your dog is having a difficult time with a new command, return to one he knows well to end the training session on a high note.

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