Dog Training Hand Signals

The best signals to train your dog right

When you are training your dog, it is important to send clear, consistent messages. These messages are often called dog training hand commands, cues, or signals. One of the most effective ways of training your dog is using an auditory command in conjunction with hand signals.

Introducing hand signals works best at the beginning of your dog training process. However, these hand signals can become a vital part of communicating with your pet as they age.

In most cases, dogs lose some of their hearing in their later years. Hand signals ensure clear communication with your pup throughout their entire life.

How to use Hand Signals

Hand signals should always be used with the same verbal command. When you first introduce hand signals as part of your training process, you also want to reward your pup’s desired behavior with training treats and praises.

This part of the positive reinforcement process ensures that your pup will want to follow your cue each time. As your dog continues to show consistent positive responses to your verbal command paired with the hand signal, you can begin to use fewer treats as a reward.

Your dog should practice responding to your hand signals daily. This consistent practice will help your pup pick things up quickly.

There are no right or wrong hand signals for training your pet. However, once you choose the commands you want to be associated with hand signals, be sure to remain consistent. Several common hand signals can help get you started.

Seven Basic Dog Commands and Hand Signals

Below are the seven basic dog commands you can train your dog using hand signals.

1. Eyes on Me

This command will be very important if you eventually hope to use hand signals without having to say the verbal command. Use “Eyes on Me” to show your dog you want their total and complete attention. When first using this command, reward your pup with a treat and praise every time they look directly toward you.

How to do this:

Bring your pointer finger directly toward your eye. At the same time, say “Eyes on Me” or “Watch Me.” When your pup gives you their undivided attention, reward them. This command will help your dog to learn the desired behavior of waiting for the next command. They would look at you on what they should do next.  

Dog Training Hand Signals - Eyes on Me
Bring your pointer finger directly toward your eye while saying “Eyes on Me” or “Watch Me.”

2. Sit

It is one basic command every dog should learn. Getting your dog to sit is more than just a party trick. Sitting can help keep your pup controlled when they are in busy areas. It also helps remind them to focus on you for the next command.

How to do this:

To teach sit, open the palm of your hand and bring it toward your chest. This small upward motion should be done while you give the command to “sit.”

Sit
Open the palm of your hand and bring it toward your chest while giving the command “Sit.”

3. Down

Another rather basic command is teaching your dog to lay down. It will help them remain calm or settled when necessary. This will be an essential command to teach your dog, especially if you have young children.

How to do this:

The best hand signal to pair with the “down” command uses only your index finger. Bring a pointed index finger from your shoulder or chest and move it to point directly down at the floor. Be sure to say the command “down” as your finger points toward the floor.

Down
Bring a pointed index finger from your shoulder or chest and move it to point directly down at the floor, saying the command “down” as your finger points toward the floor.

4. Stay

This command can be difficult for many dogs to learn. Your pup must be already mastering looking at you before teaching stay. Teaching your dog to stay helps keep your pet safe when you are out in public. It can also be helpful in curbing your pup’s excitement when guests come to your home.

How to do this:

To teach the “stay” command, pair the verbal cue with a non-verbal hand signal that resembles a stop motion. Use one hand to put a flat palm toward your dog while saying “stay.”

Stay
Use one hand to put a flat palm toward your dog while saying “stay,” resembling a stop motion.

5. Come

The opposite command of “stay” is teaching your dog to “come.” This command is great to teach your pup, especially if you take them to areas off a leash. Come can also be helpful if you want your dog to move to particular areas on your command.

How to do this:

The hand signal to use for “come” is to place one hand down by your side. When you use the auditory command to “come,” bring this hand in a diagonal direction to the opposite shoulder. You may also choose to use the hand signal of two wide-open arms, making it look like you are receiving a giant hug.

Come
Place one hand down by your side and bring this hand in a diagonal direction to the opposite shoulder, saying “Come.”.

6. Heel

Having your dog heel means they will walk on or off a leash beside you rather than pull in front. This can help make your walking time much easier. In addition, it keeps your dog safe when they are walking in public areas.

How to do this:

While you give the verbal command to “heel,” put your index finger out right next to your hip or thigh. You may choose to make a hip tap with the hand signal. If your dog is not able to see this motion, use your index finger and make a small circle next to your leg while giving the command.

Heel
Give the verbal command “heel” at the same time putting your index finger out right next to your hip or thigh.

7. Drop It

Getting your dog to learn to “drop-it” will teach them to drop an unwanted or unsafe item from their mouth. This can be especially helpful if you are training a young puppy who will explore by putting many objects into their mouth.

How to do this:

To signal your dog to “drop it,” place a fist near your dog’s mouth. While you give the verbal command, open your hand to a flat palm in front of their mouth. This will signal your pup to drop the object into your hand.

Drop It
Place a fist near your dog’s mouth while giving the verbal command “Drop It,” Open your hand to a flat palm in front of your dog’s mouth.

Other Hand Signals

You may have other commands you want to teach your dog during training. You may want them to go into their crate on command, go to their bed or ring a bell to signal a potty break.

Any command you wish to teach your pet will work well with a verbal cue paired with a hand signal. Be sure the signal you choose is simple and clear enough for your dog to see.

As with most areas of training, be sure to keep the hand signals for each command consistent to help your dog succeed.

Summary

Using hand signals can be a helpful tool when training your dog. Along with verbal cues, hand signals will help your dog more quickly learn what you expect.

Eventually, your dog will respond to your non-verbal cues, and verbal commands will not always be needed. Be sure to enjoy the process of engaging with your pup using hand signals!