Dogs do not understand human language. That bit should be understandable. But you may ask how they are able to respond to our commands. They do because of association.
Dogs associate recalls with rewards. So if it’s a peculiar sound coming from your mouth and you have taught it to associate it with a certain action, you’ll always get the same results.
That means you could associate specific hand signals with commands to do the job, sometimes even better. Here is the list of 11 dog commands and hand signals to teach your dog.
So without further ado let’s get started.
Here is the list of 11 dog commands and hand signals to teach your dog:
- Finger pointing to your eye to teach it attention,
- cup your hand for the “sit” command,
- point to the ground for “lie down”,
- cup your hand forward for “stay”,
- motioning with your palm to “follow”,
- hands-up position to release the dog,
- make a signal near your hip to “heel”,
- hold something in your palm “grab something”,
- release your palm from a fist for “dropping something”,
- treat trail to get attention,
- and index finger to the mouth “stop barking”.
Now let’s take a detailed look.
List Of 11 Dog Commands And Hand Signals to Teach
Remember, the following hand signals are just a starting point. You could use a range of signals. The science is that of the association behind how they work to let you control the dog.
But associations take time to form, so be patient with your dog as you take him down the line of learning something new.
1. Finger pointing to your eye [Be attentive to me]
The first one to go is teaching your dog to look at you when you point at your eye.
This when combined with the command “look at me,” will inform the dog and possibly, take him out of unwarranted situations.
How to teach the dog?
- Grab a treat in your hand and let the dog know it’s here.
- Let it sniff the palm and when you have its attention, take the hand toward your eye.
- Feed the treat.
- Repeat it a few times to let the dog form a close association between the gesture, treat, and attention.
2. Cup your hand up [Sit]
Next up, you’re going to use a cupped hand or your palm facing the sky to teach the dog to “sit”.
It will help in the long run when there’s noise around you two, and you want it to sit for some reason.
How to do it?
- Use treats to reward the dog when he sits upon your command.
- Next, show him the treat in your palm and then hold the hand facing upward.
- When the dog sits next, feed it the treat with your other hand.
3. Point to the ground [Lie down]
What about showing some of your moves to unsuspecting visitors? Teach the dog to lie down when you point to the ground. This could also serve as a great distracting tool.
However, do not use it unnecessarily, as the dog may disregard danger later.
How to do it?
- Point to the ground and say, “lie down”.
- You should have already taught this to the dog with your vocal command.
- Combine the two but don’t forget the threats!
4. Cup your hand forward [stay]
Your dog may have developed some unwanted behaviors. One of them is jumping when you come home. The jumping could also transgress your visitors and so on.
While there are invasive methods to teach the dog not to jump on people, you could start with a hand gesture.
How to do it?
- Make a stop sign with your palm and say, “stay”.
- The command should be firm but not enough for the dog to take it as a punishment.
- If the dog doesn’t know how to stay, you could use the methods I’ve already taught on this website. They include taking the hand close to the dog’s eyes at a 45-degree angle and repeatedly saying, “stay”. You should hold a treat with your thumb for the dog to see.
- Since the angle isn’t comfortable for him to do that properly, he will sit. That’s when you feed him the treat to help form an association between the treat and the action.
5. Motioning with your palm to come [Follow me]
The next gesture or command to teach your pet is “follow me.” You will move with your hand as you do to tell your friends to come.
How to do it?
- Hold a treat between two of your fingers and let the dog see it.
- Repeatedly motion forward and take a few steps with it.
- When the dog starts following you, feed it the treat.
- Do it a few times before he has learned.
6. Hands-up position [Free to go]
Dogs like us need some space and freedom. Training them for hours on end and not letting them be themselves for a while will take a toll on their mental health.
That’s where you come in with teaching it the free-to-go gesture.
How to do it?
- When the training finishes, hold your palms up.
- Remove any sort of collars you’re using on them to make them understand what you mean.
- Feed the dog some treats when they start being themselves. However, be wary of supporting any unwanted behavior.
7. Make a signal near your hip [heel]
This command or gesture will help you keep the dog well-grounded near you during walks. It will come in handy when he tries to flee to chase another animal.
He’ll get distracted well. All of his attention will be on you, and he’ll forget chasing the animal.
How to do it?
- Start with your backyard. Train the dog there to avoid any sort of lapse in the session.
- Put the dog on a leash and usher him to move with you.
- Hold a treat in your hand, and while walking, pat your hip lightly when the dog’s looking.
- Feed him the treat as he’s walking.
- The next time he stops following, do not push on the leash and keep tapping your hip with the treat in your hand for him to follow.
- Feed him the treat on that occasion.
8. Hold something in your palm and close it [Grab something]
Teaching your dog to grab something may be hard, especially when it’s not a food item. Fetching is a whole new ballgame, so don’t bring that here.
To teach your dog to hold something, you may encourage it by using the treated currency.
How to do it?
- Use a familiar or his favorite objects such as a ball or a toy.
- Again, use treats to get him to pick the object.
- You could place the object in his mouth from the ground yourself to teach him what you want.
9. Release your palm from a fist [Drop something]
It’s the reverse of the gesture taught in 8. You release the fist in front of him when he’s holding onto something.
I understand that dogs could be adamant to do that, but again, the treated currency works great.
How to do that?
- Make sure the dog is calm enough.
- Get his attention by holding a treat in your hand and closing the other palm.
- Use the treat to periodically take his attention to the closed palm.
- Try to feed the treat and as he opens his mouth and drops the object, retract it to your closed hand to make him see you open it.
- Finally, feed the treat.
10. Treat trail for attention [Get distracted]
This is so important during times when things could get out of hand, such as when you’re walking, and a distraction comes along.
The dog will pull on the leash to run after that distraction, and that’s when you should intervene with the treat.
How to do it?
- Hold a treat between your index and thumb.
- Make sure the dog’s on a leash.
- Let him sniff your hand.
- Move it around considerably but slowly to let him follow.
- When he does follow a certain limit, feed him the treat.
11. Index finger to the mouth [Stop barking]
Sometimes it gets out of hand and becomes too much. You can teach the dog to stop barking in the same way you teach the other gestures. This gesture is the same one we use for humans when we want to tell them to shut up.
How to do it?
- Make sure the dog’s looking directly at you.
- Put the finger on your mouth and use a treat to get his attention.
- He’ll come to you to have the treat.
- Only feed him when he’s stopped barking. The finger should be on your mouth the whole time.
- Repeat this several times.
- You could also use a training collar to stimulate him when he barks at the same time when you have the finger on your mouth. However, follow this only when your pet is single-minded.
What Are The 5 Golden Rules of Dog Training?
You read about the 11 gestures or commands you can teach your dog. They will make handling a deaf dog easy, let alone one that can hear.
However, no matter which category your dog fits in, here are 5 golden rules to follow to make the whole regime or any other type of training worthwhile.
1. Go with the dog’s pace
Do not rush things for your dog because they are slow learners. Most trainers, including me, try to make training sessions easy and rewarding for the dogs.
We make sure that they win in the end. That may not be the fastest, but a surefire way to learn.
2. Do not punish him
Punishing is the single most abominable act a dog owner could do. It’s counterproductive, actually, no matter how we like to think. The dogs are punished instead of developmental abnormalities.
They could lose not only their minds but their trust in you completely. Therefore, avoid punishments at all.
3. Incorporate positive reinforcement
What to do if not punish the dog for its wrongdoings? How could you make sure the training stays productive? Positive reinforcement will work for you here. It’s an association technique that helps a dog learn faster and surer.
You read about the treats in each training gesture. They are a currency to help them associate the reward of getting them with the action for a long time.
4. Repeat training cues but not the name
As I said, dogs are slow learners. They do not learn in a single day. You’ll have to repeat the training sessions for a few days for them to get the hang of everything. So, repeat the training cues.
However, do not repeat his name during the session. It may sound odd, but repeating can trigger insensitivity to the cue. Instead of accepting the cue, he may instead form an association with his name.
Or, worse yet, he may start ignoring you by taking his name repeatedly.
5. Refresh recall
You’ll have to refresh the dog’s recall every week or so. In due time, dogs forget their training, just like most animals.
They need a memory refresh and what better way to do that than refreshing the whole training regime?
How Many Words Do Dogs Understand?
According to research, an average dog understands about 165 words. But this number is by no means exhaustive. Some dogs such as Border Collies can learn up to 1000 different words, as The Wildest quotes the stories of Rico and Chaser.
These dogs even showed the ability of fast mapping, which are terms used for associating an unknown word with an unknown object in a room full of known objects. We thought only human babies were capable of it but research has shown that dogs can do that, too!
This is just the surface of it. Dogs can even “categorize” different objects based on their appearances. For example, they know balls and can differentiate them from frisbees regardless of the individual names given to individual items from the two.
Teaching your dog all these commands require patience and repetition. If you want to amp up your dog’s vocabulary, follow the steps I shared above but believe in repetitions more than anything.
One more thing, though, make sure that there’s no familiar object lying around when you’re teaching the dog a new word. For example, teaching him what a “ball” is would require an empty room or yard with no other recognizable object.
Dog Commands And Hand Signals – Wrapping Up
Dogs learn by associating a gesture, a vocal command, or an action by you with a likable behavior. The treats or positive reinforcement acts as a bridge between the two.
Go through the list of dog commands and hand signals mentioned above to let the dog learn without using verbal cues. They will be handy for deaf dogs or ones who aren’t adept at learning what you mean by a certain sound.
They will also help you control your rage during training because owners can get worked up during training sessions. The gestures will save you from raising your voice at the pet.
However, after learning how to teach the gestures, and follow the 5 golden rules of training, I teach everyone to get things right.