Hand Signals & Verbal Commands

Hand Signals & Verbal Commands

By: Jenna Geldreich, AVHS Behavior and Enrichment Coordinator

By: Jenna Geldreich, AVHS Behavior & Enrichment Coordinator

When training your dog it is important to be consistent and have plenty of patience. My number one rule for training is: always make it fun! If you as the handler are having a bad day or feeling down please skip training your pup for the day. It is important to remember that our dogs sense our energy. So keep your training upbeat and positive, the results you are looking for will come.

Another rule for training your pup is making sure to teach your dog hand signals! I know all dog owners want to jump right to the verbal words like sit, down, and come. The truth of the matter is dogs don’t speak English, so by teaching your dog hand signals, followed by verbal commands, you are more likely to see results. I also love using hand signals because when you are working at a distance from your dog, you don’t have to YELL!!!! Simply move those arms and hands and voila, pup is either racing towards you or staying put!

Hand signals can also be useful when using a lure to get your dog into the position of the command you are looking for. I will use sit as the example. Holding a treat (the lure) with your pointer finger and thumb, take the treat to your dog’s nose, and slowly pull it back towards the dog’s ears, most dogs will sit. Some dogs may back up, but don’t give up, simply try again. Repeat the steps on holding the treat near your dog’s nose until they start automatically sitting.

Next step is then taking the pointer finger without a treat and just pointing it down to the ground. DO NOT SAY SIT YET.  You may need to have your hand closer to your dog and act like you are luring your dog. Once your dog sits, mark with a “YES” and a reward. Repeat this step until the dog is successful 9 out of 10 times. Next up you can start introducing verbal commands!

When introducing those verbal commands my number 1 rule is DO NOT REPEAT THE COMMAND! Let’s say you are asking your dog to “sit” and your dog doesn’t do it immediately so naturally you repeat “Sit” again and again until they finally sit. This seems like a success, right? Nope. You have just rewarded your dog for not listening. Instead be patient and give your dog time to problem solve on their own.

If after waiting your dog still does not listen simply use a hand signal and step into your dog’s space just slightly. Most dogs will put that booty to the floor. Then mark with a “YES” and give them a reward.

Happy training to all you pet owners! Remember to keep training session’s fun, be patient, and if your dog is struggling go back to the step where they were being successful.

Jenna Geldreich is the Behavior and Enrichment Coordinator at AVHS and a certified dog trainer providing lessons to Chaffee and Lake County residents.