One of the more valuable lessons you can teach your dog is how to respond to hand signals. Why would you need to do this if neither you nor your dog is deaf? The answer is simple – because you can and because you never know when it will come in handy. Deaf Dog Awareness Week is September 24 to October 1.

There are many reasons a dog or a person may lose their hearing – from accidents to ear infections to old age. Teaching your pet hand signals prepares you for other life events. But more than that, it improves communication between you and your dog. 

We learned early on to combine all of our training with hand signals and we love the results. For example, I work from home, and as we all know, the UPS delivery seems to always show up during conference calls. My dogs, of course, want to alert me, but I don’t want barking in the background. With a simple hand signal, I can acknowledge the “threat” and simultaneously quiet my dogs barking. 


How to Train Dogs to Follow Hand Signals: 

Once your pet learns how to follow a verbal command, teaching hand signals is a breeze. Simply use the hand signal you select each time you give a verbal command. Make sure you reward each success with a treat. A trainer told me my dog will be as successful as I expect him to be and I have found that to be very true over the years. 

By making their training a priority and being consistent, we’ve been able to teach the following signals to our pets: 


  1. Watch me is signaled by my pointing to my eye. This has been the hardest of commands to learn, but they are finally getting it! Pro Tip: Treats will help tremendously with this trick. 
  2. Sit: Open then close fist
  3. Down: Open hand palm wave down
  4. Come: Palm up, gesture towards me as if I were in the Matrix
  5. Quiet: Palm up, then closing fist as if saying, “That’s enough” 


Teaching hand signals also helps your dog understand they will benefit from paying attention to you. It’s one more way to improve the relationship between you and your dog. Best of all, you can create your own private signals between you and your pet.

The key is consistency. Always use a hand signal when you give a verbal command.  

Why teach your dog hand signals? Because you never know when you may need them to understand you and creating another way of communicating with your pet is never a bad thing.

Have you ever worked with your dog to train him or her hand signals?