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A Comprehensive List of Dog Commands and Hand Signals

Dog laying down following person's hand signal

Dog commands and hand signals are the best ways to train and improve your dog’s communication skills. There can be certain differences in the ways of teaching a similar dog command because everyone has his own ways. Generally, dogs respond better when the owners use an auditory dog command with a hand signal. Keep reading to learn some of the most familiar and appropriate dog commands and hand signals that can help train your pup.

Hand Commands for Dogs

Dogs can’t understand the words we speak. However, they can learn how to react to specific sounds (voice commands). Likewise, canines are quite good at understanding hand signals because they are visually-oriented animals. They are also very proficient in recognizing physical gestures and read the body language efficiently.

Although hand signals are the best possible solution in some situations (like a competition), a well-trained dog must understand the voice and hand signal mutually for a command. The idea of using hand commands is also ideal for old dogs who have hearing problems.

Hand Commands for Dog Training

Woman showing a dog a hand signal

Hand commands are excellent for developing communication and trust among the owners and their canines. They also enhance the confidence of the dogs that helps them to become better companions. The following are some simple dog command hand signals that can be used to train your pooch.

Finger Point Towards Eye (Look at Me)

woman on a white background pointing to her eye

According to Primal Pet Foods, this is a major non-verbal command. This is because it is the first step when you shift from auditory to hand-only commands. This hand signal is quite important to learn for your dog because it makes your buddy attentive towards yourself.

It is best to hold a treat in your hand and wait for your dog to look at it. When his/her eyes point towards the treat, raise it to your face. This will help you to make your dog look at you attentively. This hand command is also known as “Watch Me”. Keep repeating this exercise until your pooch becomes familiar with your hand signal.

Open Hand Palm Up (Sit)

a mans hand palm facing up

It is perhaps the most popular and essential dog command. Start by luring your canine with a treat by moving it from the nose to the forehead of your dog. The movement of the hand develops a complete signal. Your palm should be facing the sky and your hand will move in an upward motion.

It is better to use the verbal command of “Sit” with the hand signal when you start the training. It will help your pooch to understand your message more easily. This hand signal is also known as “Swing Your Palm Up”.

Finger Downward (Lie Down)

arm and hand with pointer finger pointing down

This hand command is very helpful if you want to help your dog by making him/her lie down. In this command, you hold the treat in your hand and use your finger to make a signal. Point a finger at your chest (keeping it horizontal) and flick it gently in the downward direction. This will indicate to the pup that you want him/her to lay down on the floor.

You can also combine this hand signal with a verbal dog command. Another common name of this command is “Finger Point Down”.

Open Palm Facing Forward (Stand)

If you can command your canine to sit, there should be a signal to ask him/her to stand up. For teaching this dog command, your pup should either be sitting or lying down. If the pooch is in position, simply lure him/her by moving the treat from the nose to the forehead.

The palm of your hand should be open and must face in the forward direction (at the side of the hip). Then, pull it back with a sharp motion to complete the signal.

Sway Your Palm Towards You (Come)

man on yellow background using hand signal for come to me

You can also use a hand signal to call your furry companion towards you. Start the dog command by extending your opened hand at your side (or chest) with your palm facing forward. After that, move it towards your opposite shoulder in a diagonal motion.

This hand signal is also known as “Hand Diagonally Across Chest”. Labrador Training HQ considers it a must-use command if your dog is off-leash in a public area.

Open Hand Palm Outward (Stay)

Man using hand signal for border collie to stay on white background

This non-verbal command is particularly useful for keeping your canines safe because it teaches them to stay. The importance of this dog command increases many times if your pup accompanies you in busy streets for daily shopping.

For teaching this hand signal, raise your hand and hold your palm. The palm should be facing outward from your chest and downward at your dog. Give your dog a treat every time he/she stays at your hand signal. Both auditory command and hand signals can be used for this training.

Tap Your Hip (Heel)

Jack Russell Terrier heeling at persons side in a grassy field

This dog command is used to lure your canine buddy to walk next to you. Usually, the pooch walks on the left side of the owner. Even if he/she is is coming from the front, you have to persuade him/her to go around from right to left. This can be done by signaling your dog with a little tap from your hand near your hip. You can also use circular a motion near your hip to call the dog to your desired side.

Palms Out (Free)

Young woman with both hands up with palms facing forward signaling "Free"

This hand signal is taught when you are done with all the training and want to set your dog free. It can be done by taking both hands up at shoulder level and palms-out. It means that the dog can relax and enjoy.

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Please note: This post is not meant to prevent, treat or, cure any ailment or disease. We are not veterinarians and you use our advice at your own discretion. We always recommend that you consult your veterinarian whenever you have health-related conditions your furbaby is facing. With that in mind, as pet parents ourselves, we wish nothing but the best for your pet and their healthy and happy lives.