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10 Basic Dog Training Hand Signals, & How to Use Them (With Infographic)

Written by: Dr. Paola Cuevas MVZ (Vet)

Last Updated on May 10, 2024 by Dogster Team

dog trainer doing hand signal to a dachshund dog

10 Basic Dog Training Hand Signals, & How to Use Them (With Infographic)


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

Training your dog can be both a rewarding and complex process. Each dog will be completely different in the way that they interact and respond to your training plan. With the exception of blind or visually impaired dogs, every dog is capable of learning hand signals or cues. Hand signals are a created language used to communicate with your dog what exactly is expected from them. They help dogs to discriminate the exact behavior that they can offer between their repertoire.

Utilizing hand signals can be very beneficial, and it creates room for your pup to grow their knowledge. If you’ve already had a little training experience, you might want to take it to the next level.
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What Are Hand Signals for Dogs?

If you think about it, dogs don’t speak English or any other language. They communicate through a limited portion of vocalizations and body language. So it’s no surprise that they can be extremely receptive to different types of training that require no voice. In fact, dogs can respond to visual cues, auditory cues, tactile cues, and olfactory cues. Dogs can make sense of hand signals with impressive accuracy. So, you can see how beneficial it could be if your dog were to learn.

dog training
Image Credit: Luca Nichetti, Shutterstock

Why Should You Use Training Signals for Dogs?

Hand signals are fantastic, as they give your dog a clear guideline. But that’s not the main reason why they can be so useful. They are another tool for you as well! The bottom line is that you’re going to want your dog to listen to you even in times of distraction. If you’re in a very noisy environment, and your dog understands hand signals, they can respond to what you want them to do without relying on your voice. It might take them a minute to master the distractions, but it is a much better way to get them to do what you want them to do in any given situation.

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The 10 Common Hand Signals for Dogs

In reality, a dog can learn any signal that you want to perform any behavior that you decided it should mean. Something of crucial importance here is to choose the meaning of the signal and stick to it; otherwise, it will only create confusion and frustration for you and your dog.

This is the main value of learning already “set hand signals.” Many signals have been standardized or popularized to elicit specific behaviors. We’re going to learn the most common hand signals for dogs. Keep in mind that this is a very basic list and you can get much more advanced with your dog depending on how intense your training is.

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1. Sit

For a simple set command, hold out your palm facing up in front of your body and raise your hand towards your shoulder.

2. Wait

Hold out your hand that is roughly the height of your waist with your palm facing forward in front of you.

3. Lay Down

This is the opposite of sit. Put your hand with the palm facing out by your shoulder and sling your wrist down to signal the desired downward motion.

4. Roll Over

Basically, the hand sign for rollover is the motion you would do if you were explaining it to someone else. You simply extend one arm out, put your hand in front of you, and move your hand in a circular motion.

5. Come

Place your hand at your side with your palm facing up. Slowly take the arm and move it upward until it touches the opposite shoulder.

6. Stay

Make sure your dog is in the position you want them in. Then, hold out your hand with the palm facing away from your body and hold the position.

7. Up

This signal will tell your dog to lift their front paws and sit on their hind legs. Move an outstretched hand from the waist up to the shoulders with your palm facing out.

8. Spin

Hold your hand out in front of your dog’s face and move it in a circular motion by using a single finger.

9. Fetch

Start this command with your hand completely at your side. Raise your hand and point towards the object.

10. Crawl

This is identical to signaling them to lie down, only you will place your hand where you want them to crawl toward. dogster paw divider

How to Get Your Dog’s Attention

Dogs require consistency and patience. You will need a way to get your dog’s attention before giving them the signals. For some, they use their name. However, this can be confusing, and your dog might not associate it with training every time.

Good attention is the foundation of any training, and we can not overestimate the importance of reinforcing our dogs for providing it. At the beginning of your dog’s training journey, it is of crucial importance that if you notice your dog is calm and has their eyes and focus on you, then you reinforce this behavior so they will repeat in the future. And even if your dog is an advanced dog in their training, attention should continue to be reinforced, at least periodically, because it is crucial to maintain this attitude in order to make any progress in other areas.

Man training a Jack Russell Terrier dog to sit and wait
Image Credit: Wasitt Hemwarapornchai, Shutterstock

Opt for Professional Training

Not everyone is cut out for training their dogs. It’s a very complicated process and, honestly, quite frustrating for some. That’s why we have professional dog trainers on hand to help us when we can’t quite get it right. Most trainers suggest that you stick it out with your dog under their supervision. We agree that this helps you, as well as provides the opportunity to build or strengthen the relationship and learn how to properly handle them. Once the trainer isn’t around, it’ll be a much more seamless transition. Training can vary in cost depending on different rates and locations.
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Now you understand the concept of using hand signals to train your dog a little more. It can be a very rewarding process and can greatly benefit you and your dog’s relationship in the future. If you want to learn more advanced hand signals, we recommend going through all of the basics and mastering those first. If you’re having trouble with training, remember that you can always ask for professional trainer recommendations so that you can learn with your dog in a controlled setting.

Featured Image Credit: Masarik, Shutterstock

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