Teaching Dogs Hand Commands

Friday, May 31, 2019 02:56:11 PM America/Los_Angeles

Want to impress your friends? Teach your dog hand commands and you will look like a master magician. It is easier than you think. Here are some tips about how to do this and have fun at the same time.

Teaching Hand Commands to Puppies

There are two approaches depending on the age of the dog. If the dog is a puppy, who is still learning housebreaking, then teaching hand commands goes along with teaching your puppy anything. It is an integral part of the training. Young dogs, like young children, are able to learn many new things. The most challenging part is to get their attention and help them focus on the task at hand.

Avoid Distractions

Puppies are easily distracted. If possible, have your training area as a place where there are few distractions. Some use a corner of their backyard that has fresh grass. Others use a room with the door closed. Some like to use a garage. Whatever training place you choose, use the same one every time for the best results. Make sure before you take a puppy into an area that it is clear of dangerous items, or they are put away high enough to be well out of reach.

Food Treats

Dog trainers use tiny pieces of nutritious and delicious kibble as a training tool. Dogs are food motivated. They can learn to do almost anything and will do their best if they get a tasty treat for the correct behavior. Be careful not to overfeed your dog. These treats are just as effective and better for the dog when they are very tiny.

Training Time

Training time is fun time. If possible, it needs to be scheduled and happen each day at the same time. It does not have to be a long amount of time each day. Even 15 minutes is enough. It should be as repetitive as possible to have the fastest results.

Make sure your dog has gone to the dog bathroom before your training time and schedule the training time at a different moment in the day when it is not feeding time. You want the dog to look forward to this as “treats” time and not be thinking only about its regular food.

dog training

First Hand Signals

Use the opportunity to go to the training area to teach a hand signal. Start by being excited about going for training and say aloud “It’s time!” then give the hand signal of your choice. A good response that you can create with this hand signal is when they head toward the designated training area or go get their leash.

The signal can be anything you choose, such as clapping hands together. It needs to be the same signal every time. After only a few successful attempts, you can stop saying “It’s time” and simply clap your hands. The dog will know exactly what to do.

This is the same with the basics of sit, stay, come, go dog potty, and roll over. When teaching a puppy, use the voice command along with the hand command. Then, after the puppy learns the trick, stop saying the voice command. The first time you see a dog respond to your hand command you will feel like the best dog trainer in the world!

Gentle Guidance and Random Method

When teaching a puppy anything for the first time, you may need to gently, physically help them to do the trick. For example, have the puppy on a lead and gently push their hindquarters down with a voice command of sit along with the hand signal using the free hand.

The random method is to help the puppy when it does something correctly on its own. You will be surprised by how many things they will try to get a treat. When they do the correct behavior by either figuring it out, with trial and error or by accident, reward them with the treat. Also, lavishly praise them with your happy feelings. Dogs respond to the love and excitement that they see in your attitude as much or more than food treats.

Teaching Hand Commands to an Adult Dog

If the adult dog already responds to voice commands; teaching hand commands is easy. If the adult dog is learning something for the first time, use the same methods as described above for puppies.

If the adult dog knows a trick already, simply add the hand command of your choice along with the voice command. Make sure your dog is paying attention to you and sees the hand command clearly. The dog must see what you are doing in order to respond to the hand signals.

For example, if your adult dog already knows how to sit, then one fun hand command to use for sit is a downward motion of one hand doing a finger snap at the same time. After a very short time of practicing this, your dog will sit at the snap of your fingers. That is magical power.

Advanced Signal Magic

It is not necessary to restrict yourself to hand commands. You can use any repetitive motion to achieve a magical effect. One of our friends taught her male pit bull dog to spin around when she puts on music and starts “twerking” (she bounces her behind up and down). This is hilarious!


Any dog can learn hand commands or other signals. For them and you, this training should be incredibly fun playtime. So, put down your mobile phone for 15 minutes and spend some quality time with your dog. If you cannot stand to be away from your phone for that long, then teach your dog to fetch it. Dogs love to play a game of “hide-and-seek” to find a phone. As a hand signal, you can use a hand placed next to your ear, the “call me” gesture, to teach them to do this. Above all, have fun.