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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm wondering if anyone can share experiences/knowledge about training a dog to respond consistently to hand signals.

My two daughters both have a severe communication disorder and aren't able to pronounce words consistently. They have computerized devices that 'speak' but our dog Nikki doesn't respond to the electronic voice. We use the standard signals for sit and down but I'm not sure about others like off, leave it, take it, settle, go to your kennel etc...
 

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Google for deaf dogs and their training, you will apply similar concepts. It's no big deal though, dogs read body language far better than verbal commands so you will have easy time implementing hand signals. You can cue strong hand clap :clap2: with "leave it" and cue dog's name with a whistle (to get his attention). There are some real nice looking super cool whistles you can get for your daughters.
 

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Mine are all trained for hand signals, and respond better than voice commands. For leave it, the clap is good, as they may not be looking at your children to see a silent command.

You can pick any hand signal you choose and add it during training, so whatever is easy for your kids and clear to the dog will work, so you can make your own. I think its great you want to train this way.
 

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I agree! My dog knows most of his behaviors by voice and gesture, and some gestures have two different meanings distinguished by location or context: Index finger up means Sit! or Bark once (or Quiet! as a shush gesture). I've been told that some service dogs for the hearing impaired can learn standard sign language.... unrelated, my dog can read lips for a limited number of cues. None of this is really as amazing as it sounds. I exposed my dog to my specific body language and helped him to adapt.

I'm positive that if you are consistent, choosing some common gestures, that you can teach your dog any non-vocal cues that you like.
 

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Pick a signal, use it consistently.

I train hand signals first and then I add voice commands. My dog responds to hand signals as well or better than voice commands for everything except "Come" which is a whistle (and which he needs a refresher on, stubborn boy)

If your dogs already know the commands, say the word and use the signal at the same time. Then fade out the word- start to give the hand signal only and reward for obedience. If they miss the hand signal, use the voice and signal at the same time and praise but no treat. Then hand signal only= treat.

anything where the dog is looking away from you requires either a sound or a strong vibration. Since the dog isn't deaf, a sound to get the attention and a hand signal for the command probably would work the best. A whistle or hand clap should work. Teach "look at me" for the sound and then follow with the command hand signal.
 

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Some things we learned about teaching signals for obedience training, tricks and free-style - which probably apply in general.

  1. Your dog must be paying attention to you for your signals to work. That may seem obvious, but for some dogs attention can wander very quickly and sometimes very subtly. So work on attention a lot.

  2. The more dynamic and even exaggerated a signal is, the more effective it is - especially at the beginning. As your dog learns, you can try toning them down if you want to, but at the beginning, keep them BIG.

  3. The more that a signal finishes near your face, the more effective it is. It doesn't necessarily have to start off there, but try to make it end there if at all possible. Of course, sometmes it just can't be done that way, but really make an effort in this regard.

  4. Work very close at the beginning- distance comes much later. And even after you have some distance, go back to close work for part of your sessions.

Hope this helps.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thank you!
We've been working on attention for a few weeks now and it's really made a difference in bonding and training in general. Nikki has only been a member of the household for about 6 weeks. Most of my time has been spent training the 5 year old how to behave with the dog...sometimes I think training dogs is easier than the kiddos :p

Last night in the backyard my older girl, Em, had Nikki doing a consistent short recall (going to get whistles asap as they will be way better than the current kiss-sound being used) and sit with hand signal. We also had her dropping her favorite ball into our hands while looking up at us, but with a verbal 'give' from me.

Since the girls already know ASL I think we'll go with that and modify as needed. I'm guessing that two step or more complex gestures aren't a good fit.
 

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Thank you!
We've been working on attention for a few weeks now and it's really made a difference in bonding and training in general. Nikki has only been a member of the household for about 6 weeks. Most of my time has been spent training the 5 year old how to behave with the dog...sometimes I think training dogs is easier than the kiddos :p

Last night in the backyard my older girl, Em, had Nikki doing a consistent short recall (going to get whistles asap as they will be way better than the current kiss-sound being used) and sit with hand signal. We also had her dropping her favorite ball into our hands while looking up at us, but with a verbal 'give' from me.

Since the girls already know ASL I think we'll go with that and modify as needed. I'm guessing that two step or more complex gestures aren't a good fit.
Awesome! Just as with word commands, short and sweet is best. So simple is better. Most people talk too much when training, repeat themselves, and the dog has to decipher through the chatter. So the girls will have an advantage when training :) just have them be consistent. Since they already know sign language, I agree its best to use their way to communicate. It's all foreign to the dog, so not confusing the girls by giving them new signs to remember should work great.
 

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i train my dog with words in combination with hand signals. she already "stays", and "lays down" only by handsignal. just because i always use them. works great!
 
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