Hand Signals for Dogs: Your Ultimate Guide

Lily Nimchuk
Updated on

How to Use Dog Hand Command to Improve Your Dog's Behavior

Dog hand signals are an indispensable part of dog training for dog owners and professional trainers. Verbal cues certainly play a huge role in communicating with dogs. Their language understanding is limited compared to their ability to read nonverbal cues and body language. This is where hand signals become a powerful tool for dog trainers.

Dog hand commands provide a clear and consistent means of communicating with your dog, regardless of the noise level or distractions in the environment. They let you give commands without paying extra attention to yourself, which is handy in public areas.

This guide gives you valuable tips and tricks for dog training hand signals. To enhance your dog training, we’d recommend downloading the Woofz app. This innovative tool provides you with online and offline access to lessons, making it easy to train your doggo at any time, whether at home or on the go.

How to teach dog hand signals the right way

Teaching your furry friend how to respond to your hand signals is among the most essential things you should teach it. Dogs are highly intuitive creatures and can learn to associate specific hand gestures with particular behaviors quickly. Nevertheless, it takes time, patience, and consistency to succeed.

  • The first thing you need to do is decide on the type of dog commands. And the list of dog commands and hand signals is quite extensive. Once you have chosen the signals, it's time to practice. Interesting fact: did you know many hand signals are based on American Sign Language?
  • Consistency is critical. Dogs learn through repetition, so using the same hand gestures whenever you ask your dog to perform a behavior is essential. For example, if you use a closed fist to signal "sit," stick with that gesture whenever you ask your dog to sit. This consistency will help your dog learn the association between the hand signal and the desired behavior.
  • Linking the signal with the behavior is the next step. Start using the signal before you ask your dog to perform the behavior. If you're using luring to teach a behavior to the dog, you can gradually change the luring motion to look more and more similar to the hand signal. For example, use the "stay" hand signal and the verbal command "stay." Eventually, your dog will start to anticipate the command based on the hand signal alone. Once your dog consistently responds to the hand signal, you can start to phase out the verbal command.
  • Positive reinforcement is another thing on your to-do list. Dogs respond best to praise and rewards, so shower your furry friend with plenty of both when they react correctly to a hand signal. You can use treats, praise, and toys to reinforce your desired behavior. Remember to keep training sessions short and fun, and always end on a positive note.

Basic dog hand signals

Here are some of the essential dog hand signals that every dog owner should know:


Dog hand signal for sit is among the most popular hand commands for dog training. With your palm facing up, raise your hand above your dog's head and slowly move it backward. This gesture signals your dog to sit.


With your palm facing down, move your hand to the ground in a sweeping motion. This signal indicates your dog to lie down.


Hold your palm out, facing your dog, and say "stay" while taking a step back. This signal tells your dog to remain in its current position.


Hold your hand out, palm facing your dog, and firmly say "no." This gesture warns your dog to stop what they're doing.


Hold your hand at your side, with your palm facing your leg. This signal prompts your dog to walk alongside you.


Open your arms wide and say, "come." This signal invites your dog to come to you.


Hold your hand out, palm facing your dog, and say, "stand." This signal prompts your dog to stand on all fours.


Point your finger at your dog and say "bang" or “boom.” This gesture prompts your dog to lie down on its side.

Drop it

Play with your pup so that they grab the toy with their teeth. Next, stop playing the game and say, “drop it.” Or show them another toy or a treat and they'll likely drop if your dog doesn’t do that within a few seconds upon stopping the game.

Look at me

Call your pup’s name. Once you have their undivided attention and they look at you, praise and give a treat by pulling your hand with the treat to your chest. Wait till your doggo looks at you intently. Repeat this 10-20 times daily until the achieved result.


Hold your index finger to your lips, shushing your dog. This signal lets your dog know to stop barking or making noise.

Leave it

Hold your hand out, palm facing your dog, and say, "leave it." This gesture signals your dog to leave whatever they're interested in alone.

By using these dog hand signals, you can communicate more effectively with your furry friend, making training and day-to-day interactions smoother and more enjoyable.

Tips for effective use of dog hand signals

Make sure the dog is looking at you

Ensure your doggo is paying attention and looking at you when you’re about to give a hand signal. Otherwise, they’ll get distracted and miss the signal.

Use clear and consistent signals

Be sure to use the same dog hand signal for a particular situation and behavior each time.

Use appropriate timing

Your signal should come at the exact moment that you want your dog to perform a behavior. Otherwise, they might need extra clarification about what you are asking of them.

Avoid confusing or contradictory signals

Avoid confusing or contradictory signals. If you use the same hand signal for two different behaviors, your dog may get confused and not sure of what you want them to do. Similarly, if you use conflicting signals, such as a hand motion for "come," indicating playtime, your dog may not take you seriously when you want them to come to you.

It’s a Wrap

Teaching your doggo hand signals is an incredibly useful tool that smoothes the communication between you and your friend. These visual cues help out when verbal commands might not be heard or confuse your dog, such as in noisy environments or from a distance. Don’t hesitate to teach your pooch the commands. It's not only handy but fun!

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Written by

Lily Nimchuk

Dog lover with dream to create first truly dog-centric app

Reviewed by

Frederica Caneiro

Certified dog trainer, exclusive positive reinforcement methods & tackling aggression problems.