Importance of Hand Signals

ImageFor about 3 days I have not had a voice. In the dog world this would be due to kennel cough, in the human world it was due to bronchitis.  For my human family members especially the kids this has proven very challenging.  Hand signals and gestures that I thought were clear were often misinterpreted leading to lots of frustration for everyone.  So I started thinking about how dogs feel when we are unclear to them with our hand signals and now I know to some extent how they feel.  Ironically my dogs were the only ones that clearly understood me and this is because they were all trained with both verbal commands and hand signals.  Numerous studies have shown that dogs especially herding breeds respond better to hand signals then to verbal commands.  That being said it is very important that we are very clear with our hand signals.  For example, I have seen very frustrated owners that tell me that their dog simply is not listening anymore.  When I ask them to show me what they are doing, 99% of the time I can catch something with their body language that is confusing their dog.  For example, an owner might point to the ground for a sit, but this time they are moving their finger.  Dogs pick up on that, and are trying to understand you.  It is so easy for us humans to make these mistakes because we are not as sensitive to body language as this week has demonstrated for me.  I encourage my clients to video tape what they are doing and watch it, 9 out of 10 times they will then catch the mistake and once corrected they are again communicating perfectly with their dog.  Remember our dogs want to please us, but sometimes we are just not clear in our communication with them.  Be patient.  Most importantly always teach your dog both verbal commands and hand signals so that you and your dog can be prepared for all situations.

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