The benefits of dog hand signals
Humans and their pets speak different languages. So how do we overcome this hurdle? With the language your dog understands best: body language.
It’s not that your pooch doesn’t understand a word you say. The average dog can understand 165 words, and the record is held by an American border collie named Chaser, who knows more than 1000 words.
So why use dog hand signals? Here are five reasons why hand signals beat verbal commands:
1. Your pup will respond better
Dogs respond even better to visual commands than verbal ones, a University of Naples study shows. Dogs in the study reacted correctly to 99% of hand signals, as opposed to 82% of the voice commands.
2. Dogs prefer visual cues
We’ve been selectively breeding dogs for years. This has had a remarkable effect on man’s best friend - your pooch is better able to read human gestures better than our close relative the chimpanzee.
When given conflicting commands in that Italian study, dogs far preferred to obey the visual ones. Because this is the kind of communication she’s drawn to, she’s likely to pay closer attention when you’re training her in this way.
3. When hearing becomes difficult
As sad as it seems, sooner or later, most dogs will lose their hearing. By teaching her to obey dog hand signals now, you make it easier for her to adapt to loss of hearing later on. You won’t have to teach and old dog new tricks.
4. The training is easier on your furry friend
Dogs just aren’t experts at interpreting human language, and some of them are better than others (think of Chaser the border collie who knows 1,000 words). When using her ‘own’ language ‒ something she innately reacts to ‒ you’ll make it easier on her to obey your commands.
5. It allows you to multitask
When you’re busy chatting to your friends or handing out canapes, you’re still able to give a subtle hand signal to your pooch, who’ll do as you say and not jump up on the nice lady’s cocktail dress, or steal food from the table.
Always keep things simple
There will, of course, always be situations when verbal commands work best, like when your pup has run around the corner and she can’t see you. The important thing is not to mix up the two ‒ use either a verbal or visual command at any one time, and she’ll never be confused about what you need her to do.