Dogs do understand verbal and non-verbal language quickly, depending on what you tell them and how you tell them. Sign language is the best way to train deaf dogs. Even if your dog can hear properly, there is nothing wrong with teaching him using sign language as well. When he isn’t able to follow your verbal commands well, he will understand you well through sign language.
If you have been thinking of effective ways to teach your dog using sign language, the first tip you have to follow is to be simple. Always understand that your dog should feel comfortable with your gestures first for it to follow what you are saying. Therefore, you should always start with simple and easy to understand signs initially.
Here are some tips that can work well for you when you are trying to train your dog using sign language:
1. Start with very simple commands like sitting
As we already explained, you should always make your dog feel at ease by teaching simple things such as sit using your hand signs. If your dog can hear your verbal commands, for the first few days you can do your hand sign of sitting while you verbally spell out the command, “Sit.” After a week or so, you can stop your verbal communication and continue only with your hand signals.
If your dog is deaf, you can show your hand signal to sit. If he fails to understand, for the first few days, as soon as you show the gesture, you can pat him on his head and gently make him bend down for sitting or give him a slight nudge on his tail indicating him to lift up his body as soon as he spots your hand gesture. Every time he follows your gestures correctly, please remember to reward him with a treat to motivate him.
However, after the first few weeks, when your dog starts to follow all your commands in sign language successfully, you can reduce the treats slowly. You could give your dog a treat every 3rd or 4th time he follows your commands than every single time.
2. Teaching them to stay in their positions
While you may get your dog to obey your basic instructions, the real challenge is when you have to make him stay in a particular position for a long time. For this, you should first set a particular hand signal, which you will use if you want your dog to stay in a specific posture. Establish different hand signals for your pet to keep sitting, standing, walking or continuing to do whatever they are currently doing. For the first few weeks, you should be near your dog when he starts staying in his current position. This is because your dog feels safe when you are around him.
Once you have established a routine for your dog, you should slowly move away from him and stand in such a way that your back is facing him. Try doing the hand signals now and train your dogs to stay in their positions. When they know that they aren’t being watched by their masters, dogs tend to disobey the hand gestures. So, it could take a long time for you to set out a schedule for them.
3. Training your dog to come near you
Most of the dogs can be trained to understand the verbal command, “come here.” You can also train your dogs to understand this simple command by using sign language. You could make a simple gesture with your palm like you would do to anyone when calling them near you. You can show him that he needs to come near you whenever he sees this gesture. Give him a gift when he follows this instruction correctly every time.
Once he has mastered this basic command, he will learn the tricks of coming near whenever you show the hand signal, irrespective of the obstacles on his way. He will have an improved eye & limb coordination, thanks to which he will come to you eventually even if there are other dogs, kids or objects around the area.
4. Appreciate as much as possible
Sign language shouldn’t be used only for giving commands to your dog. You can use signs to appreciate him whenever he obeys your command. Thumbs- up signs or clapping hands or blowing a kiss are some signals that tell your dog that he has been at his best behavior. Your dog loves it when you appreciate him this way. Apart from treats and toys, it would help if you also give your dog these appreciative signs to motivate him.