Hunting Dogs and Hand Signals
Training a hunting dog with hand signals is very practical. This can be mixed with verbal commands, when you are initially training your dog, which will reinforce the hand gestures. Though hand signals can be successfully used as the only training method and is a way to train a deaf dog or one that can't hear well.
You can cue your dog to take a certain action using hand signals. There are several reasons that hand signals are better than using verbal commands with a hunting dog.
When you are hunting, your dog will many times be distanced from you. He might just take off running. Maybe you are in the field with him or on an agility course and he is too far away to hear a verbal command. If he is trained with hand signals, he will watch for your command. It is more probable he will see the hand gesture.
Hand signals are a way to tell the dog what action to take and be quiet. When dogs are worked up, they don't respond as well to verbal commands, but they do respond to visual signals. Their listening response is low, but their desire to watch is up. Dogs sometimes just ignore verbal commands but obey visual cues.
Focus is the basis of training your dog. When your dog is aware that he must look at you to see what you want him to do, then his focus is attuned to you more than if he is listening for the command. Watching for your command makes him less distracted. This makes training him easier to do. When you train your dog with hand signals be consistent. Use the same hand signal for a certain command at all times.
The reason dogs respond so well to hands signals or cues is that it is a type of body language. Dogs already communicate with other dogs through body language; your dog communicates with you through body language like showing his belly to say you are dominant or nudging your hand to get petted.
These are a few of the usual hand training commands.
- Stay: Stretch your hand out at shoulder height. Your palm should face out towards your dog. It looks like the signal given by a crossing guard for traffic to stop.
- Come: There are two ways to perform this hand command. Hold both arms out in front of you and next bring them in and touch your stomach. Or stretch one arm out parallel to the ground and then bring your arm inward and touch your opposite shoulder. Either method should be performed slowly until your dog has caught on to the signal. After that, you can do it quicker.
- Sit: Put your arm to your side with your fingers pointing towards the ground. Move your hand in an arch that goes across your dog's face and over his head. Hold a treat so that he will naturally follow the movement of your hand. This will cause him to naturally sit down.
- Down: This can be an exaggerated movement, if you like. Point your finger down or raise your hand up some first and point downward.
Remember to reinforce these hand signals with verbal commands at first.