Dog Training and Dog Care advice from UK Professionals

Dog Training Hand Signals

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Dog Training Hand SignalsEvery single one of us has sub-conscious movements, behavioural quirks and habits which are part of our character and physical demeanour. Unfortunately, you can't explain this to a dog and this causes many people problems with their dog training.

I have lost count of how many times I have seen a dog at a class or in a controlled or competitive environment behave excellently for their owner, doing exactly what they are told and doing so immediately without fault, but then the same dog may often behave VERY differently when on a walk or in a more relaxed environment.

Everyone who i meet who experience this with their own dog make a habit of blaming the dog for this, as if the dog knows it must perform in a certain situation but not in others or at home. This is ridiculous and completely unfounded. The difference is not in the dog's mind, but in the OWNER'S mind. The OWNER behaves differently in the two types of situation, feeling much more focussed and concentrating much harder in a controlled environment (especially when their nasty dog trainer is watching them with a magnifying glass!) as opposed to being completely relaxed and much less diligent on a normal every day dog walk in the local park or in the garden at home. It is this difference which the dog picks up on, and it is this reason which causes the dog's behaviour and reactions to differ in the two scenarios.

One of the biggest reasons for this is hand signals and body posture, as well as a multitude of other, often totally sub-conscious actions by the handler or dog owner. I very rarely see someone tell their dog to "DOWN" without pointing a finger at the ground. I hardly ever see someone call their dog to them without patting their thigh like a tambourinist from a jazz band! All of these types of physical actions are SIGNALS to a dog, and signals which all dogs read with more importance than that foreign word which comes from your mouth. Remember, dogs communicate by mostly visible signals, tails up or down, hackles, ears, postures and positioning of their bodies etcetera. So it goes without saying that any physical behaviour from you will readily be accepted by your dog as part and parcel of any command you are giving when this behaviour is seen by the dog.

A good test of this is to ask a friend to film you giving commands to your dog in the park, and watch it back later. Most people are amazed at how many quirky little things they do with their hands, head, arms, feet, and even just their eyes when giving commands to their dogs. This is why in a show ring or at a class of some kind, people usually get a better obedience level from their dog as their own behaviour is much more disciplined and they are thinking MUCH more about their own actions.

Try to remain completely STILL when you give commands to your dog. For at least 90% of people, after reading this if you put yourself to the test and try your commands with your dog with your hands tied behind your back and your head and neck in a brace collar, you will be horrified to see just how very little your dog truly understands from the words you say to him. In my view, at LEAST 80% is caused by other factors, whether its a tilt of the head, a turn of the body, a hand gesture, or even a glare or blink at the exact same second each time.

Once you shock yourself with this new found area which is missing in your dog's mental understanding of the commands you thought he knew, you will need to start over with many commands, and at the very least cover them all again with treats etcetera, just to tune him into the words more than your actions.

Finally, a handy hint which i find extremely useful and which has helped many people i have suggested this to in the past.... Get a STEEL camping type mirror from a camping or outdoors supply shop. Tell your dog to sit,stay and then turn your back on him and look in the mirror to view your dog over your shoulder. He won't be able to see your face and this will show you just how immensely important your FACE is to your dog when he hears a command. Many dogs will not be able to do one single thing with your back turned. Others will do the required things, but will be highly stressed and less accurate at obeying the commands. There you go, a whole new area of training to enjoy! More importantly, once you master this, you will find that you can tell your dog to Sit from the comfort of your own bed, and even though the dog is out of sight, downstairs maybe, he will often sit perfectly even though he can't see you, purely because you have taught him the most important thing is your VOICE and the words which are carried on it, rather than all the other subtle signals he has no doubt learned to rely on.


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Choosing Commands
Distant Sit
Hand Signals
How To Give Your Dog Commands
Recall - Old Vs New Methods
Using Your Dog's Name

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