Hand Signals


Well-Known Member

I've posted another thread regarding resource guarding and in respect of this, I need my son to be able to build up more respect from our dog. To do that, it's important that he can work on as many aspects of his training as possible.

The problem is, my son has multiple learning difficulties and doesn't speak. He uses hand signals when training Alfie but I'm running out of signals. All the basic commands (sit, down, stand, stay etc) are fine, as are a few tricks (spin, stand on back legs, shake hands, high five) but as we're becoming more advanced, it's difficult to think up signals that are easy to use and recognise.

For example. We use pointing to the right leg for him to go 'figure of eight' starting on the right and point to the left leg for him to go the opposite way. Now I'm stumped for a signal for the finish after a stay and return. I'm also teaching him to shut the door, and can't think of a signal for that, either. And the toys are a huge problem because he can differentiate between several of them by verbal command but how on earth do people come up with signals for each of them?

If anybody has any ideas for hand signals that we could use, please, please post them. My son really needs to be able to work with Alfie, too.

Adrianna & Calvin

Experienced Member
Hi Dioritt.

Both Sara (moderator) and I have deaf dogs who are also visually impaired, so we feel your pain re: hand signs! For 'finish' (go around my back from R to L, sit at L heel) I use my arm straight down along my side, wrist turned up so palm is parallel to the ground, sort of looks like an L. For 'place' (swing around and sit at L heel) I do the same with my left arm.

I haven't taught Calvin to close a door, but if you want him to do it from a distance (I'd just tap the door if I were close), what about using one of the ASL (American Sign Language) signs? When looking for new signs, I usually go to ASL online dictionaries first:

If your dog sees well, you have a much wider choice of signs. For my dog, whose distance vision is poor, I might try something over obvious like having one open, flat hand up, and bringing the other flat hand to meet it.


Well-Known Member
Oh, thanks a million. I didn't think of using proper sign language. We're in Britain so I'll look for a British Sign Language site (if not, the American one will do nicely). I shall use your signal for the 'finish' as that definitely makes sense.

Paul will be thrilled to be able to become involved in more training sessions and I'm sure it'll help with the respect problem, too. Thank you again :)


Honored Member
Thank you both, I too run out of ideas for just hand cues, so this is really helpful. Never thought of using the human signage.

Sincerely hope your son does progress with training Alfie:)


Well-Known Member
I found a list for British Sign Language. Not all the words I need are listed but it doesn't matter - I'll just pick ones from the list even if they're not right. It's certainly given me lots of ideas for signs to use. Thank you again :)


Experienced Member
How about some signals with feet or legs? For Sundog's hike trick, I lift my leg as if I'm hiking. That would give more options. And how about signals with the head? You could get at least a couple with nodding, no, tilting, etc.... Are there other body parts you can use? An elbow lifted, a sideways lean, an open mouth?

After you've got a few tricks, it does get harder to find new verbal and physical cues.


Staff member
I never got into ASL signs or anything with my deafies, as they are mostly 2 handed and it's too hard to manage leash, treats, light clicker, and use a 2 handed sign LOL. But many people look at the ASL sign then modify it into a one handed sign.

Mouse cannot see well enough for me to be able to use anything subtle, so after I ran out of big, very different signs, we began using objects to "cue" a trick (Ie she nods "yes" when I put a dog food can infront of her :) ). It definitely works!


Well-Known Member
So many great responses. Thanks, everybody. I love the idea of using legs, head etc. At this rate it'll be verbal cues we run out of rather than physical ones. This is undoubtedly going to help Alfie build a better bond with Paul, when they can go through all of the routines together :-)