Hand Signals


New Member
Hand signals can be a little confusing, since there is no universal standard. Just like you can give your dog commands in various languages with completely different sounding words which mean the same thing, there are also variations in hand signals.

For example, the North American signal for sit is this:

But if you were to use this same signal for most dogs trained in Germany, they would think you want them to stand. In Germany, the hand signal for sit is to point your finger in the air, while curling the rest, like this:​

The man in the second photo is holding a treat between his thumb and third finger, which is how we lure our beginner dogs into a sit while showing the signal at the same time.

If you want to see the German video that I took these two shots from.

Does anyone else know of other commonly used variations of hand signals for basic commands? I'd be curious to know what else is being used.



New Member
I also point my finger in the air if I want Guus to sit. Then I made the mistake of using one signal for two different things. Pointing down was lie down but then I started using a down pointed finger if I wanted Guus to follow my hand. All of a sudden he wouldn't lie down on command anymore, he would touch my finger. It took a couple of days before I figured it out.

Other handsignals I give:

wait: holding my right arm to the side with palm towards dog.
go!: waving my hand forward
stay: hold up hand with with fingers closed and palm towards Guus
jump on something: tapping my hand on the object I want him to jump on

That's all I can think of at the moment. Does anybody right these things down for themselves? In the end you must have so many you might forget. Although I do find that most signals I make are unconsious in the beginning. Once I realize with hand signal I make I start to use them purposely.


New Member
A closed fist held up over the dog's head, kinda like what you use for "stay", is used by most German trainers to mean "speak" or "bark". It is one of Bonnie's favourite commands :doglaugh:

Jean Cote

Staff member
Nice article :)

I've trained my dogs:

Hand up in the air, palm facing the dog is down.

Swing circular motion from right to left to signal come.

Sit is just a hand up palm facing up.

... Just simple things


Well-Known Member
For 'speak', I open and close my fingers like a mouth.

For 'wait', I swing my hand/arm along the line that I don't want crossed.
'Stay' I just show a flat hand for a moment, at the dog's eye level from whatever position they are in.
'Sit' is the North American one shown above, but I fade it down to just a little finger-raise.
'Down' is the opposite of sit - palm down, fingers bend toward ground.
'Go' has two meanings - 1. head in 'that' direction a little bit, I do a little point with my finger, arm still at my side. 2. Run out in front of me until I tell you to stop, I use my arm up high and 'push' forward.
'Roll over' I 'roll' my hand a couple of times.
'Cover', I sort of salute with bent fingers.
I use my arms to show him what I want his front paws to do (he mirrors my movements) - we're still working on this one.
And oh so many more, lol...

I have a lot of hand/body signals, but most started as targeting/luring, or synchronizing, so they are pretty easy to keep track of for my own dog... it's when I work with other dogs that either have different signals or none at all that I get confused! For example, service dogs shouldn't learn hand signals (any targeting/luring should be faded out completely), becuase you never know if their future partner will be able to give signals - verbal needs to be solid. After the dog is matched, signals are easy for them to pick-up if the new handler want's to use them.


New Member
Xsara is incredibly responsive to hand signals, when we're working she responds to every finger I move. I use the Nort American signal for sit, but I don't know which signals are commonly used here - I mostly make up my own signals and commands. I can ask the instructors in our club about the common ones, if you're interested.


Experienced Member
I'm like Xsara, I use my own. They're the ones I'll always remember, because they come the most natural to me.


Honored Member
Staff member
These are the ones I use.
Sit--Hand in the air, palm facing dog
But if I am asking her to raise from a down to a sit, then a have my palm flat facing up, and raise it, as if I had a book on my hand and was raising it a few inches.
Down--Palm facing down, "pushing" the air down.
Spin--I start out having to trace a rather large circle with my finger, but I gradually decrease it until I'm just tracing a tiny circle with my pointer finger.
Wait--Usually they're at my left when I ask them to wait, so I have my hand dangling normally, but I turn my palm to them and give the verbal command.
Stay--the German signal for "sit" kind of
On my Left(DTA's lessons call this "Get In")--left pointer finger out in front of me, the move it back to my side. Like luring the dog to my side, except they know to turn around, sit, and look up at me when they get there.
Switch(sides)--Swinging whichever pointer finger around behind me and back to my side.
Roll Over--Fingertips towards the dog, rotating wrist in a "rolling" motion(a little circle)
Bang--A gun, of course. ^^
Weave--I don't exactly have one for this....not really. I give the initial command, and at the beginning of the weave I point with one finger on the opposite side where I want the dog to go through, and only repeat the signal when the dog needs it. (Mud's still working on this one, so occasionally she'll swing too far out or something.)
March--I only use the hand signal for this one, no verbal command. With my closed palm toward the inside, pointer finger extended, I point for whichever leg I want the dog to lift. Same signal Silvia Trkman and several other of her "students" use. :dogsmile:
Heel--Right arm across my stomach, palm facing the dog. Eventually I want to teach a Left side heel and a right side heel, so of course I would use the opposite arm for the right side heel. Why? Simply because I can. :doglaugh: Of course, you wouldn't use this in obedience, but ah well.
I like my dogs to respond to verbal alone, hand signals alone, and the two together. Normally I use both, but I make sure that they can respond to each type of cue independently as well. I think that's all of them...:dogblink:


New Member
With my older Labrador, I was very big on using hand signals. However, she was diagnosed with diabetes 2 years ago and has since lost a lot of her sight. Therefore, we're redoing some of her original training.


New Member
yoyopoodle;3932 said:
For 'speak', I open and close my fingers like a mouth.

'Go' has two meanings - 1. head in 'that' direction a little bit, I do a little point with my finger, arm still at my side. 2. Run out in front of me until I tell you to stop, I use my arm up high and 'push' forward.
How did you train this? I want to be able to signal what direction for my dog to run in and this seems like it is what you are doing..