Oct 9, 2012

Communicating with Dogs

Awaiting directions...
Dozer is my buddy, and when he came to live with me, I had to learn a new way to communicate with him because he is deaf. Fortunately, his foster family was kind enough to share the hand signals they used to communicate with him. But I noticed something when Mickey Finn came to live with us and he can hear. I use verbal commands AND the hand signals for them. What I noticed is that using the hand signals forced Mickey to react better, especially when walking both of them together. Since he learned the signs, sometimes I don't even have to use the verbal, but he responds the right way, because he visually checks in with me every few minutes.

Think about it, dogs react to visual stimulation in addition to verbal commands. To strengthen a proper response, combine the verbal with motion with your hand. The more motion, the more they pay attention. Make up your own signs or use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate better with your dogs. I use the signals that Dozer already knows, some ASL, and even some of the roller derby ref signals to issue a command or make a comment to them. Here are the basic ones that I use to better talk with them.

Sharing a Feeling:
Good Dog - the "thumbs up" like Fonzie did on Happy Days.
Bad Dog - the "thumbs down" action, the opposite of Good Dog.
I love you - the ASL sign for "I love you."
You make me happy - point at them, yourself, then the ASL for smile.
You make me sad/frustrated - point at them, yourself, then the ASL for frown.

Sit - I point down, and move my hand up and down at least 3 times.
Lay Down - flat hand, horizontal, and raise and lower my arm at least 3 times.
Stay - vertical hand in the traditional "DO NOT CROSS" position at a crosswalk.
Come - vertical hand, palm facing you, arm moving back & forth (pulling something to you).
Get back together - from roller derby, the "pack is here" signal.
Go away - Roller derby "return to the bench" when cleaning up after them, & they are bothering you.

Ready to eat - hand positioned as if it is holding a sandwich, tap your lips at least 3 times.
Want to go for a walk - 1st 2 fingers extended, hand horizontal, simulating a person walking.
Want to go potty - make a "toilet bowl" with one hand, and poke it with a finger on the other hand.

I have a LOT more signals that I use with my dogs, so ask if your interested in some other suggestions. But the key is that dogs DO respond fairly well to verbal commands, but they respond even better when you combine a hand sign (with some motion) with it. It forces them to check in with you every few minutes on a walk, and when they can't hear you, at least they learn the action command that you are issuing them... Good luck with your puppy... Make sure you hug them at least 3 times per day...

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