I recently read an article about learning to communicate with your dog using sign language. Sign language is no longer just for service dogs.

I thought to myself what a great thing it would be if I didn’t have to always guess what my dog wanted when she’s staring at me like I should already know!

If she could use paw and body signals to let me  know what was bothering her or what’s on her mind and whether she’s happy or sad; what a huge help that would be in caring for her. I mean “Boo” (our neighbor dog) taps the bells on the door when she needs to go out and do her business.  That alone tells you just how much most of us DO NOT utilize our own companion animals.

Although I have a clear understanding of canine body language and I communicate with my dog’s pretty well already, I now realize that there’s plenty of room for improvement.  🙂

Examples of Same Old, Same Old Commands

In the past, I’ve written about how smart dogs are. But, when you add sign language into the equation; all I can say is wow! Although dog’s are extremely intelligent, I think that most dog owners just don’t test their dog’s abilities and are pretty happy with the basics like:

  • give me paw
  • lay down
  • play dead
  • sit pretty, etc.

I think that by not challenging our dog’s abilities, we are doing our canine friends a serious injustice. Here’s a video of a dog who understands his owner’s signs:

 Expanding Your Dog’s Communication Skills

Here’s an example of just a few (and I mean a few) of what dog’s can be taught using different gestures.

  1. Play
  2. Alert
  3. Toy
  4. Food
  5. Hug
  6. Phone
  7. Calm
  8. Keys
  9. Pray

The above are some of the most common forms taught using sign language for dogs, but the really cool thing is that you can customize the language to fit both dog and owner’s needs. Sign language is also being taught to horses and cats!

Because I’m so passionate about animals, I get really offended when I hear or read the term “dumb” associated with any animal.

They just speak a different language, nothing more. Lets all start to challenge our dogs and break through that language barrier a little more. Plus, by teaching your dog new things, you stimulate the brain which helps with cognitive issues (doggy Alzheimers).

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Showing 9 comments
  • Tina M Duke

    is there any pic to show me how to talk with my hand to my dog if so wear do i look at

  • Tina M Duke

    i have a service dog an i want to teach her sign language i cant talk now so i must know more how to do it can someone teach me

    • admin

      Hi Tina:
      I think the best place for you to look would be over at http://www.animalsign.org. They cover this topic thoroughly.

  • The Pet Care Guy

    Training your dogs in sign language is all about conditioning. We all know this works with dogs (i.e. Pavlov’s dog). Give them the sign, followed by the activity or action you want to associate with this sign, and repeat over and over. Dogs, and other animals, are smart. They are still smarter than we can imagine, even as we continue to learn more and more about our animal friends. That’s why I love them.


  • Audrey Stowers

    You know what? Roxy actually understands words.

    I have even changed the tone of them or turned my back to her when saying the same things, and it had the same results. When I ask her if she’s hungry, she responds, when we are in a different room of the house, and she is smacking her lips like she’s thirsty, I tell her to go get some water and stop smackin her lips like an old granny and she goes to the kitchen to drink, EVERY TIME!! When I ask her, “Where’s daddy?”, she gets all excited and starts whining and then when she sees him from a distance, I have to let the window down so she can howl and bark for him. I promise you, she knows us from a mile away…lol.

    Treat of course is a well known word. Come up, kissy kissy (she licks me in the face), belly belly, and soooo many more. In the morning when she has to go potty, she does this yawning routine. If I don’t respond right away, she licks my face and plops herself down on my chest, staring at me until I get up. Sometimes even panting really loudly to get my attention. When we were at home and she was sick, and I didn’t know it, she came to my side of the bed, stood up on her hind legs, and patted my hand to let me know its urgent and I need to respond right now.

    Also, when she’s offended by something, she will sit there, squint her eyes and stare at me for a long time. And I did not know dogs could be vain. I’m not allowed to look at Roxy while she is pooping. She will stop the whole process, stare back at me until I stop looking, and when I turn my back to her, she continues doing her business. She’s also pretty slick. When I tell her not to do something or to come here, she protestively squats to pee, even though she doesn’t even have to anymore.

    Long story short, if you spend enough time with your dog, you will both develop sign languages to let each other know what you want. She reads me like I read her. I have never laid a hand on Roxy, but she knows when I’m not pleased with her actions, like when she got in the trash can and shredded everything while we were gone. All I had to do was point my finger at her, tell her bad girl and what a stinker she was, and no no no. She becomes really submissive, and talks back to me. This gurgling and howling comes out of her and that only happens when she talks back.

    It’s incredible actually, because she has so many different sounds for different things and I know them all.

    Please let me know if any of you have a vain dog out there…lol!! I’d like to know if mine is the only one that hides behind a bush to poop so I can’t see her. 😮

    • admin

      I wish I could say that my dog’s are vain Audrey, but not really. They do their business when I’m looking or not. Come to think of it though, they do give me a funny look when I watch them. Privacy is important to doggies too I think. I never really thought much about it until your post here.

      I knew Roxy was smart, but I had no idea she was this smart! I love what you said about her “getting offended” – I know that one all too well. My old girl “Lulu” that passed away last year was extremely emotional and if I would raise my voice at her, OMG, the looks!!

      Your old girl has a great life with a good mommy and daddy!!

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