Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hand signals

If you don’t think you talk with your hands, I challenge you to tie them together, strap them down to your body and try carrying on an animated conversation.
I’m more than willing to bet your hands will struggle against their restraints, dying to throw themselves around with the ebb and flow of your voice.
We all do it. It’s OK. It’s not like we’re in a public speaking class.
Dogs naturally communicate more through body language than they do vocalizations or anything else, so you can bet they’ve got their eyes fixed on those hot little hands of yours.
They watch ‘em like a hawk, and they can probably tell things about what your next action is going to be or what you want from them based solely on what your hands do.
It would be amazing if dogs could somehow evaluate us.
“Before you walk out the door, you stick your hand in your coat pocket and jiggle your keys,” Sensi would tell me. “And you want to be left alone when you bite your nails.”
Dog owners put so much emphasis on having their dog respond to vocal commands, and I was no exception.
That is, until I read that when training, dogs usually learn first to associate the desired action with a hand signal. The hand signal later becomes associated with the vocal command.
Either way, it doesn’t really matter. You still throw out that hand signal with the vocal command and don’t even notice it.
Think about the “sit” command. You naturally hold your hand in a fist above the dog’s head, the dog naturally sits so he can get a better look at it. The hand signal then becomes that motion of putting your hand, with a closed fist, above his head.
For fun, do the routine of commands with your dog, but pay special attention to what your hands are doing.
Then try the routine with hand signals only.
The cool thing about hand signals? I can tell my dog what to do without even opening my mouth. It makes people think he can read my mind. Ha!

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