Are Voice Commands or Hand Signals more Effective for Dogs?


‘Voice commands’ or ‘Hand signals’ are the most important signs to communicate your feelings with your dogs. Many people have succeeded in their skills of communication with their dogs, either by a world of movement actions and vibrations or voice commands. Both voice commands and hand signals are essential to communicate or train your dogs. Because, when you start to separate the voice and hand signals, some dogs are better with one than the other. Mainly, the communicative way will differ from dog to dog and command to command. Some dogs easily understand the body language of humans and some will understand the voice commands. Moreover, it will be based on their understanding ability and training methods.

Moving to Voice Commands or Hand Signals?

Choosing between ‘Voice Commands’ or ‘Hand Signals’ will be your personal choice to communicate with your dogs or train them. Most of the dog trainers have teached their students with a desired cuing method. Those wishing to contest AKC (American Kennel Club, which provides information and coverage of all accepted dog breeds) obedience, they usually choose Hand Signals, but some of us use voice commands in the loop from time to time. But, only one signal will produce a more dependable response from the dogs.

DR. D’ Aniello Research

Dr. D’ Aniello is a great lecturer in the Biology Department at the Naples University, as well as a dog trainer. One day, he was teaching in his class, he rushed to help his student and anxiously gave his dog the SIT (Stress Inoculation Training) Voice Commands while to  nod a DOWN. His dog responded to the hand Signal. DR. D’ Aniello made this small act to survey the prospect that Hand Signals were more dependable nod than Voice Commands.

To test their suggestion, a team tested a dog’s dependable response, whether to Voice Commands or Hand Signals. And then they tried it by giving a mixed signal. They choose 25 dogs and highly equipped Golden Retrievers labs and their handlers from the Italian SICS (School of Water Rescue Dogs) where D’ Aniello works as a trainer. He explained that they did it, because all the dogs have received the same training methods.

To start the test, they gave a pre-test to each dog by giving signals such as SIT, STAY, LIE DOWN, and COME. If they responded to both the Voice Commands and Hand Signals for each of these signals, they further continue the real tests.

Dr. D’ Aniello 3 Phases of the test

Phase 1:

In phase 1, stage 4 basic commands are given only by using hand Signals without Voice Commands.

Phase 2:

In Phase 2, stage 4 commands were given using Voice only.  The one who gives commands were asked to take a neutral pose, with arms hanging down beside the body and the head focussed forward.

Phase 3:

In Phase 3, 4 commands were given with dissimilar information’s.

  • The vocal command LAY DOWN was connected with the Hand Signal indicating SIT.
  • The vocal command SIT was connected to the Hand Signal indicating LAY DOWN.
  • The vocal command COME HERE was connected with the HAND SIGNAL indicating STAY.
  • The verbal command STAY was connected with the Hand Signal indicating COME HERE.
  • Vocal commands and verbal commands were given concurrently to the dogs.

Result for the Test

What they found was that, the dogs actually had followed the Hand Signals over the Voice Commands in the case of the Vocal signal COME. Fascinatingly, evaluating Voice Commands and Hand Signals, female dogs were properly responding to the Hand Signals than vocal commands, whereas, male dogs did not show any liking.

Dogs were equally habituated for responding to both Voice Commands and Hand Signals, but the above test supports the evidence that the ‘hand signals’ or a ‘body language’ plays a major role than the ‘voice commands’; it is the most important communication channel for one to communicate with the dogs.

Dr. D’ Aniello explains that body language or hand signals are more important for the dogs, much more than our speaking language. And he says, mostly dogs use body language to speak with us. So, it only makes intelligence to use our bodies while we speak with our dogs.

About Hand Signals

Hand Signals are one of the sign languages. You can use your hands to signal your dogs that, what you what him to do, such as: sit, lie down, handshake, etc. There are few hand signals, which are familiarly used by the dog trainers. But, you can also use your own body language or signals to train or communicate with your dogs.

Hand Signals For dogs

Open Hand Down

This signal is considered as one of the universal signals for sit. Dogs easily learn this sign, because it is a pretty natural movement, that everyone learns quickly, especially dogs easily understood it.

Finger Pointing

This action is more useful method for training deaf dogs. If you expect that your dog has to go somewhere according to your order or to catch something, then simply use this action to give an instruction or to communicate with them to do accordingly.

Thumb Up

You can use thumbs up sign to mean ‘yes’ or ‘good’. Since they can’t listen to the clicker, this can be a big way to mark, when your dog does somewhat correct.

Okay Sign

This sign is yet another sign of ‘yes’ or ‘good’ reaction. Having positive facial expressions helps your dogs to understand that you are in a happy mood.

Hand Flat Out

This sign helps to teach your dogs to ‘stop’ or ‘freeze’. But you can’t use this single action for both signs. So, decide in the beginning of the training itself and stay with that decision forever. If you try to direct the meaning later, then you will really confuse your dogs a lot.

Reasons to teach Hand Signals for Dogs

  • Some dogs were deaf.
  • They easily learn your body language.
  • You want to finely signal your dog.
  • Sometimes you required a quiet or silent environment to work with your dog.
  • Helps to protect them from any dangerous situations.
  • Easy to teach and they quickly respond to it.

Now, everyone knows the truth that dogs were accustomed to Hand Signals and is more accepted to obey it rather than the Voice Commands. While it’s questionable, which training method is better, either Verbal or vocal commands, there is no doubt, via Hand Signals makes you a more versatile trainer.


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