To most dogs hand signals are fun. On your part as the trainer, they are quite easy to teach. What you need to be successful in this is a few awesome food treats for your dog. As to how you can go about the whole process, begin with these simple methods:
First item on your to-do list is to condition your dog to associate a specific command with a specific gesture. (Below you will see tips on how to go about this). Once you get your dog to make this association, having them respond to your hand signal consistently boils down to patient repetition.
Once you have successfully made your dog, let’s say, sit, as a response to your verbal signal for sitting, next on your to-do list is to condition your dog into making a new association, this time between a hand signal unknown to them and the verbal signal and physical response that he has already learned. This is simply done by pairing your verbal and hand signals (guidelines below). Should your dog correctly perform your desired action, quickly give them a kibble to reinforce their good job. To instill this to your dog, once again, repetition is essential. Be patient and do this conditioning as many times as possible.
Once your dog has gotten used to pairing of verbal and hand signals, start to gradually diminish your use of the former. Reinforce correct responses with a kibble, of course.
As soon as your dog has learned to rely solely on your hand gestures, start gradually diminishing the treat you give for every correct response. Do this until such time when food reward is totally taken out of the equation, and your dog still rightly responds to your silent hand signals.
Here are basic tips on how to teach your dog follow hand signals:
Begin by standing in front of your dog. Hold a piece of food treat between your fingers, and slowly raise it up as if you are about to toss it over your dog’s shoulder. Slowly bring the treat close to your dog’s nose, and then past and over it. This will lead your dog to follow the treat by turning his nose up. While your dog follows your fingers with the kibble, say “sit”. If they respond correctly, give them the treat and encouraging praises.
Begin by standing in front of your sitting dog. Hold a food treat between your fingers, way up your head. Slowly bring your arm down until your fingers, and the food treat, are close to your dog’s nose. Bring your fingers way down, past your dog’s nose. Soon as your dog’s head follows and sniffs the treat in you fingers, say “down”. If your dog responds as signalled, praise them and give them the treat.
Begin by standing in front of your dog. Hold a food treat between your fingers. Keep your arm raised straight and forward. Slowly retract your arm close to your chest until your fingers reach your opposite shoulder. Say “come” while you do this. When your dog follows your command, give them their much deserved-treat and, yes, a loving praise or two.