What is the hand signal?

Feb 27, 2023 | Dog language, Training methods

Reading Time: 3 minutes

A visit to South East Asia is a life-changing experience for most Europeans. The food, the culture, the people and the hustle is something which makes the vacation memorable. Mark was asked by his firm to work from their Phuket office for a year. Not knowing much of Thailand other than photos from Instagram, Mark was hesitant to move. But he shrugged off his fears and decided to dive in.

He researched the norms and studied the culture before flying to Phuket. Mark quickly adapted to how things work in Thailand. The only struggle Mark faced was crossing the streets. In Thailand, pedestrians do not have the right to cross roads. The vehicles do not stop and wait until you have crossed. Unaware about this, Mark often found himself waiting for someone to assist him.

A kind old man once saw Mark’s anxiety and quickly told him how to cross. One of the key movements was to raise his hand and show it to the vehicles.

Within a few weeks, Mark could cross the street without much worry. The hand signal made his life easier and safer.

The Hand Signal

The hand signal is one of nature’s most effective ways of communication. It has different meanings in different situations but is usually easily understood by others. The best thing about the hand signal is that it is effective across species. A hand signal is more of a request than a command.

Linda Rugaas has effectively explained the different situations in which the hand signal can be used with dogs. She uses the the hand signal to tell the dog:

  • I’ve got this
  • Take it easy
  • You’ve had enough
  • Wait a second
  • Don’t do this, please
  • I’ll be back
  • Don’t worry

For example, if you have a dog at home who excessively barks when guests come home, you can use the hand signal to tell him that you are aware of the situation and will take over so he can relax. 

How to show the hand signal?

The Hand signal can be a very effective communication tool when used correctly. You have to be aware of your body language when showing your hand

  • Don’t look at the dog
  • Show the palm of your hand
  • Don’t speak or talk to your dog
  • Wait for him to stop
  • If he continues, turn your side to him

Dogs usually understand the hand signal very well. You might be surprised at how fast they get it. But dogs are individuals and for some it might take more time and consistent effort. Use the hand signal as a daily communication tool and you will see that your dog doesn’t need to be commanded to not do something.

You can watch Linda’s presentation on the hand signal here:


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