How to Use Your Body Language to Train Your Dog

Your dog – man and woman’s best friend. Keeper of all of your deepest darkest secrets.

You can talk to your dog for hours. Tell him everything you are unable to tell your friends, and you can trust 100% that he isn’t going to run off an gossip to the dog down the road. Mostly because, well, he can’t talk, but also because he doesn’t understand half of what your saying. Dogs are smart, there is no denying that. But their ability to learn around 165 words from the human language does not mean they can understand everything we say to them. That is where body language comes into play.

So how do you use your body language to train your dog?

Body Language To Communicate With Your Dog Best FriendHave you ever noticed that when you ask your dog to stay, your chances of him listening are heightened if you hold your hand up in a stop position?

It’s true! Go ahead and give it a try! This is because you are using your body language to train your dog, and you may not even realize it.

How about that time when your dog got off lead and you began to panic as you chased him? How did that work out?

Not so good I imagine. That is because your dog picked up on your anxiety and panic, and most likely decided to make a game out of your anxiousness. The good news is, it is easy to use your body language as a huge advantage during dog training. In this scenario, there are 2 things that should have been done differently.

1. Do your best to avoid panic, and feeling anxious or scared. I know, it’s hard. When our fur babies get out, we fear the worst, but letting those emotions show will not help. So get it together, and focus!

2. Do not chase your dog. That is the worst possible thing you could do. Your dog will just turn it into a game, and chances are, will not come anywhere near you.

What should I do then? 

The second your dog gets loose (providing they are in your site) get down on your knees. This is less threatening to your dog, and they will want to come see why you are on the ground. Keep cool, call your dogs name.

If that hasn’t worked yet, you can even try rolling around on the ground. I know, it sounds weird, but it works! I know from experience! ; ) Act like your playing – roll around, make puppy noises, and your dog will not be able to resist that body language, as you will be calling to him for a game rather than being captured.

The same thing can be applied to ANY training session with ANY dog. Whether your teaching your dog to sit, stay, come, or roll over, body language plays a huge part.

Sit – snap your finger, and point to the ground.
Stay – hold your hand up in a stop position.
Come – pat your hand on your legs.
Roll Over – use your hand in a spinning motion.

What have you noticed using body language training with your dogs?
Do you have any tips to add?
Share your thoughts in the comments!

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jenna drady headshotJenna Drady  is the author and creator of ownedbyahusky.ca. She is a mother of two beautiful daughters and 3 Siberian Huskies. Being a husky mom for a long duration of her life, Jenna was inspired to begin writing about them. In doing so, she began doing massive research on dog behavior, and all things dog in general. Jenna is inspired every day by her family, and loves to bring her readers valuable information as well as a little humor too! Jenna has created her own business partnered with her lovely mother while blogging called Pawz N Clawz Jewelry N Things. They currently sell handmade jewelry with added pet charms, as well as a few dog toys too!  As an animal rights activist, and huge believer in helping pets who have been stuck in shelters, they donate a portion of their sales to local shelters throughout Canada.

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40 Responses to How to Use Your Body Language to Train Your Dog

  1. Clowie says:

    Body language is very important. It’s often easier to learn a signal from a biped than a word. We watch everything so we know more about human body language than most humans do!

    • Jenna Drady says:

      So true Clowie. And it’s a fascinating thing too. It’s like when humans look at someone else’s face…you can pretty much tell how they are feeling (unless they have a good poker face) and with dogs, the sense of reading our behavior is heightened to a phenomenal extent!

  2. Lisa says:

    Another great informative article…I really like the advice about kneeling on the ground…I sure never would have thought of that!!!!

    • Jenna Drady says:

      Desperate times call for desperate measures!
      I discovered that one since being owned by huskies. They like to turn everything into a game, and I quickly realized even the most solid recall wasn’t working if they got loose. I had to improvise, and as soon as I got to my knees, and turned in into a game rather than capture the husky…they come right to me :)

  3. Jana Rade says:

    I’m still working on perfecting my communication with my dogs but I do find that body language is extremely important aspect.

  4. Thanks- good tips. I find communication with Kilo tricky unless there is a treat involved. He knows sit both verbal and hand signal. He also knows stay. He hates roll over unless he is on the bed for a tummy rub. I’ll try the on the ground recall (in the house) as my trainer Renee pointed out that Kilo is more likely to come or pay attention if I shake his treat bag than if I call his name. He has very selective hearing and poor basic obedience. I was not giving the right signals or demanding focus. best Susie

    • Jenna Drady says:

      Treat motivated dogs is a huge bonus in my books. Combine that with some great body language training, and I think the outcome could be fabulous! With the recall – The biggest thing I found was getting on the ground, while making puppy noises. As I mentioned in the article, it has worked for me through experience lol! ;)
      My husky Lexus got off lead once….nothing I did was working, she just kept running from me. I didn’t know what to do so I dropped to the ground, and began making puppy noises. Sort of like a puppy whining. Low and behold, she came running to me as fast as she could! I have tried the same thing numerous times, and it has never failed!!

  5. Robbi says:

    This is great information and broken down into very doable steps that I will definitely try with Henrietta — after all you can teach an older dog new tricks!

  6. Robin says:

    Body language is so important! We know so much about how our pets feel by their body language and they read ours in the same way. Words are never as important as actions to our pets. I love the tip you give about sitting or rolling on the ground. Pawsome advice!

    • Jenna Drady says:

      Exactly! And thanks, lol, I was unsure whether or not to actually add that here as advice, but you know what? Whatever works right? And that truly does!!!

  7. Very interesting ! We love to learn more about dogs ! Purrs

  8. Ruth Cox says:

    No doubt about it, my dog Valentino heeds my body language more so than the words that come out of my mouth. I learned the roll-on-the-ground technique by accident, really! I fell and cracked my head on the asphalt shortly after I began fostering this dog. He had little training to stay, but stay with me he did until I gained composure and he walked all the way home alongside me, without my hand on his leash!

    • Jenna Drady says:

      Wow! Fascinating! Dogs just seem to know don’t they? So smart! I sort of learned the roll on the ground thing by accident as well. I was desperate and wasn’t sure what else to do. (This was years ago) and so I dropped to the ground, and began making puppy noises…..needless to say, my husky ran right over to me!!

  9. Jan K says:

    Even though we’ve worked on words, I don’t think Luke always understands them, but he definitely understands gestures.

    Thanks for those great tips for when the dogs escape! Every once in a while one of ours will get out of the fenced in area, and I tend to panic. I have learned not to chase them anyway, and sometimes I’ve tried running away from them and that often works. But getting on the ground seems like a really good idea….dogs love it when you get down on the floor or ground and want to play!

    • Jenna Drady says:

      I know, and it’s really hard not to panic. But it really is in our best interest. Getting down on the ground works SO well!! And thanks so much for adding the tip about running away from them, thats great!

  10. Jen Gabbard says:

    I’ve always used body language in training – don’t know if it’s something I picked up from watching others or what. But I do find it interesting that when I test Laika on commands she does much better with the body language only ones vs verbal only.

    • Jenna Drady says:

      I think I picked up on the body language training by accident. When we listen to our dogs, and watch how they respond to us, it’s easy to see (as you mentioned) that they just listen to our behavior far more than they actually listen to the words that come out of our mouth. Most people don’t even realize that they body language train without even knowing it! When we ask a dog to sit, generally we would be pointing the ground or something to that effect. That is part of our body language :)

  11. Dog Guy Josh says:

    Nice article, Jenna!

    Another way to use body language: negative punishment. We can turn away from our dogs, removing our attention, as a no reward marker then turn back to reinitiate or cue a behavior.

    • Jenna Drady says:

      Thanks Josh :)
      And yes, your absolutely right! All a part of properly positive training with our dogs. If there is one thing in the world our dogs can’t stand, it’s us ignoring them. When we remove our attention, they want to do whatever it takes to get it back. Thanks for your tips!

  12. Yup, works every time! Willow was a notorious escape artist (what Husky isn’t), but when I let her get out of sight (in our quite neighborhood) and she realized she wasn’t being chased, she would come back.

    Thankfully now that she’s older she knows its no fun to escape anymore, so she doesn’t wander much anymore.

    • Jenna Drady says:

      UGH! Huskies do like to run don’t they? LOL! And I think they have to be one of the worst breeds when it comes to playing a game of chase down the escape dog!! LOL! It just doesn’t work!

  13. Such good advice and training tips for dogs. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Cathy Armato says:

    Excellent advice. A dog’s (or even a person’s) first reaction to being chased is usually to Run so not running after your dog is good advice. I’ve tried getting down on the ground and it usually works, although I’ve not tried rolling around – I’ll have to try that one! I use hand signals along w/ verbal for basic commands; sit, down, come, stay and they work really well.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  15. Carol Bryant says:

    Great piece and Dex knows so many body language signals from me and I love that you shared this advice.

  16. Yes, I always use body language in training — dogs understand this so much better than the spoken word, but combining the two gives more guidance and also will come in handy in old age if he loses his hearing (speaking from experience).

    On the loose dog point, I would add that in the 80s my mom had her two shih tzu get loose, in the country and our property was only fenced on two sides with woods on another and the lake as a natural barrier on the other. She had emphysema so could not run after them, but in frustration she fell to the ground and started crying…they both came running back =)

    • Jenna Drady says:

      Definitely combining the two, that’s a great tip!
      And yes, the whole reason I discovered getting down to the ground was also out of frustration and basically feeling desperate. Low and behold…it worked!

  17. This is so true and such a great and informative blog <3 . I love that Odin and I are so connected I can get him to respond without a word , usually lol ;)

  18. Beth says:

    I’ve found that if Theo dashes out the back door, I can get him to come back by pretending to eat something. Thankfully it has worked several times.

  19. I agree body language is important but I hate the snapping sit. We are seeing more and more of that at hunt tests. I am surprised they have not called it intimidation because I could see it being used that way. Come to think of it, you have to be very careful using the “stop sign” hand for stay at tests too because some judges may call that intimidation. But we do use it in training from time to time.

    • Jenna Drady says:

      Really? Wow, it’s funny how things differ from every day dog training in your home all the way to what judges expect at a dog show. Very interesting. I find using the snap tends to just get their attention a little better, and it works fantastically. Not used to intimidate at all. I have never had my huskies in a dog show, so it’s definitely interesting to learn what they look for.

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