The Language of Love–Teaching Sign Language to Dogs

The process of sign language is the same for dogs who are born deaf or those who have become deaf due to age or any illness. Love needs no language, but with the help of sign language you can teach your pet a whole new meaning of life and build a stronger connection with him. –by Priyanka D Ajgaonkar


Zia and family

Dogs have the amazing ability to learn sign language. Communication is everything in a solid friendship, so it is especially important to be on the same page with your best furry friend. It will open a dimension of inclusive communication for your pet.

Dogs can learn as many signs as they can differentiate thoughts and make moves. Sign language eliminates the frustration and conflicting negative emotion that can arise when we speak directly to the dogs without success. The act of signing delivers a physical gesture the dogs can see and be conditioned to respond to.

Humble beginning of a fulfilling journey
I thought it was a unique and interesting concept and slowly I got intrigued into it. That is when I decided to learn sign language and understand the entire concept and its functioning. A simple gesture can go a long way and I am glad to have come across such a wonderful concept. Over the past 17 years in this journey I have trained more than a 100 dogs. I remember that once my cousin’s pet was unable to express his feelings and needs. That was also a major push that led me to learning sign language and teaching it to pet parents as well.

Helping furry friends who cannot hear
Dogs can lose some degree of their hearing as they age, which is why these hand signals can really come in handy. The process of sign language is the same for dogs who are born deaf or those who have become deaf due to age or any illness. It is important to know that training dogs who are born deaf requires a lot more patience.

Dogs are great learners and with a little effort they can definitely learn sign language. This approach helps your pet assign meaning to the hand sign much faster and also fosters an inclusive and loving environment in your home.

Patience is the key that can unlock this door! Start with small steps and you’ll see how well dogs learn sign language. Slowly they’ll start understanding all the signs. Any breed can learn sign language. You just need to be persistent with the training. They look at the signs and understand what I am trying to convey.

Commands like Good, No, Paw, Dinner, Come, Walk Back, Stand Up, Wait, Heel, and a lot more help them understand the basics. I keep doing these signs with my hand and when dogs who are hearing impaired look at these signs, they understand what am I trying to convey. For dogs with less hearing, I do the signs and say the command as well. They might hear it partially, but when they look at my hand movements, they understand it.

(Priyanka D Ajgaonkar is founder of The Fuunction Junction, Mumbai. She is one of the pioneers who started sign language for mother and child to strengthen parent-child bonding. She also teaches sign language to dogs)