Baby sign language has many uses. Primarily it is used by parents to communicate with their preverbal babies. Some parents use baby sign language to reduce toddler tantrums. Other parents use baby sign language to assist with toilet training. These are just a sample of the many ways you can use baby sign language with your children.
But did you know that baby sign language can also be used with your pets such as your dog, cat or horse? Over the years, I have received many stories from parents on their successes with baby sign language with their children but I have also received some amazing stories on people’s success on using baby sign language with their dog.
So why did they do this, how did they get started and what were the benefits? Well, firstly the reasons these people introducing baby sign language to their dog varied. In one instance I had a woman tell me how she worked in the local RSPCA shelter and she had a dog who was deaf. She wanted to ensure he would be selected for a new home so decided to teach him sign to help the new owners.
She introduced words such as eat, sit, walk, stop, run, finished and drink. With these signs, she could let the dog know when it was mealtimes. She could also let him know when it was time for a walk. If he was running around the park, she would sign at him finished and he would know it was time to go home. The good news is this dog did go to a home thanks to this ladys efforts in teaching him to read sign language.
Other people who have introduced baby signs to their dog have done it for some of the same reasons that they introduce baby sign language to their children. They want their dog to understand what is happening, when it is happening, when it is time to go/stay, time to leave, time to eat / drink etc. They want to be able to communicate with their dog and create a positive experience through positive parenting.
Debra Perrin of Cranebrook, N.S.W. Sends us this note about her son, Connor.
“Connor has now started to sign ‘drink, car and milk’. (It’s hard to get them on film though.) He is a much happier little boy now we can understand each other. I cannot put into words how happy we are we started using ‘baby hands‘.
Using sign language with your dog is key to a great experience for you and your dog. As well as introducing baby sign to your dog, you can look at introducing an official dog sign system called K9Sign. This system involves you teaching your dog specific actions for words so they can communicate with you.
K9Sign opens the door to a depth of companionship while enhancing day to day experiences together for the purpose of playing, working, or providing services. Most dogs alert their owner with standard actions you’ve probably seen in your own dog or a neighbor’s dog: barking, fetching, pawing, sitting, rolling over, or whining. K9Signing empowers dogs to be more specific when alerting their master. It enhances the dog’s skills to express alerts about the environment.
Teaching a dog any form of sign language, whether it be baby sign or K9Sign, empowers you and your dog. With baby sign, your dog understands what you are signing and what is happening next. With K9Sign, your dog can tell you what they want and need, where they hurt, why they bark or what they smell. Better communication reduces frustration, enhances companionship, and provides mental clarity, stimulation, and brain development.
Most dogs can learn to baby sign or K9Sign. The most challenging dogs to teach are those who don’t respond to typical reinforcements. They may not consider food or toys rewards. To get started, introduce some key signs around your routines of the day which may include Food Time, Walk Time, Sleep Time. Signs that you may find useful are walk, run, eat, drink, stop, go, sit, lie and finished. Every time you go for a walk, say walk and sign walk. You can then introduce signs relating to the walk while on the walk such as run, stop, go and finished.
Some owners and their dogs go the distance and learn 100 signs while most only utilize about 10 signs, however the more you and your dog put in, the deeper your communication will be. This is something fun to do with your dog and help strengthen your relationship with your best friend.