It’s a sign

My bipeds quite often communicate with me by gestures. Other people don’t usually notice it’s happening, but those that do notice seem to be surprised. Our sign language is less complicated than the official sign language for bipeds.

Sign language

From Wikimedia Commons.

I think it could be fun watching my bipeds try semaphore, but our communication is a little more discrete than this!

Semaphore demonstration gif

From Wikimedia Commons.

We find it very useful if we’re in a noisy place, such as by a busy road or at a place with lots of people. My bipeds don’t have to raise their voices, they can give me a signal to stop or to sit. That’s good for them, as they don’t like to shout. It’s good for me, as I know they’re calm and relaxed – humans sound stressed when they raise their voices.

They’ll also gesture to me at home if they’re talking to visitors. The sign is usually to tell me I’ve done enough to make the visitors feel welcome and I should move away from them. That’s often followed by the signal to settle down. I always get a special smile when I do what they ask!

If I’m outside, I usually hear them if they come to the back door and I’ll look to see what they’re up to. Sometimes they’re coming out to play! If they want me to come indoors they may call to me, or they may just beckon.

I’ll explain how I learnt the signal for “down”. As a small puppy, after learning to sit, I followed the treat that was held in front of my nose and then taken down to the floor. When I knew what was expected of me, they taught me the word “down”. Then they started not quite taking the treat as far as the floor. Then they’d make the movement without a treat, although I still got a treat! Gradually my bipeds just pointed to the floor and now they just point a finger down.

Most dogs notice things like bipeds picking up car keys means they’re going out. We notice the things you do that mean you’re thinking about taking us out for a walk. Humans communicate far more without speaking than they’re usually aware.

There are some signs I’ve seen many bipeds make without thinking about it. They sit and see the cat is watching them, so they pat their lap and the cat knows the lap is available. A biped may pat the sofa next to them and the dog knows it’s time for a cuddle. One gesture I’ve seen lots of bipeds make, when they’ve been giving their dog treats, is to hold one or both hands up with the fingers spread – meaning that there are no more treats.

Do you use sign language? Do you notice unspoken clues?

See you next Wednesday!


I’ve just visited Sammy’s and discovered that I’ve been awarded the Tuesday Teaser First Right Guesser Award! Thank you, Sammy!

And thank you very much, Easy! You’re my hero! If you don’t already know Easy, pop over and see him – I promise he’ll make you laugh!

Sammy's Tuesday Teaser First

110 thoughts on “It’s a sign

  1. Years ago I had a dog who went deaf as she got older. To my surprise, she still knew most of the commands, but not because she could hear them. Without realizing it, I had also used gestures when I taught her the commands. Aren’t dogs amazing? I think they are better at picking up subtleties than humans.

  2. Whenever Mom (or anyone else) touches their front pocket, I am convinced I’m about to receive a treat. Nobody is more surprised than me when they pull out anything else.

    Love and licks,

    • I don’t just find it surprising that they use their pockets for other things, I find it quite shocking – pockets were invented for treats!

  3. Hi, Mollie cat here — In our house when the cat carrier comes out, it means someone is going to the V-E-T. We all start to scurry for under the bed! The big luggage means the people are going to the VET! That’s much better but it takes them so long to come back!

    • Yes, cat baskets appearing causes the cats to hide in our house as well. They climb in the suitcase when they appear – I’m not sure if they’re helping with the packing or hoping to travel!

  4. Hi there Clowie. We do use signals with our doggie, Ande. She went to obedience school so she knows hand signals pretty well. but she also knows lots of other signals, such as when I put my hat on, it is time to go outside. The cats don’t do a lot of signals. Take care.

  5. Hi Clowie, that was very interesting! I communicate with the human with my eyes mostly. Sometimes she even understands. she understands the evil claw more, though! MOL xx

  6. Hello Clowie, that is so neat you work with hand signals… i bet they come in handy so often. We use a few hand signals with little Christmas (our deaf girl) and she just loves them. I also wanted to say thank you for the thoughtful comment you left on our blog last week about Moonlight, it really meant a lot to us. Kathryn πŸ™‚

    • Yes, we do find hand signals are useful, they must be very important for Christmas. It’s hard to lose a friend, words seem so inadequate sometimes.

  7. this was super interesting! My Dad often communicates with me by using signs, my Mom NEVER does! Barks and licks and love, Dakota

  8. I’ll never be as good as you reading subtle signals Clowie but my kitties know a few. When I clap my hands they come down off the counter, when I pat my lap the come up for cuddles, When I open the
    drawer in our coffee table, Petals knows it’s treat time. Mr B and I have a few signals too, when he rolls his eyes, I know he thinks I’m silly. When I make circles around my ear with my index finger and roll my eyes, he knows I think he’s crazy….LOL. PS, Congratulations on the Tuesday Teaser!

    • Ha, my cats know where the treats are kept! It sounds as though you and Mr B have a very effective sign language! I think I’ve seen my bipeds rolling their eyes sometimes, often accompanied by a sigh.

  9. After all these years Lexie and I can practically read each other’s minds. Yes I use a lot if hand signals and they understand and follow them; with people around its just easier. What is cute is Dad does not have a clue. Lexie will go stare at him, or bark, use all her signals and he still doesn’t understand. She will come back to me and look to say “Tell Dad to do that, walk, treat, door, etc” so I will tell him and then he does it. Mica just comes to me to help or tell Dad:-)

    • Lexie and Mica must be pleased to have you as their interpreter. The male biped pretends not to understand sometimes when I invite him to come outside for a game of football, but he usually gives in!

  10. My Wolfie fangs usually convey my meaning pretty well! I use them to create sign language all the time now! Lol πŸ™‚

    • I’d imagine your fangs are effective but not subtle!

      • Well….they aren’t very subtle when chicken or liver cake are involved! lol πŸ™‚
        And Clowie!! Tonight my “Certificate of Puppy Ownership” pt 1 arrived πŸ™‚ I passed the first unit…with a credit πŸ™‚ I have now submitted Unit 2 which includes the question I asked your assistance with πŸ™‚ They didn’t give any feedback but it is a very nice certificate! lol πŸ™‚ I am now looking forward to starting a full course with them in New Year. I’ll let you know the outcome of the 2nd unit when I know more πŸ™‚ Thanks again for your invaluable input πŸ™‚ Wolfie hugs my Pyreeeeeee friend!

  11. The only way I can get Bones to sit is if I touch my pocket because he thinks I’m going to get a treat out of it, then his butt hits the floor immediately.

  12. We use the hand signs for sit and down. But most of my ‘cues’ are audible ones, like mummy’s alarm means breakfast time, and any rustle of food means I need to engage puppy eyes BOL

  13. Oh yes, lots of non-verbal cues around here as well. I like to switch it up so the pup never knows what to expect and also gets frequent practice with both.

  14. I’m a deafie so Mom and Dad use sign language to communicate with me all the time! We use a combination of people sign language and basic obedience hand signals. I also have a vibration collar that I use when out on hikes so Mom can let me know when I need to look at her for a sign.

    • I didn’t know about vibration collars. That must give you a bit more freedom, without it you’d have to watch her the whole time.

  15. My childhood dog probably picked up on more cues than I ever realized…. We didn’t use hand signals, but I’m sure he must have picked up on our body language and knew when it was time to go outside or for a treat. I’ll keep this in mind for the day when another dog joins the household!

  16. Interesting post, and i really enjoyed reading it … Yarri πŸ™‚

  17. Interesting. I’m sure we give off more visual signals than we realize. Now I will really be thinking about perhaps those we give without even knowing.I know we give Gracie both verbal and visual signals each night when her Kong game is over. Hand signals and a “one more then no more, okay”. We throw the toy one last time and, instead of bringing it back to us, she settles with it in a chair! Smart girl.

    • That sounds like a nice game with Gracie. I’m sure you will notice some of the things you do now, but my bipeds still can’t figure out how I know the moment they think it’s time to give me my tea, ha ha!

  18. Clowie, I use lots of different hand signals with Phoenix and just like you he’s super smart and picked up on them very quickly! We are glad you are having a good day! πŸ™‚

  19. Oh yes, I know all the signs around here and know what Mumsy and Popsy are up to all the time. They try to fool me sometimes but I always get it figured out. I know what they mean when they give me signs to do something too. Hugs and nose kisses Chancy

    • It’s important to watch them closely so that we know what’s going on, we don’t want to miss out on something! Enjoy your weekend!

  20. Interesting post Clowie, sign language with animals is something I havent considered before, it starts out training the animal at first, but I think the roles are reversed later on in the relationship.

    • I agree that when a biped and an animal train together the relationship grows and changes – they gradually become more attuned to each other.

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