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Signing with your dog: Is it Possible?


By: Hyram Yarbo

Junior Intern


Chai signing her own name in response to “Who’s that?”
As you sit down to your dining room table to enjoy breakfast, your dog comes running up to you. “What is it?” you sign to Charlie, your German Shepherd. Using his paws, Charlie signs back to you “Man at door.” You immediately stand up and walk to the door to greet the visitor.
You may think that this paragraph was extracted from a science fiction book or a children’s story. I beg to differ. Opportunities are available today to communicate with a dog without technology or science fiction.
As the world increases its understanding of animal nature, many have searched for opportunities to communicate with a dog. K9Sign is the new way to go! K9Sign Language is a method of communicating by sign language with your dog. Using a combination of specified signs, the owner gestures to the dog and the dog responds by signing with their paws. AnimalSign.org describes the importance of K9Sign: “Dogs learn to extend their gestural & behavioral and oral communications by linking common gestures to new, useful, and fun meanings, new gestures to new meanings, behaviors to new meanings, and vocalization to specific meanings.
While some individuals find this information debatable, Sean Senechal says that dogs can learn as many signs as possible as long as they can distinguish and discover differences between each of the signs they learn. AnimalSign.org outlines the different signs that have been taught to dogs in the past: Watch Out, Man at Door, Pick Up, Stop, Feed Me, etc. When concerned with the difficulty level, teaching a dog sign language is comparable to teaching babies signs for “Food”, “More”, or “Mommy”. It really isn’t that hard to do!
Interested? I’m sure you are! After all, who wouldn’t want to communicate with a dog? If you are seriously considering this teaching plan, AnimalSign.org is a great resource for learning specific signs, finding K9Sign conferences near you, watching sample videos of dogs communicating, etc. The book Dogs Can Sign Too by Sean Senechal also describes in detail the process of teaching your dog to communicate using K9Sign.
While this is an interesting idea the can be worth looking into, it does take time, patience, and love for your dog. The effects are not instantaneous, and the process can be frustrating. However, many find that the end result is worth all of the work they put into teaching their dog. The choice is yours!
 This blog post represents the opinion of the author and not necessarily the views supported by The Deaf Dream.
Works Cited
Senechal, Sean. “AnimalSign | K9 Sign for Dogs.” AnimalSign | K9 Sign for Dogs. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2014.             <http://www.animalsign.org/animalsign/k9sign.html>.
Senechal, Sean. “Dogster.” Dogster. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2014. <http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/teach-your-dogsign-language-youll-learn-a-lot-about-your-dog>.
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