The home of Shooting Times and Sporting Gun

How do I teach hand signals when training a gundog?

What's the right time and how is it done?

gundog hand signals

Reinforce your hand signals with voice commands

Q: My previous Labrador was 
a great picking-up dog, but 
I didn’t really do a lot of formal training with him. I wasn’t very experienced, so he more or less taught himself. My new youngster 
is a different type of dog and seems more willing to learn. I want to 
be able to handle him on game at 
a distance, but will I find training 
him to hand signals a difficult job? 
I am a real novice when it comes to training.

Get gundog hand signals right

The first thing in your favour is that you have a dog that is willing to listen and learn, so you will be able 
to capitalise on this.

Secondly, you know your own limitations and are clearly ready to take advice from the start and not blunder along until you end up having to correct errors.

I would certainly join a gundog training club where you will find ample experience to lay the foundation skills for your new dog. But there is also a lot you can do for yourself. While gundog hand signals to achieve control at distance are certainly not one of the early training goals, the skill isn’t difficult to master once you’re sure you have built a close rapport with your dog.

How to train

  • Begin with the dog sitting with its back to a hedge.
  • At the start of this exercise, place — rather than throw 
— a dummy about 10 yards to the right 
or left along the hedge.
  • Position yourself about 10 yards directly in front of the dog, affirm the stay command vocally and with a hand signal, then gesture with an outstretched arm and a vocal command that instructs the dog to go 
in the direction of the dummy and retrieve it.
  • You can start to change the distance and the direction of the placed dummy, then progress to a thrown dummy.
  • Over time, when the dog is steady to the stop whistle, you will be able to stop the dog, throw a dummy and be able to handle the dog on to a retrieve accordingly. 
But don’t try to rush it.
  • Start to teach hand signals from the word go by pointing to the kennel when you want the puppy to go in, or get in the back of a truck.
  • When the pup is first taken for walks on a lead and is told to hup/sit you should always follow it up with a hand signal.  This way when you do start proper dummy work the youngster has already got used to watching you and your hands whenever an instruction is issued.