As a clicker trainer who uses best practices in dog training, I found this article interesting, but not surprising. I don't use commands, but rather, cues. Commands are orders with an implied threat, and cues are opportunities for reinforcement.

I teach verbal cues first, and then hand signals, if people want to learn them. The reason I teach verbal cues first is that dogs invariably learn body movements, intended, or unintended, quicker than spoken words. Therefore, for the "cleanest" and most reliable training, we "clicker trainers" put our dogs' behaviors on a verbal cue first. I teach my students to be aware of body movement, and avoid moving, especially during the initial stages of training, to avoid the dog assigning any meaning to the movement.

If I have a student in class or private lessons who is getting unreliable responses from his or her dog, and the student is using both a verbal cue and a hand signal together, I do a little demonstration. I first ask the student to cue the dog with both hand and verbal signals, then the verbal signal alone, and finally the hand signal. Invariably, the verbal signal is overshadowed by the hand signal, and it is the hand signal the dog is responding to - the verbal cue is merely background noise without much meaning.

From there I teach the student how to get the dog to respond reliably to the verbal cue alone. Giving a mixed cue, hand signal and verbal cue together, is probably not a good way to train a dog. Hand signals have a place, but while people are impressed when a dog responds to hand signals, it's really not that hard at all for dogs, who are non-verbal.

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