Friday, June 24, 2011
Signing to My Dog
I hate to admit it but my family doesn't share my enthusiasm for ASL. They rarely use even the most basic signs with me. So naturally I turned to my best buddy, Rusty, for my signing practice. As you can imagine, he learned the signs for "food" and "outside" really fast!
Today when he lifted his paw to me, I decided to sign "Nice to meet you" back to him. To my surprise he immediately started licking my hands enthusiastically. My husband noticed and decided he wanted to try it. I showed him how to make the sign and then he called Rusty over to his side. When he signed "Nice to meet you", Rusty licked his hands too. Who would have thought it would take my dog to get my husband willing to sign?
I used to think I was a little silly to sign to my dog. But I came across this video which encourages dog owners to sign to their dogs. Unfortunately, the video isn't captioned so here's a brief summary of its dialog: The trainer begins by discussing the advantages of signing to a dog. Then she relaxes her dog by rubbing his back, when he's ready she demonstrates sit, down, up, stay, and shake paw. She rewards the dog with "good dog" and "I love you" and of course treats. The trainer concludes that dogs respond to gestures and body language more than verbal commands.
I've also come across online instructions for teaching your dog sign language commands.
To conclude this post, I'm going to leave you with the story of Sparky. This 1 year old deaf dog was trained by prison inmates to respond to sign language commands. Afterwards, the prisoners thought he should live with people who would appreciate his abilities, so he was moved to a new home at the Missouri School for the Deaf. There he has made many new friends and the students are teaching him even more signs. You can see a picture of Sparky and read the full story here.