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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.


Frieda Loves Bread said...

That is SO cool! That's too bad that your family doesn't share the same enthusiasm... have a great time signing with him!

Liz said...

Very interesting post that I enjoyed reading. I'm going to share this post on Notts Hearing Loss Facebook page. :)

Jedediah said...

Dogs are hardwired to watch us for any signals we give them. You can signal to a dog with your eyes under which of two bowls a treat is hidden, for example, just by staring at the bowl. So signing to your dog is a great idea, I think. Having a visual command that can be used instead of a voice signal will come in handy, I'm sure. And of course you get practice :) And I bet it will make people interested in ASL when they see you do it.

(e said...

Great story! I hope this will inspire others to sign!

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Thanks for your supportive comments!