Using Hand Signals or Whistle Commands
Using something other than a verbal request to ask your dog to do something can come in very handy. For example, a snap of your fingers followed by a point to the ground could mean lie down — and wouldn't that help when you want your dog to settle while you're brushing your teeth or in midconversation with someone else?
Teaching hand signals is easy. Always give your hand signal in a distinct way so the dog doesn't assume you are just scratching your nose or grabbing for something. Formal obedience trial regulations allow the handler to use a single motion of the entire arm and hand but penalize any body motion — something to think about! It's imperative to use clear, concise, and consistent commands if you want your dog to understand and comply. The hand signals that will be most useful are those that communicate the frequent requests like sit, down, stay, and come.
Whistles are commonly used to train hunting dogs or dogs who need to work at a distance from their handlers. That's because the sound travels so well and serves as the clear, concise form of communication that's necessary for this kind of work. Initially, though, the dog must be trained close to the handler to understand the association between behaviors and whistles. Using the leash, guide the dog in the desired movement following your whistle. As you move your dog into position, she should associate the movement with your verbal command, and because she has felt and seen the same movements, she should understand and follow the guidance eagerly. Generally, one toot of the whistle means sit and stay, and multiple toots mean come into the heel position of sitting by the handler's side.