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Survival K9 Training: Silent Communication

In a survival or SHTF scenario there will more than likely be times that you need to tell your dog to do something with out speaking. This can be done one of two ways. With dedicated hand signals, or situational context. Which you choose will depend on the situation you are preparing for and in all likely hood both are going to be used.

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Dogs are actually more likely to pick up body language and hand signals faster than verbal commands because it is their most natural form of communication. This could be used in a variety of ways but the most useful way would likely be with heeling and obedience. Sit, Stay, Down, Heel, and Here/Come, should all have a hand signal associated with them for your dog. This would allow you to communicate with your dogs under circumstances when you cannot talk or they cannot hear you due to noise.

This will be done the same way you would train or pair a command with their behavior in what ever training system you are using. The only difference is instead of a verbal command you would simply pair the behavior with a hand signal or a specific situation.

Now if you want the dog to do something in certain circumstances on their own, for example say when your dog is heeling and you stop you want them to sit. After they know what sit or their hand gesture for it means you would get them heeling and then stop, give them the command to sit and then reward them when they do so and repeat. Then once you feel they are getting the hang of pattern you will stop and give no command and just wait until they sit. Then you will reward them when they do. If they don’t give them the command again.

Hand signals and silent commands are specifically useful for hunting dogs and have been used under these circumstances longer than most if not all other disciplines as you can communicate silently and have less chance of disturbing the game you are stalking or disturbing them prematurely in the case of birds and other small game.

Hand signals for direction changes and other movement commands such as climb, under, or through, are useful when stalking game as well as bird dogs when they are farther out but can still see you.

Some good uses/ideas of situational context and silent commands that you might consider training with your dog on are….

(When they are heeling)
Sit when you stop
Down when you kneel
Stay when shown the “stop hand gesture” (if you want them to stay and you want to move)
Return to you if they are not heeling and you kneel or stop

Silent/body language/hand signal commands are useful in many situations ranging from obedience, hunting, and on to tactical and combat environments. Their usefulness like many things is only limited to the handler’s imagination and training ability. Your own situation and circumstances will dictate what direction or commands you will need but if you plan on having your dog be an asset and not a liability if you find your self in a SHTF scenario you should definitely consider working this into their training.

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