Today I stood in front of the mirror and took a good look at my signals for the Utility signal Exercise.  They’ve evolved quite far from where I started with my first Utility dog!  Let’s look

1) You can see my original signals here:

Fifteen years ago I was working with a very speedy dog, and I realized that she was consistently anticipating the recall when I was giving the down signal, so I decided to switch to a “moving” hand and a “non moving” hand.  Now, if the left hand moves my dogs know that they will be doing a stationary activity, and if the right arm moves they can come running in immediately.  I have liked the results so I still use this approach.

The new series looked like this:

My next evolution was my recall signal.  I realized that I could not send my dogs out and then recall them back with a signal  because they could not distinguish between the signal to take the right hand jump from my recall.

Here is my old recall signal followed by a cue to take the right hand jump.  Pretty similar to a speedy dog!:

So, I changed it.  Here is the recall signal that I am using with Lyra:

Then Brito came along and by a fluke of training I taught him to offer a fold back down when I did something completely different with my left hand.  So now his “down” signal looks like this:

All of these signals are fine.  Just take a moment to stand in front of a mirror and go through your signals in random orders.  Can you tell instantly and clearly what the signal is going to be?  Make sure your signals are distinct from start to finish.  For example, does your sit signal look like your down signal when you return your hand to a neutral position?  I have seen signals that look like these, and the dogs are often confused.  Understandably!:

While dogs seem willing to adapt to almost everything we throw at them, I’m pretty motivated to use signals that are as clear and crisp as possible, so that they can respond instantly and with confidence.

To recap, Here are Lyra’s current signals:

and here are Brito’s:

Take a look at your signals; pick whatever is both comfortable and clear, especially from 50 feet away!