I’m intrigued as to the possibility of some sort of catalogue of NDT hand movements and gestures. There are a plenty of websites suggesting possible signals to use but are mainly a human communication for the dog to learn, like a convention or agreed symbol rather than a sign that carries with it an inherent meaning. I haven’t found anything remotely like a universal lexicon, one that intuitively indicates something to the dog. Looking back to the past I found a few early collections of hand gestures as human body language from the 17thC. These provide a useful variety of shapes, but I think I’m looking at a range that encompasses direction and intensity or rigidity.

One of the most graphic hand shapes I see used in NDT is the claw hand. As an expression and projection of energy from the handler it can be aimed in different directions. As the intensity varies the hand shape shifts from the floppy mitten feel, through the quiver of prey in the “bird hand”, to the rigid, hard shaped claw.

In its mildest form and focused upwards it can be seen as the cup that catches anything falling from above. The dog is naturally drawn to see what’s contained within, and by clasping food inside it can become a softened form of claw, safely projecting energy up towards the sky like shining a torch into the air.

This is in contrast to the opposite direction, the claw facing down. The focus of intent is then to the floor, and to whatever is down there. Shine a torch on the floor and the light seems brighter than when shone at the sky. The downward facing claw hand encourages the dog to find the point to which the claw is drawn. If there is a toy there it can become the mid-point, somewhere to go to, something to bite. The searching spotlight can also be felt by the dog to be directed at their feet, a pressure that might need escaping.

The reversed claw turned away from the dog becomes safer energy and is linked to the old adage of “letting the dog sniff the back of your hand”. The safer claw can also become part of the “bird hand” routine, with food inside that is drawn to the dog when collection is maintained. By keeping calm in a relaxed stance the claw hand can be made to turn and deliver the contents.

The claw in its purest form focuses and projects energy straight at the dog. Like the Jedi choke of Darth Vader it can be remote pressure using “the force” or can be used up close in contact as the equivalent of another dogs jaws. The clasping grasping grip targeting the flanks or jowls is a chance to wrestle and soft mouth. The claw spotlight can then be turned to shift the charge from the hand to the toy, a more suitable target for a crushing grip.


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