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DOG: The American Sign Language (ASL) sign for "dog"

To sign DOG, just snap your fingers twice.

This is an interesting sign because it is sort of based on the fingerspelled word D-O-G as well as the common gesture of snapping your fingers to get a dog's attention. Note: The snap always uses the middle finger, not the index finger. The beginning handshape looks a bit like a modified "D" hand and the ending handshape winds up looking like the letter "G." Thus the sign sort of looks like you are spelling the letters "DG" which creates a "lexicalized" version of the fingerspelled word "D-O-G."





Sample sentence: Do you have a dog and cat?


There are several different "right" ways to do the sign for dog.

A popular sign for "dog" is made by slapping your right flat hand against your leg, then snapping your fingers. Or you can snap your fingers once  then slap your leg.

Or you can slap your leg twice and not snap your fingers at all.

My recommendation just use "lexicalized fingerspelling" method I describe above  To do this, you fingerspell the letters "D" and "G" very quickly and "snap" the middle finger on the base of the thumb as you change from a modified "D" to a "G."


Here are some variations to show a dog barking:












In a message dated 1/14/2007 7:00:38 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, writes:

Good afternoon Dr. Bill,


My name is Brittany Dunlap. I am a hearing person who is dating a hearing impaired man named Roy. He went to school at the Ohio School for the Deaf. I have known him since May of 06, as friends, and we have been a couple since December. He is about 90% deaf and is progressively becoming more deaf as time passes. I am trying to learn ASL and he has promised to teach me (starting tomorrow) but I have been going through your lessons for the past few days now and have a question about the word "dog".


If you and a friend are sitting at a table signing, and you want to communicate the word "dog?" The leg slapping would be blocked by the table. Would you improvise and slap your abdomen? Or would your friend be totally confused by that? Or does that have a totally different meaning? Is there any way around that situation, other than fingerspelling dog?


Many thanks,


Brittany D.
Grove City, OH 43123-9084


Hello :)
The sign DOG actually has five variations.  Oh, sure, people will tell you THEIR version is right.
Just smile sweetly and nod.
If the person is your sign instructor then do it his or her way for however long your class is. (Heh.)
The main versions of "DOG" are:

1.  Snap your fingers twice.
2.  Snap your fingers once.
3.  Slap your thigh twice.
4.  Snap your fingers once and then slap your thigh once.
5.  Slap your thigh once and then snap your fingers.

In your situation due to the table, the obvious choice is to use the version that doesn't require hitting your leg.
If I were you, I'd use the snap" version of #DOG.
A cool thing I want to point out is that the snap in this case is actually what we call "lexicalized" fingerspelling.  Start with a modified "D" handshape (with just the middle finger touching the thumb and the index finger extended) and snap your middle finger and end up in a "G" handshape.  (Lexicalization means "the process of becoming like a lexeme." The word "lexeme" means basic root words. So, what we are saying is that the fingerspelling no longer looks or functions like typical fingerspelling, it has changed to become like a "word" or sign.)

As an adult communicating with other skilled adults I generally just sign D-G (with a double snap). But on the other hand, when communicating with a young child I sometimes switch to the double-leg pat.
A Deaf coworker of mine has a pet peeve regarding students (and instructors) who sign "DOG" in a redundant manner (using both the snap and the pat). He doesn't like it a bit.
I can understand his point of view, but I also think it is important to be flexible. For example, one of my daughters, Sarah, has no joints in her fingers and thus can't really do fingerspelling or "snapping."  Guess which version of "dog" she prefers?
-- Dr. Bill


In a message dated 5/4/2012 8:26:30 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Hi Dr. Vicars--

I am learning some ASL to sign with my (hearing) baby. Another friend with an older child also signs with her (also hearing) baby. She uses an alternate sign for "dog" instead of the snap and leg tap, it's basically sticking her tongue out a bit and panting like a dog. She swears this is a legit ASL alternative, but I can't find it anywhere. Most baby sign language teachers encourage families to modify signs as needed or even go with signs their babies make up spontaneously, since the goal is for baby to be able to communicate with caregivers and family, rather than the Deaf community. I'm curious, though, for the "official" stance on this alternate for "dog"? Thanks much!

Richelle Johnson

It is likely that the only time you might see such a sign used to mean "dog" in "ASL" would be during story-time for very young children.
A skilled signer might mime and/or role-play being a dog as part of an entertaining skit or storytelling event for kids.
During a typical conversation between two adult Deaf signers you are not going to see one of them sticking their tongue out and panting as a way of signing "dog." I suppose I might use that sign to mean "panting" if I wanted to tell my wife that our dog was "panting like crazy" after having taken her (the dog, not the wife) out for a run. In such a situation I would be actually be using the "PANTING" sign to mean "panting" and not to mean "dog."
- Dr. Bill
Taking the wife out for a run would involve other signs such as HEART-ATTACK and AMBULANCE. 
Additionally, if someday she reads this - there will be signs such as ASSAULT and DIVORCE.  Heh.


Why are there variations of signs for the same words? Like dog or cat.

ASL signs have variations for the same reason that English words have variations.
For example, in English a dog is sometimes called doggy, hound, mongrel, mutt, pooch, stray, bowwow, pup, puppy, cur, fido, flea bag, man's best friend, etc.
All languages have vocabulary variations and versions.
I'm sure if you think about it, or use a thesaurus you can come up with several English word variations that mean "cat."



If you want to learn more animal signs, check out:







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