What Is Dog Whistle Training?

Dog whistle training has been around for a long time.  It’s usually associated with hunting and herding since these are activities where dogs often work at a distance from their owners.  During these situations, especially with hunting, the sound of a human voice could spook birds or other game.  It’s much easier for a hunter to use a whistle to communicate with his dog.  In some cases the dog may even be out of sight of the hunter or herdsman.   A whistle still allows the owner to send signals to the dog.

Despite its origins, any owner can teach his dog to respond to whistle training.  It’s not hard for most dogs to learn.  There are a few basic commands that most dogs need to learn (such as sit and come).  These commands typically have the same whistles and signals from one area to the next (though you can use whatever signals you like, as long as you’re consistent with your dog).  Otherwise, there is really no limit to the whistles and signals you can teach your dog.

Dogs have very sensitive hearing so they can pick up many high-pitched sounds that people can’t hear.  Many whistles produce sounds in the upper register or are even “silent” to humans.  There are other whistles that are as loud as a referee’s whistles.  Choose a whistle that suits you and your dog.  Whistles also come in plastic, metal or even horn or bone.  Again, you should go with your personal preference.

It is advisable to get a lanyard when you buy a whistle.  This is a cord that goes around your neck.  The whistle attached and hangs from the cord like a pendant.  This keeps you from losing the whistle if you’re out in the field.

To train your dog to use whistle commands it helps if he already knows basic obedience commands.  You should start by working on the whistle commands when your dog is near you.  Give your dog the normal command to sit, for example, and add the whistle command for sitting (a long whistle blast, hand raised and open).  Praise and reward your dog.  If you do this repeatedly, using the whistle command with the ordinary command, your dog should begin to learn the whistle and hand signals.  You can gradually start working on the whistle and hand signals with your dog farther away from you.

You can add other whistle commands such as coming when called (multiple whistle blows with your arms stretched out wide to the side) using the same method — practice with your dog near you at first using the command that he knows, then start practicing with your dog farther away from you.

You can have your dog change direction when he’s quartering a field (if you’re a hunter) by giving two blows on the whistle and indicating the new direction with your hands.

Otherwise, make up whatever whistle and hand signals work best for you and your dog.  Just be consistent with them so you dog will know what you’re trying to communicate.

Whistle training can be very handy in many situations, especially when your dog is at a distance from you.  Try it with your dog and see how it goes.

Mark Mansfield

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