Dog whistle training

Dog whistle training

Many of us have seen the fine work performed by sheepdog handlers and the exceptional level of whistle control they have with their dogs. They are “talking” to their dogs and the dogs are obeying much like in when leash pressure is applied. We need to think of it as teaching the dog a new language that will have your dog sit or come running to you with a single or many toots on your whistle.

There are many advantages to teaching your dog to return to you by just a couple of blows on a whistle. Dogs hear higher frequency pitches much better than human voices and are more likely to respond to a whistle when out on a walk.

The whistle

Before beginning dog whistle training, you need to decide which type of whistle you want to use. The choices are many but mainly between plastic and metal. In very cold countries a metal whistle can have you lose some skin off your lips. Whistles with a pea in it can also freeze up after your spit turns to ice. This does not mean you shouldn’t choose this type of whistle, but always have a backup. Higher pitched whistles tend to carry over longer distances. However, it does not matter what type of whistle you have if you or your dog is not ready!

Why it works

A whistle sounds the same whoever is blowing it. The dog is trained to recall to a consistent whistle and will do so regardless of who is blowing it, the dog’s owner or his child.

A whistle lacks emotion. Have you tried to call your dog when you are in a panic, a hurry or angry? Your dog sure can tell the difference. The lack of emotion and consistency of a whistle are very important for successful dog commands.

The sound of a whistle carries a long way and is a sharp, sophisticated way to communicate with a dog outdoors.

Dogs love the whistle and the treats that go with it.

Getting started

Start training yourself by clenching the whistle between your teeth so that both hands are free to give hand signals for the dog to come and sit,and give verbal commands like “Come” and “Sit” at the same time. Use the whistle like a football or soccer ref. Hands free.

 To have good control over your dog, it is important to insist throughout training that he must look at you to see your hand-signals so that you can stop him in motion, call him to come again or to turn left or right and follow your directions.

Practice short sharp pips ***** (Come) and long blasts ___ (Stop/sit) on the whistle. Once you have decided on your signals, stick to it!

Three  most common whistle commands:

Action Verbal commandWhistle command
Calling to you “Here” “Come” Multiple Pips with both arms outstretched
Sit at a distance“Sit”1 Long Blast – open hand raised like stop sign
Redirect to Left or Right2 Pips with arm pointing to Left or Right

Training:  Always train on leash to be able to correct the dog’s behaviour when necessary.  

1. “Come” – Multiple blasts – Calling the dog to you with multiple ***** pips.

Firstly: The dog must know that coming to you is rewarding! Call him with open arms, jump up and down and reward with your best treats as you fuss over your dog.

1. Start your training in the home away from distractions and have the dog on leash.

2. Blow multiple pips and get the dog to sit before treating. Repeat many times over several days. The dog must learn that the whistle means a reward is coming.

3. Wait for him to be distracted and look away before blowing and rewarding a sit in front of you.

4. When your dog is in another part of the house, blow the pips and reward when he comes to you. This shows that he is beginning to understand what the pips mean.

5. Next, start training outside. When the dog is on one end of the garden and you are further away, you can blow and use a hand signal but with no calling – because you want him to come back solely to the whistle sounds.

6. Once your dog consistently comes to you in the yard, it is time to take training to a place with low distractions and make use of a long line to avoid losing control of him.

Games to make the recall strong

  1. Sprinkle food on the ground and run away as the dog starts searching for it. Blow multiple pips as the dog come charging back to you for more.
  2. Toss a treat a distance away and say, “Find it” and blow as he comes back to you.
  3. Give a static sit command, walk a short distance away and halt standing sideways or with your back to the dog. Call and blow. The dog must learn to respond regardless of what the owner does.
  4. Allow the dog to become distracted and explore the environment. Blow the whistle and reward him when he returns to you.
  5. Distractions. Throw a ball and as the dog runs to it, whistle many pips to recall him.

Further tips:

Do not rush these steps. If you go too quickly your dog may not fully understand the whistle. Just spend a few minutes at a time doing whistle training and stop when the dog is doing well. Don’t let him become bored. If the dog does not come back for any reason STOP whistling!!!!

NB Do not do Single whistle training before your dog fully reacts to the multi-pip recall.

2. “Sit” – Single whistle blast

To teach this, start in the house or yard on leash. Give a verbal sit command and if needed tug up on the leash to get a quick sit, and then immediately blow on the whistle once. Reward well. Repeat often. The dog will soon understand that the verbal sit command and the single whistle blast requires him to sit down fast.

Next, with the aid of a longer leash the dog can be allowed to become distracted and move some distance away. Give the sit command and single blow but do not let the dog move or run towards you. If he does – run towards the dog and make him sit. The dog must learn that he must sit down immediately wherever he is and look at you for the next command.

It is important that when doing this exercise you don’t immediately release the dog from his sit. Always wait a few second before giving a release command. This is the first step in long-range hand signals.

Alternative exercises for older dogs.

With your dog in the Heel position, step off on your left leg and walk a few steps and as you halt you say, “Sit” and give 1 long blast on the whistle and tug upwards to get a quick sit. Repeat many times. Once your dog understands and reacts smartly to your verbal commands, you can start with a one-blast whistle command without a verbal “Sit.” This single, long blast is a command that tells him to sit down and await another command.

Verbal “Sit” is given first then a single blast. NB: Start with the verbal command and follow up with a whistle command. Once the dog understands both commands it is time to reverse the order to first whistle then say “Sit” or  whistle  then  “Come.”

A longer line may be needed when the dog is further away and you need to run to him and get him to sit immediately and wait for the “Ok” or release command.

Be patient and reward lavishly when teaching with a whistle. Slow and steady wins the race!!!!

Distance sit

Getting the dog to sit at a distance must be mastered as soon as possible. It is similar to an emergency sit as is taught for the Canine Good Citizen GOLD test.

The handler must take a step forward and his arm must be raised up like a stop sign, palm open as he gives the sit command verbally and whistle blast. Work up slowly and consistently.

Once the dog has mastered the distance sit the following exercises can be attempted and perfected.

1. Distance sit followed by a recall to sit next to handler.

2. Distance sit – recall – sit – recall to handler.

3. Redirect to another position

In this exercise the whistle is used to call the dog to the handler and then at a pre-determined spot to sit the dog who should be looking at the handler for a new instruction. A saucer with treats was placed to the left and a toy was placed to the right of the position where the dog is now sitting.

With wide gestures of the left arm waving to the left and two blows on the whistle he now instructs, “Go left. Go left” to guide the dog to find the treats. By swinging the right arm to the right he tells the dog to, ”Go back. Go back” etc.

Controlling the dog

Both whistle commands 1 and 2 are crucial because they are truly the cornerstones for hand signals and blind retrieves at a later stage. If you cannot get your dog to pay attention to you, how will you ever get him to notice your hand signals? And if he doesn’t notice your hand signals, how is he going to find his treat or toy, or more?

Another important reason for using a whistle is safety. There are situations like your dog straying near a highway, or if he has become interested in investigating a snake, when you must be able to stop your dog and call him back to you. It is never a good idea to let your dog get into a situation where you can’t control him.