You’re probably familiar with the sight (and sound) of everyone from sheepdog herders to police dog handlers using a whistle to call their dog over. It’s a great way to teach a dog to come when called, and can sometimes be even more effective than simply using your voice.
No matter where you may be in your recall training journey, whistle training would more than likely be beneficial. Read on to learn why and to find out how to get started with whistle training your dog.
Why Whistle Train?
There are a few benefits that come from whistle training a dog. Firstly, a whistle can be heard from greater distances, making this ideal for recalling a dog that likes to wander far and wide when off-leash. Even better, if you use a silent dog whistle (more on this later), then humans and wildlife won’t be able to hear it. For some, this silent option is a much better alternative than standing in the middle of a park and yelling their dog’s name at the top of their lungs.
Finally, and most importantly, the sound of a whistle lacks emotion. Think about the number of times you’ve called your dog over while you’ve been frustrated, angry, panicked, or even just in a hurry. Your dog would have been able to sense your emotional state from the tone of your voice, no matter how well you tried to hide it. This would have then affected whether or not they returned to you. A whistle takes the emotion away from recall, which can help in a huge way.
Choosing a Whistle
You have two main options when picking a whistle to use. The first is a silent whistle. As mentioned, this can be extremely useful if you’re trying to recall your dog in a busy area. However, the downside to this is that you won’t be able to hear the whistle yourself. If your dog is a fair distance away, you won’t actually know if you blew the whistle loud enough for them to hear.
This is why many choose to go with a standard whistle. However, rather than buying just one, we would recommend purchasing a few with different frequencies. Keep these in various places around your home so that you always have one to hand when you need it.
Introducing the Whistle to Your Dog
Right from the start, you’ll need to make sure that your dog associates the whistle with something positive. The easiest way to do this is by introducing the whistle at mealtimes. When you set your dog’s dish down, blow on the whistle a couple of times before allowing them to eat.
Do this before walks too. It will teach your dog that the sound of the whistle signals that good things are about to happen.
Using the Whistle for Recall
Once your dog associates the whistle with positivity, you can then move on to using it for recall. Start in the house, waiting until your dog is calm and quiet before blowing the whistle a couple of times. If you followed the previous steps of building up positive associations with the whistle, your dog should immediately come over to you as soon as they hear the sound. Once they do, give them plenty of praise and a couple of high value treats.
Keep repeating this around your home at different times of the day. Keep things simple and easy for now. You want your dog to succeed at this every single time. This will make things so much easier when you transition to using the whistle outside.
After a week or so of practice, follow the same steps but while your dog is in the garden. Again, make sure that there’s nothing distracting them, so that they’ll definitely listen to the whistle.
Once your dog responds 100% of the time, you can start to practice in public places. Again, keep things as easy as possible by ensuring that their environment is distraction-free. Make sure that you always heavily reward your dog for responding to the whistle. Over time, you’ll be able to phase the treats out. However, for the first few months, keep using treats to ensure that your dog learns the whistle command well.
If you’ve been struggling with recall, whistle training could make the world of difference. So long as you introduce it to your dog correctly and don’t rush the training process, your pooch should pick it up in no time at all!