How To Use A Dog Whistle – Step By Step Guide

how to use a dog whistle

We all know the cartoonish image of a dog owner huffing and puffing out of a whistle that apparently makes no sound, while his dog goes nuts. If you’ve ever thought of trying to use one of these silent whistles to train your dog, you’re actually not off track.

Dog whistles have the distinct advantage of being silent to humans. This means that you can call your dog without disturbing people in your vicinity. But learning how to use a dog whistle can be a little tricky at first- for both owner, and dog.

Here is an easy dog whistle guide for how to use a dog whistle with minimum fuss and maximum efficiency.

How Do Dog Whistles Work?

Blowing a dog whistle produces a range of high frequency sounds that are too high pitched for the human ear. However, dogs are fully capable of hearing these frequencies, as an adaptation derived from their life as predators in the wild.

Most dog whistles have a small adjustable scale which allows you to adjust the frequency of the sound being produced. The sound remains completely silent to humans, but within the range for dogs. This is important because smaller dogs often respond to high frequencies that larger dogs do not respond to. The key is to find the range of frequencies that are ideal for your dog’s ears.

How Do You Blow A Dog Whistle?

If you’ve ever used a dog whistle as a child, congratulations! You know how to blow a dog whistle too. The differences are practically nonexistent, but still important.

You can use your dog whistle to produce short or longer sounds. You can also adjust the frequency of these sounds by using the scale or switches on your dog whistle. It’s a good idea to practice making these sounds before you use them on your dog, especially since you can’t hear them yourself.

When using a dog whistle for the first time with your dog, the Wake Up test is a good starting point.

Wake Up Test

When your dog is sleeping, start by blowing the whistle and adjusting the frequency scale from lowest to highest. At the point where your dog wakes up and turns towards the sound, is the point where your dog can hear the frequency of sound being produced. You can repeat the test when he’s awake as well to see if it gets his attention.

Once you’re aware of the range of the dog whistle sounds that your dog responds to, you can start training your dog to respond to your whistling. 

How To Use A Dog Whistle For Training

The first step of training your dog to respond to your dog whistle command is to teach him to recognize the whistle sound and associate it with you.

Start by making one particular whistle sound when you’re near your dog. Initially, you can combine this with calling his name, assuming that your dog is already name-trained. If your dog is not trained to respond to his name yet, you have to do this first.

Blow the whistle in a specific whistle command, and call your dog’s name. When your dog comes to you, reward him in the form of a small edible treat, patting, cuddling, and positive reinforcement. Encouraging him and rewarding him when he responds to the dog whistle command will teach him to remember and will train this behavior into him.

If you have an outdoors dog, you could even start teaching him the ‘come’ command at mealtimes. This way, he’ll associate responding to the command and being rewarded faster.

Doing this repeatedly over the period of a few days will hammer this command and reward experience into him. Once he has learned it properly, you can progress to whistling without calling his name. When he comes to you, give him the same praise, cuddles, and positive reinforcement. Small doggie treats are your best friend when teaching these commands.

Make sure that you use the same whistle command to teach him to ‘come’. This allows you to teach him different behaviors with longer and shorter whistle commands.

Also, it will be harder for him to relearn a different command to this whistle sound later, so make sure you make the same sound each time. Otherwise, you can end up confusing him.

Rewarding your dog will reinforce your training. Keep repeating it for at least a week, till you are sure that your dog has learned to come in response to that particular whistle cue.

It can be frustrating, but you need to be patient. You already know that your dog can hear the sound. Now it’s just a matter of training him to respond to it.

This is a massively useful command to teach your dog. Dog whistles make sounds that carry over longer ranges of distance than voice. So instead of bellowing for your dog across a park or field and hoping he responds to you, you can use a dog whistle to summon your dog to you, without attracting too much attention.

If you often take your dog hunting or camping, or have a working or roaming dog who runs around in your backyard or neighborhood, this is doubly useful.

How To Train A Dog With A Whistle

Once your dog has learned to respond to a basic whistle command for ‘come’, you can start teaching him different dog whistle training commands on different cues. Using an adjustable dog whistle lets you teach your dog different instructions on different whistle cues.

For example, a long tone can be used for calling your dog to you. A short, sharp note can be used to make him sit, or heel. Two rapid successive whistle blasts can mean guard, or attack. You can make up more combinations. Just make sure that your dog can differentiate them, and you’re not overwhelming him.

You could even combine these with hand gestures to teach your dog to respond to you more closely.

Make Sure: Important Points to Remember About Whistling For Dogs

When your dog is still in the training stage, it’s important to keep the following things in mind:

  • Make sure you teach him one command at a time.
  • Make sure he has completely done the command before progressing to the next one.
  • Make sure you are assigning one sound for one particular command.
  • Make sure that you are not blowing the whistle too hard when your dog is close to you.
  • When your dog has learned to respond to whistle and verbal commands together, you can switch to using whistle-only commands. But make sure that you feed your dog treats each time, till he has the training down to a pat.
  • Speaking of pats, once your dog has learned to come when you call him, you can switch off the treats slowly. Start by desensitizing your Pooch to expect treats each time he responds to a command. By this point it will have become part of his training, and he will do it anyway.
  • Make sure you refresh your dog training at regular intervals. Going for long periods of time can lead to your dog unlearning trained behavior.

Dog Whistle Tips

Finding the best dog whistle that works for you can require some experimentation in the beginning.  But it’s also a good idea to buy multiples of the same whistle once you have found one that works for you and your dog.

The idea behind this is that if you ever have to buy a replacement whistle, you won’t have to go on a whole retraining session with your dog with the new one.

Dog Whistle Myths

A lot of people seem to be under the impression that you can use your dog whistle to train your dog to stop barking. In reality, it might end up  provoking the exact opposite reaction.

Dog whistles can be used to teach dogs commands, but these commands are reinforced by using treats and rewards. The dog whistle only provides a cue for the dog to respond to.

Some people perpetuate a myth that dog whistle or other ultrasonic sound producing devices for dogs,  can be used to teach them to stop barking, stop whining, or to pull back from a fight.

This is a myth, because dog training is based on reward. Dog whistles cannot be used to get a dog to stop barking. In fact, the high pitched sound is likelier to encourage your dog to chime in and bark more.

Can Dog Whistles Hurt Dogs?

Yes. Because humans cannot hear the ultrasonic frequency sounds that dog whistles produce, it is possible to get a little overzealous and overdo it.

When using a dog whistle, make sure that your dog is not in the same room, and not standing or sitting too close to the whistle sound. Also, make sure that you are not whistling too loud, or too long.

As long as you don’t use your dog whistle to close to your dog’s ears, you won’t do any damage to your dog’s delicate ears.  But the possibility exists, which is why you should be careful. 

Using a dog whistle for training brings you one step closer to having an impeccably trained pooch – one who responds to your commands without you even having to ‘ask’ him for it!

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