How To Whistle Train Your Dog
Updated: Apr 25
There’s a bunch of advantages to being a dog owner when you start implementing whistle training. Having a disciplined dog that returns to you on command can stop dangerous situations and means you can be more lenient with how much space you give your dog on a field when out for walks. Dogs can hear at a much higher frequency than humans can and they can hear a high pitch easier than a lower one, and at further distances. This means that whistle training becomes much more effective than a simple “Come here!” training.
For whistles there are a huge range of them. The ACME range of whistles are plastic so they’re easy to keep hold of with your mouth and they come in a range of pitches to suit your dog. You can pick them up here.
When you start implementing the whistle, you can’t expect your dog to understand what it means on the first go, or the second or third. You need to teach them at home first before you can rely on them to understand what your intention is by using the whistle while they’re out.
Training should start at home. Make sure you’ve got some time to start a training session, gather some treats of food for them and make sure you’ve got their attention.
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Begin blowing the whistle exactly how you would when you’re out on walks with your dog. Within a few seconds of blowing the whistle, give them a treat. You want to repeat this over and over again to solidify the knowledge and behaviour. You're basically trying to show your dog that whistles mean treats and rewards.
Next, start waiting for your dog to look away from you or get distracted by something else. When they do this, blow the whistle again. If they come back to you or look back towards you, reward them. Start repeating this step so that you’re progressing into capturing their attention and then rewarding it.
Moving on from that, when your dog’s in another room, blow that whistle. If your dog comes to you, reward them. This step’s an important one because it shows that your dog is starting to understand that when the whistle is blown, to come to you. You can also blow the whistle to get your dog to come to you when it’s time for food too.
Next let’s take it outside. Go out to your garden with your dog. When they lose interest in you and start to explore the garden, blow the whistle. If your dog is more into playing with you than getting treats, then give them a toy and have a little game with your dog as a reward for returning. Remember that treats aren’t the only type of reward - your attention and affection is just as good.
Once you’ve got your dog consistently coming back to you when each whistle blow, its time to up the scale again. Go to a large, quiet place such as a field or a quiet park that has no other dogs or people in. Every now and then while your puppy’s playing, use the whistle and get them to come back to you for a reward. If you’re having trouble getting them to come back to you, run away from them. Usually they’ll chase after you. You can also use a long line to keep them attached to you but free to run as they please for a certain distance. You can buy Long Lines here.
You’ll want to start building up the distance between you and your dog now as you start recalling them from further away. Reward them each and every time they return to you with affection, play time or treats. You can then start moving on to places where there are more distractions. You want to slowly build them up and progress the distractions and difficulty of the training. Eventually, your dog will come back from pretty much any situation when you whistle and call them.
Do not rush these steps. If you go too quickly, you run the risk of your dog not fully understanding the whistle.
Do not do too much too soon with your dog. Just spend a few minutes at a time doing the whistle training – always stop when your dog is doing well. Do not carry it on until your dogs becomes bored, always end on a positive.
Never feed your dog before going on a walk. As well as increasing the chances of ‘bloat’, you do not want your dog to be full up, otherwise, this decreases the chance of him not wanting to come back to you.
When out on a walk, you have to compete against all other distractions. If you think about rewards in terms of monetary value, something like a gravy bone may be worth £1 to your dog,whereas a treat your dog would not normally get, such as fresh chicken, hotdog, sausage, liver, etc may be worth £50. If you were a dog, which one would you rather have?
The treats you give your dog only need to be very small, i.e. the size of your small finger nail for larger dogs, and half that for smaller dogs.
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