Dog Whistle Training

Dog whistle training was once known only in gun dog training, but many owners are turning to whistle training because the sound travels further, allowing them to have control of their dogs from greater distances.

Use of the Whistle

There are many types of whistles available for whistle training from large referee-type whistles to smaller dog whistles that have higher pitches better heard by dogs. These can be purchased almost anywhere or at a dog training-specific web site. Find a type that you like and stick with it. You won't be able to swap whistle types without retraining your dog.

Dogs aren't ready for distance training until they have been trained near you with fewer distractions. Thus, before introducing a whistle, your dog needs to be able to perform basic commands, such as sit and come, reliably. The whistle is introduced to replace the verbal command, which may not be heard from a great distance.

After introducing the whistle, you gradually increase distance and distraction. If your dog ever can't perform, go back to training and prepare your dog to respond properly no matter what the distraction.

Distance Sit

You can use whistle training for any command, but the two most commonly taught commands are the distance sit and the distant recall. The distance sit is important because it can keep your dog out of trouble. If your dog is in a sit-stay, he can avoid danger, such as chasing an animal or running into traffic.

To whistle train, you must first train hand signal. Use a treat lure directly above your dog's nose and move it toward your dog's rear. When he lifts his head to follow the treat, he will drop into a sit. Praise and reward.

After a couple of repetitions, remove the treat from your hand and use only a hand signal. Make the hand signal dramatic as it will need to be seen from a distance. As your dog is sitting, add the whistle sound. Praise and reward as normal.

Make sure the whistle sound is distinct, such as a short burst as opposed to a long whistle.

Gradually build distance using a 30-foot long line that will allow you control your dog in case he doesn't listen.

Distance Recall

For a perfectly reliable recall, you must start small and build up in both distance and distraction. Begin with your dog on a 6-foot leash and toss a treat away from you so your dog isn't focused on you. Don't teach it from a sit-stay since your dog won't be in a sit-stay if he is chasing another dog.

Run backward to entice your dog to run toward and say his name excitedly. When he reaches you, say "come," reward and praise. As your dog gets used to this game, begin to replace the verbal command with a distinct whistle.

As your dog gets better, begin moving the whistle to earlier in the command so he will know to start running toward you at the sound of the whistle rather than his name. Build up to having him recall off distractions.

Before graduating to the 30-foot line, you should be able to call your dog off anything: food, squirrels, cats, other dogs, etc. Repeat the process with the 30-foot line to build up distance. Then, build in distance distractions. Don't graduate to off-leash until your dog can be called off of any distraction.