What are the benefits of using a dog whistle?
The dog whistle is the tool of choice when giving out commands to the working dog. They have a proven history of being an effective communication tool between the owner and the dog. However you rarely see its use in the mainstream of dog ownership. You will see owners in parks shouting commands or even having a full conversation with their dog. Dogs don’t want you talking to them. To them it is a jumble of sounds and tones which they have to try and recognise the important tone of a command. A dog does not understand what the word Sit means, but it has learnt the sound we have to make to say sit is related to the action of it putting its bum on the floor will bring a reward and a happy owner. Therefore having a conversation with a dog is meaningless, but makes the owner feel good. Owners who talk a lot to their dog can sometimes find the dog does not respond to verbal cues well. The reason for this is they have switched off from the noise and so missed the important command amongst the chatter. A ploy humans do very well!!
The only conversation you should have with the dog is to issue commands. Even this is problematic as the dog will read a lot from the tone we use with the verbal command. An example is when the owner is recalling the dog. The owner might shout ‘Rover Come Here, be a good boy’ in a calm voice. As Rover ignores its owner the shouting gets louder and more frantic. Rover can now tell mum is not happy and sounds stressed so best avoid her and so the cycle continues. Owner gets louder and more stressed and the dog ignores her. We also have to add to the mix to complicate things further; Is ‘Rover Come Here, be a Good Boy’ a command or conversation. The dog will most likely understand the tone of its name, but the rest of the command is chatter the dog will ignore. Of course the weather comes into play as well when the dog is upwind of you on a really windy day and you are hoping your voice will carry.
This is where the dog whistle comes into its own. The important thing is it cuts out the useless chatter. The use of my own whistle consists of two taught commands. One blow of the whistle means sit and wait. Three blows of the whistle means a recall. Therefore at distance I can control my dog with the whistle and not the voice. The sound of a whistle blowing will be picked up by the dog straight away as it is only ever blown when something needs to happen. Unlike the voice which will say lots of sounds and tones which are not meant for the dog.
Removing Emotion from Recall Commands
Perhaps the biggest plus for using a dog whistle is the fact it will remove any emotion from the command. The whistle will sound the same to the dog regardless of if the owner is calm or very stressed. The dog will have no reason to not come back because it will not hear any stress in the whistle tone, unlike the voice.
Most dogs have more than one owner in the family unit and the use of a whistle will ensure consistency of commands. If 4 people walk the dog and use voice commands then it is most likely that they will have different tones and different commands. Very confusing for the dog, but a whistle will even the playing field and make life a lot easier for the dog to understand what is required. Imagine if we had a dog from Germany who had been taught a recall to a whistle and likewise a dog from England. Each owner could do a recall with a whistle and the other dog would understand, but verbally they would not. Therefore it is easy to see the importance of dog whistle training
What Dog Whistle to use for Dog Training?
This post is not a selling advert for whistles. It is based on my own experience of training a dog in field sports and using the whistle as a communication tool in my Dog and Puppy training. There are a wide variety of whistles some practical and some a gimmick. One whistle does need its own mention.
The ‘Silent Whistle’ is a popular buy and a number clients have bought one when I said get a whistle for training, despite clearly not advocating the silent whistle. It has its place and some trainers swear by them. Personally I don’t use them for the sole reason they limit the sound control you have over the whistle because humans cannot hear them. Dogs have superior hearing to ours and when they are close by and you give a whistle command it needs to be a much softer blow then when they are at distance. With a whistle you can hear yourself you can control the sound levels you use depending where the dog is. This makes it a more pleasant experience for the dog.
Personally I use a Acme 210.5. It does what it says on the tin without being fancy.
Training The Dog to Command to the Whistle
As with all training this is best commenced when the puppy first joins you. However with the right techniques older dogs can soon learn to command to a whistle. I will always encourage owners who have employed my services to adopt the whistle as a form of communication. Please contact me if you need help with this.