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How to Use a Dog Whistle: Complete Guide

Woman blowing a dog whistle outside

Written by The Halo Team

November 18, 2022

Dog whistles are a tool used in training working dogs, and they can be an effective training tool for your much-loved pet, too. Coupled with the Halo GPS Dog Collar Fence, you can successfully train your dog to follow your obedience commands, and stay safe within virtual fence boundaries.

  • Dogs can hear different frequencies than humans, so a dog whistle uses those frequencies.
  • Whistles are effective for long-range use, especially in recall training.
  • Dogs need to understand what the whistle means before they respond to it.

It’s a well-known fact that animals can hear different frequencies than humans, which is why working dogs are often trained using a dog whistle. To humans, a dog whistle seems to make only a strange hissing sound, but the actual whistle itself is ultrasonic — above our hearing capacity, but just right for your dog to hear, even over a large distance.

If you’re considering using a dog whistle to help with training, such as recall or changing certain behaviors, you might like to know more about how it works.

What Is a Dog Whistle?

The dog whistle was actually invented by Sir Francis Galton in 1876 and used as part of an experiment to test the range of human hearing. His tests found that while the limits of human hearing was somewhere around 17kHz to 20kHz, a dog could hear frequencies of up to 45kHz (and cats could hear even higher).

Whistle training is commonly used in working dogs, particularly in rural situations or busy cities. You might see a shepherd in the hills using a whistle to control a herding dog or a police dog handler using a whistle to direct their animal’s work.
Different types of dog training whistles are available, and some are designed to offer different tones depending on how they’re blown — which is useful, because not all dogs will respond to all frequencies, and working dogs might have separate commands for each whistle tone.

For training, the whistle is more reliable than the human voice, especially over longer distances, and can really help boost your relationship with your favorite furry friend.

Benefits of Using a Dog Whistle

  • Dog whistles can be heard over long distances.
  • The frequency of a dog whistle won’t be drowned out by other noises.
  • It’s an obvious and unique attention-grabber.
  • The sound is consistent.
  • It can be used hands-free.

Disadvantages of Using a Dog Whistle

  • Not all dogs respond to whistles.
  • The sound can be unpleasant or even painful for a dog if misused.
  • The correct reaction to the dog whistle has to be trained — it isn’t an automatic response.
  • Overuse can reduce the effect of dog whistle training.

How to Use a Dog Whistle

Woman training her dog with a dog whistle
The most common command associated with dog whistle training is recall. Remember to use positive reinforcement with this training tool; most dogs are food-oriented and will respond to a high-value food treat, but with others, you might want to use a favorite toy or ball. Make it fun and engaging and you’ll be working together sooner than you think!

The five steps below will help you get the most out of your whistle training — just keep it fun and safe.

Step 1: Make Sure Your Dog Hears the Whistle

Some professional dog trainers blow the whistle while their dog is asleep to see if it wakes them up, and you can try that to make sure you get a reaction.

Once you know the whistle works, you can start associating it with a treat or reward. Blow the whistle and follow with a reward immediately

Step 2: Get the Dog’s Attention

Once you use a whistle and give the reward, the next step is to use the whistle to get your dog to look at you.

When your dog is distracted, blow the whistle and reward it when it makes eye contact. You want to associate getting your dog’s attention with the whistle so it understands what you’re asking it to do — and that good things happen when it responds correctly.

Step 3: Wait in a Different Room

When your dog isn’t in the room you’re in, use a dog whistle to get it to come to you and reward it when it does. Silent dog whistles are great for this because they won’t annoy or upset other members of your family while you’re training — definitely a bonus in a busy house.

Step 4: Take the Dog Outside

Once your dog’s ear is attuned to the whistle, you can take the training outside where there are more distractions.

Stand at the other end of the yard from your dog, and when it’s busy sniffing a patch of grass or just generally not paying attention to you, repeat the whistle equals treat exercise so it stops what it’s doing and comes to you.

Step 5: Train in Other Areas

Once the outdoors has been conquered, you can start venturing into more open areas to work on this newly acquired skill. It’s probably best to start somewhere that has minimal distractions, and unless you’re confident about your dog’s recall cue, you might want to use a long leash for safety reasons.

Always finish with a win so the lesson stays positive and you’re both having fun.

Additional Training

Once you’ve trained one command, you can move on to other whistle commands, such as curbing excessive barking. Getting a dog to stop barking when it hears the whistle command is effective when backed up with a verbal command and a reward, so you should treat this the same way as the recall cue but use a different frequency so the dog doesn’t get confused.

Things to Remember When Using a Dog Whistle

Whistle training is a fun way to learn something new with your dog and can help keep them safe whether taking a hike or just playing in the dog park. As the dog owner, it’s up to you to ensure your dog knows what the whistle means and how you’re using it.

You might need to follow a whistle with the relevant verbal command until it becomes second nature.

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