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People have been using whistling to control their dogs for more centuries than you can imagine. Long before the days of the factory-made tin whistle, they made whistles from wood or bone. A great many simply used their mouth to create a range of whistle sounds, giving their dogs commands they might not be able to hear otherwise. Shepherds still use a flat whistle tucked in their mouths to create unique sounds that tell their dogs which way to go.
However, no dog instinctively knows how to respond to commands given in this manner any more than they know how to respond to voice commands without being trained to do so. You can start this training from a very early age. In fact, the sooner you start training your pup, the easier it will be for you to train him to respond.
The idea here is to train your dog to perform a number of commands in response to specific whistle commands. By the time you are done, your pup should be able to perform all basic commands such as 'come', 'sit', 'stay', 'down', and any others you want, using nothing more than carefully thought out whistle commands. One thing to keep in mind is that once you have developed a series of commands, be sure to stick to them. Changing them in midstream will only confuse your pup and make training almost impossible.
You do have a choice when it comes to what type of whistle to buy. Traditionally, a very loud whistle is used. But you can also work with a "silent" whistle that only your dog can hear. The funny thing about the silent whistle is that, in many cases, they are easier for your dog to hear than the one you can both hear.
The best time to whistle train your pup is at the same time you are teaching him the basic commands. This way he learns both the verbal and whistle commands at the same time. Of course, you can train any dog to follow whistle commands, it just takes a different approach and a little more time. There really isn’t much you need in the way of training supplies, but you will need:
- Dog whistle: Your choice of an audible to all or a silent dog whistle for training you may want one you can hear. This will help you learn the commands at the same time your pup is learning them.
- A quiet place: It is always much easier to train your pup when there aren't any distractions.
- Time and patience: You will never have enough of either of these.
Before you start working on command training, use the whistle in the house to get your dog used to hearing it. Then try giving a few blasts, if your pup comes over to you, give him a treat. You don't need to do this too often, just enough for him to get used to the sound and to responding to it. Remember, you need to pre-plan your whistle commands, consider using a single long blast for 'sit', four short blasts for 'come', and if you really want to get fancy, two short blasts for 'turn left' and three for 'turn' right.
The Puppy Training Method
Treats and whistle
Grab your dog whistle and a bag of your pup's favorite treats and find a quiet spot to work in.
Train the 'come' command
Call out your dog's name and the command 'come' then give the whistle a long blast. You may have to repeat the process several times before your pup makes the connection between the verbal command and whistle and what is expected of him. When he does, be sure to give him lots of praise and treats.
Over and over again
Keep repeating this part of the training until your pup will come every time you call him this way. Be sure to give him lots of praise and treats.
Alternate the commands
Now its time to try alternating the commands, first use only the verbal command, be sure to reward him when he succeeds. Then repeat the process using just the whistle. Keep this up over the course of several days until your pup masters this skill.
The rest just takes time
Once your pup has mastered the come command, you can work your way through the rest of them in the exact same manner, verbal/whistle at first, alternating next, lots of treats and praise along the way.
The I Know What I'm Doing Method
A walk first
Start this when your dog already knows the basic commands, but take him go for a nice long walk that tires him out. It is much easier to work with a calm dog.
A quiet place
Find a quiet place, outside preferably, to work on your pup's training. If possible, an enclosed yard works best.
It all starts with 'come'
Give your pup the 'come' command and when he comes over, give him a treat.
Now add in the whistle
This time, give him the verbal 'come' command and immediately give him the whistle command. When he responds, be sure to praise him and give him a treat.
And further on
The rest is all about rinse and repeat until your pup masters the 'come' command. Then you can move on to the rest of the commands you want him to learn. Your pup can be taught to do an incredibly wide range of tasks and tricks using nothing more than the whistle.
The Lure Him In Method
Head for the yard
Grab your pup's favorite treats and head out into the backyard. The noise of the whistle is far less likely to bother anyone this way.
Run, run, run around
With the whistle in your mouth, start running around the yard blasting away. Watch your pup and as soon as he starts paying attention to you hold one of his treats out to him, call him to you.
Praise and treat
When your pup comes over to you, be sure to shower him with tons of praise and give him the treat. At this stage, it is vital that your pup knows he has done what is expected of him.
Widening the gap
Once he responds to this, start increasing the distance between the two of you working with him until he will come to you each time using only the whistle. Do this for several days, gradually increase the distance until he is far enough away that he can still hear the whistle but cannot hear a voice command.
Ease up on the treats
By now he should know exactly what is expected of him and you can slowly wean him off the treats. After all, no one wants an overweight dog, it just isn't healthy.
By PB Getz
Published: 11/17/2017, edited: 01/08/2021