How To Train A Dog With a Whistle

Kate Basedow, LVT

Wondering how to train a dog with a whistle?

Dog training, whether for obedience or working, is an essential part of dog ownership. If you are considering using a whistle as part of your training.

While verbal recall is one of the most important skills your dog should master, if you love going for walks with your furry friend in wide-open spaces, no one wants to be screaming verbal commands across a soccer field at the top of their lungs! 

This is where whistle commands can come in handy. 

Just like how your dog responds to a verbal command, through proper training, your pup can perform a wide range of commands through a distinct whistle signal.

Of course, as most things whistle training isn’t easy and comes with its advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we are going to look at how you can train your dog with a whistle, the pros and cons of whistle training, and some things to consider.

Here, we’ll go through the essentials of training your dog with a whistle, in detail, including:

  • Is whistle traing good for dogs?
  • How do dog whistles work?
  • When to start training your dog with a whistle
  • Choosing the right whistle
  • What frequency whistle to use
  • Training with a silent whistle
  • How to use a dog whistle for training
  • And more pro tips!

Is whistle training good for dogs?

A whistle-trained dog is a well-trained dog and makes for a reliable canine companion.

Dogs who have been trained using whistles may have fewer behavioral problems than those who haven’t.

This is because they’re able to respond to commands by using a whistle cue rather than relying on human language.

If you want your dog to obey a verbal command but don’t want to yell at him, then whistle training could be perfect for you.

How do dog whistles work?

Dog whistles work by emitting a high-pitched sound. With successful training, these can be used to train dogs using quick blasts to get them to follow a consistent command such as a recall command.

There are two main types of dog whistles:

1) Single tone whistles

2) Multi-tone whistles

How to train a dog with a whistle

Single-tone whistles

These are the simplest types of whistles. They consist of only one note which is played at a certain volume.

The best way to explain them is by comparing them to a musical instrument.

When you play a single-tone whistle, you’re essentially playing a single note in a solid tone.

Multi-tone whistles

These whistles come in different variations. Some only contain one note. Other multi-toned whistles contain more than one note.

This type of whistle produces different sound pitches when blown. 

It’s just that the frequency of each note varies from whistle to whistle.

When to start training your dog with a whistle?

Whistle training is best started around 12 weeks old. Your puppy will learn faster if you start teaching him before he’s fully developed.

However, it is incredibly important to have a pup that already understands voice commands and has some recall training.

If your dog has already reached full maturity, for example, if you have a rescue, it won’t hurt to begin his training later in life. Contrary to popular belief, you’ll still be able to teach him new tricks later on.

Choosing the right dog whistle

If you are considering whistle training for your pup, you are first going to need to get yourself a whistle! There are many different types of whistles, including metal whistles, plastic whistles, ultrasonic whistles, pealess whistles…you get the picture!

Generally speaking, it is good to find a simple plastic whistle for training first, especially if you intend to train outdoors and live in a cold climate. Although a metal whistle may last longer, it is also likely to take some of the skin from your top lip on a cold winter’s morning!

What frequency is a dog whistle?

While there are many different frequencies available, the ones used for training typically fall between 300Hz and 12800Hz.

There are differences in terms of training for high and low frequency due to how far the frequency travels. Although all dogs will respond to different frequencies across the range, there are some you may want to consider if you have a specific goal.

Retrieval work

For distance and retrieval work, a frequency of 5700Hz works best as this travels longer distances of up to 1500km. 

Obedience training

For hunting dogs like spaniels that have boundless energy, you will want to use a whistle with a frequency of 6200Hz. These do not travel as far, only around 90m, but, as you will be working closely with your dog during a hunt, this is ideal.

Highly trained dogs

For dogs that are working on advanced skills like hunting or sheep herding, you will want a whistle that works at a frequency of 5200Hz to travel further and importantly, cut through the ground cover.

Can I train my dog with a silent whistle?

Yes! You can use a silent dog whistle to train your dog.

“Silent” whistles work by emitting sounds on the ultrasonic range. That means that dogs (and cats, and other animals with supersonic hearing capabilities) can hear this range of frequencies where humans can’t.

Silent whistles don’t make any noise to the human ear when you blow into them. This makes them perfect for training purposes. They also work great for puppies because you don’t need to worry about disturbing your neighbors.

How to use a dog whistle for training

Once you’ve decided when to start training your dog and bought yourself a whistle, it is time to start your first training session. Here are some ways you can use it to help your pup become a better pet.

Teaching commands using a whistle

One of the easiest ways to train your dog with a single-note whistle is to teach him commands like Sit, Stay, Heel, Come, etc.

To do this, first, find a quiet place where no one else will bother your pup.

It is really important to remember that just like a verbal command has a specific sound (“sit” for example) your whistle commands also need to have consistent sounds. Therefore, to avoid confusion, you need to work out what commands you want to teach your dog and what sounds you will make for each. For example, two short whistle blasts for “come” and one for “sit”.

Remember consistency is key and using the same commands repeatedly will prevent confusion.

Pro tip: Be sure to pair a known behavior with a whistle cue.  Start by asking your dog to do an action, like sit, normally, and then reward him. Then, give your whistle cue followed by the verbal and reward when your dog does it. Repeat until your dog starts anticipating and doing the action when he hears the whistle, not waiting for the verbal command. At that point, you can phase out the verbal command, or alternate which one you use so that your dog knows and practices both versions.

Recall and sit commands 

Start out by having your dog sit quietly next to you.

Next, take a deep breath and blow into your whistle. You should hear the sound of air escaping through your lips.

Repeat this same command once and then give the verbal command, then reward for performing the sit. Repeat the sequence several times until your dog starts to anticipate and sit when he hears the whistle rather than waiting for the verbal. 

If you keep whistling before giving the verbal, it isn’t clear what your sit signal is – just give your chosen whistle blast that means sit, then give the verbal translation.

Direction changes 

After your dog knows how to respond to your “sit” command, try a changing directions exercise.

Use the whistle and tell him “Heel.” As he walks by your side, whistle, and then change directions by making a turn to the left. Walk a little more, then change directions again using the same whistle cue.

How to train your dog to come back using a whistle

Using a whistle for recall can be an excellent tool, especially if you intend on taking your pup to run freely in wide-open spaces or even have them as a working dog. 

Make sure your dog has mastered verbal commands

Before you even think about starting your dog’s training, you should first ensure that he knows how to obey basic commands like “come” and “sit”.

These two commands are usually taught early on in a dog’s life.

Once your dog learns these simple commands, then you can move on to more advanced training techniques.

Create positive associations 

If you want your dog to behave properly, you’ll need to create positive associations with certain things.

For instance, use plenty of treats and praise when your dog performs the desired action for your whistle signals. This way he will associate the whistle sound with something he likes…food!

Start practicing at home 

Before venturing into the outside world where there are a plethora of new sights and smells to distract your pup, it is important to practice within the confines of your own home. 

Be sure to use a specific area for training, so he understands the difference between work and playtime. Then, once confident he has a good handle on the commands, you can consider widening your training environment.

Take the training outside 

To start, practice in a confined area. 

To make sure your dog doesn’t wander away when you aren’t looking, you’ll need to practice in a contained space.

For instance, you could set up a pen inside your garage. Or, you could put a leash on your dog and keep him close to you while you work.

Once confident, you can begin working on his manners outside without confinement.

Start small with short walks in a safe area without too many distractions and where it’s ok for your dog to be off-leash. 

As you progress, you can add longer walks and eventually trips to the park.

Remember: Be consistent. Don’t let your dog run off without you.

Once he has the basics down in a controlled environment outdoors, you can start being more adventurous.

Go for hikes. Take him to the beach. Go camping.

Reward good behavior 

Always give your dog rewards for behaving well. Give him a treat every time he does something right.

Also, praise him when he behaves properly. By rewarding your dog for doing the right thing, you’re helping him develop positive associations.

Over time, you’ll find that he becomes less likely to misbehave.

More dog whistle training tips 

Whistle training is an incredible tool to have in your training arsenal, but there are some things you can do to help reinforce that training and build strong leadership bonds with your dog.

Here are some additional ideas to consider:

Use a clicker 

A clicker is a device that makes noise whenever your dog performs the desired action. This can work well in combination with your whistle training. The sound helps reinforce the command. You can buy a clicker online or at any pet store.

Play games 

Another way to train your dog is to play games together. You can start by playing tug-of-war— next, try tug—finally, you can play catch.

All three activities help strengthen your bond with your dog and help him see you as the pack leader. But remember: If you have kids, make sure they stay far away from your dog during these games. Teach your children about animal safety first.

Key takeaways on whistle training

Whistle training is a fantastic way to ensure your dog will be an obedient and reliable member of society, no matter where you take him. Having patience and ensuring lots of positive reinforcement is key. 

If you’re looking for more advice on training your new family member, why not check out this article on puppy training.