How to train calling with a whistle?

Calling a dog is without any doubt one of the most important commands that the dog should reliably master at any situation. Most often, we call the dog using the command “come”, but we can also emphasise it with a whistle. It pays off mainly in situation when the dog gets so far away from you, that the voice itself is not enough, or in time of diseases when your vocal cords just give out.

Have you also lived through situations when your four-legged friend focused so much on something else, like when they caught a smell and followed a track, that they didn’t react on a classic calling command at all? Dog has a significantly better developed sense of hearing than human, so they hear the sound – of a classic or ultrasound whistle – for up to several kilometres depending on the ruggedness of the terrain. Not only for the cases when your dog is overcome by strong hunting instincts and they immediately follow a track, but also for unfledged puppies, which are still fighting with the calling training, the whistle can be a useful tool. The whistle is also very popular not only in hunting or scent hounds where the dog gets far from its handler for great distances, but you will use it even during usual walkies.

The dog has to react to a calling immediately without hesitation or thinking. Therefore, in the beginnings of training, use this command only if you’re sure that the dog will definitely run to you. In situations where you are certain, use the command and whistle excitedly. Then the whistle is going to hold a special position and the calling will work better with it. If your dog already masters the calling command, it isn’t difficult to teach him to react to a whistle. Just whistle after a routine command. The length and pitch of the whistling shouldn’t change. After the dog obeys immediately and comes to you, reward them. But at first, reward with a compliment such as “good boy” and with a stroke, even if the dog comes after several times for them to get motivated. It is a good idea to switch rewards – one time, use a favourite toy, other time, a treat or a stroke – so that the training is more exciting for the dog and doesn’t start to bore them. Gradually, we can move the training from a calm environment to busier locations.

There, we are going to reverse the process: first, we whistle, and only then comes the command.  It may happen, that the dog reacts immediately and there won’t be any need for the command. Again, we switch between light terrain and stimuli up to the most difficult and strongest ones. In the same way, extend the distance between you and the dog before giving a command. As a result, you will achieve that whistling which didn’t have any meaning for the dog, is now an impulse for them to run to you the shortest way possible, without you giving them any voice command. As with a training of any command, be consistent, calm and don’t rush.

I began to use a whistle only with our youngest doggy, already since his first walks. Today, I am immensely grateful for it. He is a bit feistier than the rest of the pack and at that, he still has the craving of a young dog to explore the world around him. When the usual “come” due to many reasons doesn’t work even for the second time on the dog junior, I use a whistle. Since we have been training regularly since he was little, it won’t happen that he wouldn’t come. And it works even when I need to recall him from a game and he’s not reacting to my voice. If you would like to teach your adult dog to react at a whistle, the principles are going to bet he same, you only have to count with it taking a bit more time and treats :-).

And what is your experience with a whistle?

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