Do Dog Whistles Work?

do dog whistles work
Photo credit: Nosy Nation

Reader question: I want to train my puppy’s recall command with a whistle. Do dog whistles work?

Short answer: Yes.

I bought a whistle when my German Shepherd was a puppy and was able to train a recall command with it. Let’s find out how dog whistles work.

How do dog whistles work?

A dog whistle is a device that emits a sound in an ultrasonic range that humans cannot hear. However, this range can be heard by animals including dogs and cats.

It is believed the predatory animals (which also includes canines) developed the ability to hear higher frequency sounds to help locate their ideal prey, small rodents.

Dog whistles are a tool used just like clickers, voice commands or rewards during training as well as consistency and repetitive motions.

As with most training, using a whistle still requires for a trainer to be committed throughout the training process.

Why use a dog whistle?

Whistles are versatile and can be used in combination with hand signals or heeling sticks to build complex commands with your dog.

Not to mention, for those that do sports with their canine companion such as hunting or herding, a whistle is a valuable source when used as a “call back” command since the sound can carry a distance.

Also, dog whistles are known to be successful for training dogs that struggle with verbal commands.

A verbal command is a common method but it relies on your tone of voice when the command is given. A change in the sound of a verbal command cause confuse and be counter productive to training.

This means, any change of emotion or even illness could confuse your dog or result in training not completing.

There is also a risk that your dog may respond only to your commands and not any other family living within your home.

On the other hand, a whistle provides a consistent and unique sound that can eliminate this confusion.

Not to mention, if you are attempting to train a deaf dog, depending on the level of deafness, a whistle may be a sound that the dog may hear.

How to use a dog whistle

Firstly, trainers will plan out their whistle cues. This could be something as simple as a short puff to call your dog to sit or a long puff to recall your dog.

It’s important to find a consistent set of cues that you can follow during training.

Changing cues too much will just result in confusion.

Take the time to test each cue to make sure it is one you can be comfortable using.

Secondly, “charge” the whistle by giving short bursts of sound and giving your dog a treat each time. This will associate the sound with a positive thing (food in this case).

Next, begin training by associating an action with the whistle cue and then provide a reward. For example, hold a treat above your dog’s head until it looks up and it’s rear touches the ground. Blow your whistle cue for “sit” and provide the treat as a reward. By repeating this motion, you can help build an action to the sound.

Will a dog whistle stop my dog from barking?

While a whistle can certainly be used to stop a dog from barking, it doesn’t replace actual training.

The sound will distract your dog and bring the focus back to you, thus interrupting the barking. But this solution can be short lived without consistent training.

The best solution would be to use the whistle as a way to “refocus” your dog back to you.

By blowing the whistle and providing a treat, the chances of your dog continuing to bark instead of rushing to the sound of the whistle will lessen over time.

What frequency is a dog whistle?

Most dog whistles are manufactured to produce a sound that ranges from 23 to 54 kilohertz (khz).

The frequency can be dependent on the dog whistle brand as well as the setting that the trainer chooses to use.

Many whistles are adjustable to help produce a unique sound for training purposes which also means your dog will be “tuned in” to your whistle only. Remember: once you start this training, be consistent and encourage anyone living in your home to do the same.

Is there such a thing as a silent dog whistle?

Yes, there is a silent dog whistle. Whistles that use a range outside of human hearing are known as “silent dog whistles”.

The upper limit of human hearing is around 20 kHz for children and declining to about 15 to 17 kHz for middle-aged humans. In some cases, a silent dog whistle may only emit a quiet hissing sound that a trainer may hear depending on their hearing range.

I hope this answers the question: do dog whistles work?

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