Friday, April 22, 2011

Whistle Me Come


Hi Y’all,

First let me answer a couple of questions I had regarding yesterdays article.

Over at 24 Paws (here) there were several questions.  The first was about what kind of whistle to use.  My Human prefers a whistle designed for hunting dog use in the field.  It can be heard through the heavy fogs we see both at the shore and in the mountains.  Any whistle will do, but my Human doesn’t use the “silent dog whistle”.  I suppose the same principle would apply to training that type. 

The picture to the right is my Human’s whistle. 





The orange whistle to the right is the Roy Gonia logo edition available at stores like Petco for about US$6.00.  

You need to consider what you want the whistle to do.  If you are going to work your dog away from you and need to get his attention, the hunting whistle will do great.  If you just want to call them in from the back yard, then any kind of whistle will work and can be found for less than a US dollar. 

Don’t just give little puffs that make the whistle peep like a sick cat.  Really inhale and blast that thing if you want my attention.  Believe me, it’s less disturbing to the neighbors than yelling out the door. 

The next question 24 Paws had was “what is an e collar”?  An e collar can save a dogs life and can be a a “life vest” of sorts for hunting dogs. 

It has been vilified by people because some pet dog trainers use it incorrectly.  It gives a small electric stimulation to the dog when he is at a distance from the trainer. 

The secret to the e collar is that, before a dog ever wears an e collar, he is solid in all his commands. 

The modern collars have multiple stimulation levels.  The experienced trainers adjust the collar so only the most minimal stimulation is used. 

My Human says when she first saw an e collar in use she was working with a trainer of field trial labs in open bay water.  They had 10 dogs with them and live birds.  Only one dog had an e collar. 

(The picture is of me practicing a water retrieve.  I’m not wearing any collar)

Curious, she asked about the collar.  It was explained that this one dog was not responding to the whistle and just swimming around having a jolly old time once away from the trainer.  So when the whistle blew the dog was given an instant to respond, then the trainer gave him what he called a “nick”.  It only took a couple of  retrieves for the dog to be working perfectly to the whistle again. 

Most of the time if you see a dog wearing an e collar it is never used, but it’s there in case he fails to respond to you, especially if his life could be endangered.

Once the check cords are removed and you have a reliable dog, the trainer uses the collar to get the dogs attention if he ignores the whistle.  It is never used until the dog is solid in all in his commands because it can confuse the dog. 

Like you humans, we dogs get side tracked.  (Sigh)

Last question was how do you teach “come”. 

But first, remember this picture on the left?  See how I’m looking up at my Human.  When you are doing the heel exercise and the whistle sit, you want your dog looking at you when he sits.  I keep glancing up at my Human when heeling and swinging my head over to touch her.

The object of the whistle sit is to stop your dog and have him look at you for further directions. 

When my human first got me she introduced hand signals with verbal commands. So if the whistle sit was my only whistle command, I could respond to hand signals. 

I know y’all want to know how to get your dog to “come”.  First you need to start backing off your dog and whistling “sit”.  My Human can easily make me sit even if I’m not looking at her just by saying “sit”.  So she adds the whistle, working close to me so she can correct me if I want to go to her instead. 

It’s important that if your dog doesn’t sit as you add distance, you move in close and start adding distance again but more slowly. 

My Human has practiced this command with me until I can do it even if I can’t see her or if another dog is charging around me. 

Next thing is getting your dog to come to you. 

First does he reliably come to his name or the word “come” or “here”?  If not, get out the lead, put your dog in a sit or down, back off and call him to you.  Continue this until the distance has increased and he reliably comes to you.  You now know he understands to return to you on command. 

Time to add the whistle.  Again, start close to your dog.

DO NOT USE THE SAME NUMBER OF TOOTS TO RECALL YOUR DOG AS TO GET HIM TO SIT.  My human uses 2, a high and low, for my recall.  Some handlers use 3 and the sound is the same for each. 

It doesn’t matter how many blasts you use, just choose a different number and ALWAYS blow the same number for the recall and blow them the same way.  Consistency is the name of the game.

   Make sure you treat or reward your dog every time he responds correctly and returns to you. 

If you use hand signals, use the same hand signal when using the whistle. 

Have to go now!  I hear the whistle!

If you’re interested in learning about actual working and field trial retrievers, stop by and visit the Brown Dawgs (here)

Tomorrow I hope to have some pictures of dinner guests.  Guess who came! 

Happy Easter y’all! 


  1. A dog that comes on command. What won't they think of next? Around here we don't work on our commands very often, With the large number of rescue fosters that come and go, we do not get much training work. It is hard to train when we have different dogs each week. Now that we have had Nala as our foster for a long time, we are actualy working on commands and leash training again. So thanks for the tips, maybe my humans will learn how to make lessons easier.

    Mogley G. Retriever

  2. I do really wonder if my neighbors would appreciate the whistle instead of yelling for the dogs at 5 am? I don't yell loud - it's almost a whisper - but the dogs don't always listen so I end up saying it several times.

  3. Great explanation of teaching whistle sit and come to the whistle. It always surprises me how different each whistle sounds and how dogs know "their" whistle. We have been at tests where someone forgot or broke their whistle and you would think they could borrow a tone.

    I am glad you explained about an e-collar. We only use e-collar very very sparingly and only to reinforce something that the dog already knows. It is possible to ruin a good dog by a heavy handed use of the e-collar. We try to use encouragement and praise, because that can be more effective than a collar correction.

    Hope you have a Happy Easter! Give Hawk a special pat on his head from the 2 brown dawgs because he was such good boy with his lessons this week.

  4. Whew! We're wore out just from reading about all that training! BOL Thank you so much for explaining. We would like to try whistle training, maybe this summer. I will keep all your great advice in mind!