Puppy Forum and Dog Forums banner

Whistle vs Voice Commands

1259 Views 6 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  fosterDog
I had someone comment something on a different post about using a whistle for recall, and I figured it was better to make a new post than go down a rabbit trail on the other one. Can someone give advice on how to decide between a whistle or voice command for recall?
1 - 7 of 7 Posts
Whistles carry farther, sound extremely distinctive vs. most other things out in nature, and are often far more consistent than a human voice. Think of how different a recall cue might sound when you're strolling through a field and lazily call your dog back for a check-in, vs. how you'd sound when your dog gets spooked and bolts towards a busy road, pulling the leash out of your hand. While it might be the same word, it might not even register that it's the same command with the dog unless you've specifically done proofing to recall with different tones and volumes. Which is possible, absolutely, but a lot of extra work.

On the other hand, whistles are small and easy to misplace, easy to forget to bring with you and sometimes clumsy to get to your mouth in an emergency (hence why you see some people walk with the whistle in their mouth when they're working off-leash dogs). I gave up on them because I already struggle to juggle a leash and treats and occasional clicker at the best of times, lol.

On the other-other hand, if you want to be really cool about it, you can teach a whole bunch of neat long-distance whistle cues with different sounds - one long blast is recall, but two short blasts is down, one short blast is turn to look at you for further instruction, etc. Some sheepdogs are trained this way.
See less See more
I had a oversize lab that I wanted to whistle train. I took him out to a large field and let him wander off a bit. (His voice recall was already really good.) I blew the whistle once, thinking I'd follow up with a voice command. Before I did the voice command, he rushed back to me with more enthusiasm than I would have thought possible. Either someone had already whistle-trained him or he was more intuitive than I thought.

I wore that whistle all the time and it really only failed me once that I can remember. He found a carp on the side of the river that had been rotting in the sun for a while. I blew the whistle (though it was already much too late) and he paused for a moment in mid-roll and looked at me as if to say, "Be right with you. I'm almost done here." (If you haven't experienced it, rotten carp smell is MUCH worse than skunk.)

As he got older, and his hearing started to fade, that whistle worked much better than voice commands and he could still hear it 100-150 yards away.

I've had only modest success whistle-training subsequent dogs, but that lab was the easiest dog I've ever met.
See less See more
  • Like
Reactions: 1
It might have been my comment, as I've mentioned recently having to retrain one of my dogs on a high pitched whistle since he's losing his hearing. In my case, the whistle (specifically an emergency survival whistle) has a tone he can still hear very well. The dog in question previously had a really good voice recall, and naturally has a pretty tight orbit & isn't one to typically run off, but I need a reliable way to get him back when I need him.

As DaySleepers mentioned above, a verbal recall has some variations in it depending on your immediate situation where as a whistle is always consistent & is a sound/cue that has never been poisoned, so can be a really good option.
I use a Montana Sheep dog mouth whistle. You can vary the pitch and sound. Border Collie people use them to control their dogs far out on a run. Watch a sheep dog trial and learn!

You cannot use a whistle in many other competitive venues.

When I was working a dog on cattle while out on the horse the whistle was far more useful controlling the dog than voice. When things come apart working livestock your voice changes pitch and it can effect how the dig works. The whistle did not do that (took your emotion out of the direction). In those days I whistled (no mechanical whistle). I will do that to this day if I don't have the mouth whistle with me.
FWIW here is what I mean by a Sheep herding whistle or Shepherd's whistle.

What it is:

Here is a video on the basics of how it works. Come By, Away to me, Lie Down, Walk up.....

And why for using a whistle:
  • Like
Reactions: 1
I had 5 different recalls for my dog.

"Come" = Sit directly in front of me
"Heel" = Stand directly to my side
"This way" = move in this direction
Whistle = time to go inside
"Now" = Move your ass immediately to me

IDK why so many it just happened naturally. Sometimes the whistle is nice, it can be louder without straining my throat.
Plus like.. what if your dogs name is hector? You just gonna stand there screaming hector at the top of your lungs?

Better to whistle sometimes :)
See less See more
  • Like
Reactions: 1
1 - 7 of 7 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.