I’m going to start with my favorite dog training whistle and I’ll give you my pick of the top three best dog whistles for training most pet dogs.
But if you are curious and have a few minutes to spare, you can scroll on down and find out much more
We’ll look at how dog whistles work, the different types of dog training whistle available – after all, what suits me might not suit you – and at how to choose between them.
You’ll also discover how whistles are used, in different situations, and at some of the basic whistle commands that you can teach your dog.
We’ll also look at the most important whistle command of all – teaching your dog to recall to a whistle.
Let’s look at my top three dog whistles first. Then we’ll look at some of the alternatives further down.
Best dog whistle – the top three
1 The Acme 210.5
The Acme 210.5 is my favorite dog training whistle. This is the whistle I am never without. I have several in my car, one in my dog walking bag and others in various jacket pockets.
It is small, light, and incredibly tough.
Designed originally for working gun dogs the Acme 210.5 is used by working and competitive gun dogs at championship level and is now popular with the wider public. At one time only available in black, it’s now offered in a range of different colors.
This is a consistent, moderately powerful whistle, fairly high pitched but still easy for the humans in your dog’s life to hear.
2 The Acme 211.5
From the same range of gun dog whistles, the Acme 211.5 whistle is a slightly lower pitch than the 210.5
Easy for dogs to hear at distances of up to several hundred yards, the Acme 211.5 is popular with retriever trainers throughout Britain and Europe.
The whistle is now widely available in the USA and elsewhere and like the 210.5 it is also becoming popular with pet dog owners too.
I love the orange because it’s so easy to find if you drop it on the ground!
3 The Acme 212
Why Acme dog whistles?
The first thing you’ll notice is that these whistles are all made by one company (I really should have shares in these guys!)
That company is a British dog training whistle manufacturer called Acme who sell their whistles worldwide.
All these Acme whistles are made from extremely robust hard plastic, mine last for years (or until I lose them) I recommend the bright colors if you are prone to losing things too!
Okay, so those are my favorite whistles, but there are of course many other good quality whistles on the market.
And we’ll look at some of those in a moment. First, let’s take a closer look at what dog whistles can actually do for you and your dog
What does a dog whistle do?
A dog whistle is a cue. In the old days we used to talk about ‘commands’ but most dog trainers use the word ‘cue’ now, and in many ways it’s a better word.
There are lots of different types of ‘cue’ we can use in dog training. Words like ‘here’ and ‘sit’ are cues. And we can also use hand signals to ‘cue’ our dogs
A cue tells the dog that it’s time to perform an action. If the dog has been trained to respond to the cue, then every time he hears that cue, he will carry out the required response.
A trained response is an action that the dog carries out automatically, without stopping to think. And he does this each time he hears the cue. In this case the sound of someone blowing that whistle.
That’s the theory anyway – now let’s find out if dog whistles really work!
Do dog whistles work?
The sound of a dog training whistle isn’t automatically a cue. You sometimes see comments in the Amazon dog whistle reviews saying that a particular whistle ‘doesn’t work’.
And some of you may be surprised to know that many dogs are not interested in the sound that any dog whistle makes. And certainly don’t run towards the person blowing it.
At least, not to begin with
Although some dogs are initially curious about the sound of a new whistle, most are not, and any initial curiosity soon wears off
That doesn’t mean that the whistle doesn’t work however!
The job of the whistle is to make a distinctive noise that you can teach your dog to respond to.
If a dog whistle is making a noise that a dog can hear – then it’s working. The training part is then up to you.
You’ll find that different dog whistles make different sounds.
And to a great extent, the kind of whistle you need for your dog will depend on your personal preference. There is no inherent difference in the way that dogs of different sizes, or from different breeds, respond to the sound of the whistle.
Dog whistle sound
There are many different types of whistle. There are dog whistles that sound like the blast from a referee on a playing field.
There are whistles that sound ‘thin’ or high and reedy, and whistles that are so high, humans can’t even hear them
Then there are the different sounds that you can make with a whistle by changing the way that you blow yours.
Some whistles make it easy to vary the sound that comes out of the end. Others are hard to modify. You just get one noise, and that’s your lot.
If you want to hear what the whistle I recommend sounds like – check out my puppy recall video
Now let’s discover if your dog’s ability to hear his whistle is affected by the frequency of the sound that the whistle makes.
Dog whistle frequency and your dog’s hearing
It is often thought that high pitched whistles are easier for dogs to hear. But is that really true?
It is true that dogs can hear higher sounds than we do. But there is no reason to suspect that any whistle that falls in the middle of that range is harder for a dog to hear than one that is higher in frequency. In fact, the reverse may be true in some cases
High pitch dog whistle
Hi pitch dog whistles are popular, and it’s often thought that dogs can hear them further away than lower pitched whistles.
Let’s find out what the scientist say about that one.
According to the laws of physics, lower sound frequencies actually travel further than higher frequencies.
So if your dog is really far away, a lower pitched whistle – provided it falls within the range at which he can hear, might be clearer to him than the high pitched one that you think is a better bet.
There’s more to it than that of course, check out the physics lab for more information on how sound travel can be affected by temperature and terrain too. http://dev.physicslab.org/Document.aspx?doctype=3&filename=WavesSound_IntroSound.xml
Loud dog training whistle
We measure the intensity, what we often refer to as volume, of sound in decibels.
Dogs can hear sounds at lower intensity than we can. In other words with fewer decibels
Obviously if you have a whistle that can be blown harder and will make more decibels with its intensity, your dog will be able to hear it further away.
Remember though, he is better equipped than you are to hear a quieter whistle, so just because you can’t hear your whistle when a friend blows it at a hundred yards, doesn’t mean your dog won’t be able to.
However, if you often have to call your dog from considerable distances, perhaps in windy conditions, then you may benefit from a really loud whistle.
And one of the best whistles for that job is the Gonia whistle by SportDog
Gonia dog whistles are used by professional retriever field trailers throughout the USA and their powerful lower frequency sound travels over great distances.
Silent dog whistles
The idea of getting your dog to come racing towards you with a silent whistle has some appeal to many of us.
But the truth is, there is nothing especially beneficial to using a silent whistle.
It won’t make your dog come faster, or from further away. Only training can do that.
Some silent whistles, like this popular dog training whistle from Ortz are also marketed as a way to stop dogs barking, we’ll look at that below.
And while you are training your dog, it is really important that you can hear the whistle too, so if you buy a silent dog whistle, make sure it’s sufficiently adjustable for you to be able to hear it too.
The best dog whistle – what to look for
Consistency of sound each time you use a whistle is a priority
Just as you would say ‘sit’ clearly in the same tone of voice each time you ask your dog to sit, you should blow your whistle in the same way each time, and it should have the same pitch.
For that reason, you should ideally choose a dog training whistle that has a specific pitch, and that can be replaced with another whistle with the exact same pitch if you lose your original whistle.
Of course your dog can be taught to respond to a different whistle if you lose one and can’t get another the same, but why make things harder for yourself?
How to use a dog whistle – training
When you start whistle training, your whistle is a new cue. The first step is to associate the whistle with the action you eventually want it to trigger.
If you are teaching your dog to recall to a whistle and he already comes obediently to your voice, than all you need do is blow your whistle just before you give your verbal cue.
Do this every time you call for several days and then gradually start to leave a slight gap before the verbal cue. Your dog will soon anticipate the verbal cue and come racing to you for his reward.
Make sure it is a good one.
Once he does this regularly, you can drop the verbal cue.
If your dog has a poor recall and is disobedient, purchasing a whistle is your perfect opportunity to train a great fresh recall from the start
Remember that dogs need to learn to obey a cue in different situations, they don’t automatically understand that a cue (in this case your new whistle) applies on the beach as well as in your back yard. So you need to train for this.
Dog whistle to stop barking?
One thing you’ll notice when you look at the dog training whistle reviews on Amazon, is that some people are buying whistles to stop dogs from barking.
Just like teaching a dog to come or sit to a whistle, getting a dog to stop barking when you blow a whistle is something you’d need to train for.
Most dogs won’t stop barking just because someone blows a whistle nearby.
If you have a problem with barking you can read up on the topic on The Happy Puppy Site.
Dog training whistle – summary
Your dog can hear at higher frequencies and lower intensities than you can, but most dog whistles are loud enough and travel far enough for most pet dog training purposes.
This means that you can safely choose your dog training whistle based on personal preference and other important features.
Durability, cost, ease of use and consistency of sound are key, and consistency of sound is probably the single most important feature of any good dog training whistle.
Just like any other cue, you need to train your dog to respond to a whistle. Checkout my detailed recall training guide over on the Labrador Site for more information.
Or grab yourself a copy of Total Recall
And don’t forget to check in to the forum for help and support
Have fun whistle training your dog!
Fukuzawa et al. More than just a word: non-semantic command variables affect obedience in the domestic dog (Canis familiaris) Applied Animal Behaviour Science 2005
Fay RR. Hearing in Vertebrates: a Psychophysics Databook. Hill-Fay Associates, Winnetka IL. 1988
Warfield D. The study of hearing in animals. In: W Gay, ed., Methods of Animal Experimentation, IV. Academic Press, London, 1973.