One Simple Trick

Processed with VSCO with a10 preset

Life with Dogs
Tip #11: Using a distinct whistle.

When I was a kid, my brother and I used to spend all summer outside. Just before it got dark every evening, my dad would stand on the edge of the porch and whistle for us to come in. That whistle would carry through the trees and across the pasture, down to the creek, and straight into our ears. Whenever we heard the whistle, we knew it was time to make our way back home.

I’ve found this not only works for two scraggly kids roaming through the woods (ha!), it also works with dogs. By choosing a sound and using it when you want their attention, over time it will become distinct and memorable to them. Most of us do it already without really noticing.

When I’m on trails in the woods, I like to give the dogs space to wander. It’s a trust we have with one another – they can roam freely as long as they come back when I whistle for them. I like letting them be dogs and giving them the freedom to sniff and investigate. The two of them stick together most of the time. Keep stays right at Jack’s heels, or vice versa. When they get too far from me, I whistle for them and they run back by my side. There are times, of course, when they forget or ignore me because they are too interested in what they are doing, and that’s ok. I just whistle a few more times and wait for them.

Processed with VSCO with lv01 preset

A good way to train your dog to come to your distinct whistle is to start in the house or at the dog park with a ball or toy. Throw the ball or toy and whistle for them to bring it back instead of saying anything. Over time, they will make the association that your whistle means to come back. This will also get them familiar with the sound of the whistle you’ve chosen.

My go-tos are: a high-pitched whistle or a sharp kiss-like sound I used to use with horses growing up. Both are effective, and I like that even in a crowd of dogs I can get their individual attention. Do you guys have a special whistle or call that gets your dog’s attention? I want to know!

  • Megan

    We use a whistle too. We usually don’t let them get out of sight, however, since we line in a suburban area and the trails we use usually has a road nearby or people and their leashed dogs who despise that we allow our dogs to be off-leash and investigate. But they come right away thrning their bodies toward us the slit second we whistle.

    The way we taught them the sense urgency of coming the second they hear the whistle was giving treats when they get back to us. Our youngest pup, now 11 months, was trained by calling her back when she got 10 feet away, treat. The older she got the space between us grew and there was more time inbetween rewards and recall. Worked for us!