If you have ever been to a farm, you might have heard shepherds communicating with their dogs by whistling to them. While some do have herding dog whistles, most of them rely on their lips to do the job. However in the mainstream community, this might not be a viable solution, unless you want really angry neighbors, who are annoyed by your constant whistling. Moreover yelling or whistling at the dog might be futile in areas with high traffic and loud noises.
Dog training whistles have evolved from our need to train dogs. Invented by Francis Galton in the 1880s, these whistles, also referred to as Galton's whistles, are a great tool to get your dog's attention. There are variety of whistles available. The choice on the type of whistle depends on the dog breed and how energetic the dog is. While some have peas and others do not, there are others which combine two whistles into one, to have dual frequencies for producing different whistle sounds.
How Do Dog Training Whistles Work?
Dog whistles are based on the concept of dogs being able to hear higher frequency of sounds than humans. While the optimum frequency range for humans is around 2000 Hz to 20,000 Hz, dogs can hear sounds at a much higher frequencies. While the optimum frequency for dogs is around 8000 Hz, the maximum frequencies can range to 48,000 Hz. The technical explanation of this is that a dog's inner ear vibrates or resonates to the high frequency sound waves, but our ears do not.
A dog whistle frequency is therefore optimized to produce sounds above 20,000 Hz, which though inaudible to a human ear, can be easily heard by the dogs even in places with loud noise. These silent whistles are made in such a manner that when air is forced down the cylinder and out of the hole with the sharp edge in the middle, a high frequency sound is transmitted. Based on the length of the cylinders, the pitch of the whistle varies. Most of these dog whistles are ideally one inch or less. So while the shorter cylinders produce a higher pitch, the longer the cylinder, the lower is the whistle's pitch.
Training the Dog
So we have established that the dogs can hear sounds emitted by the dog whistle. However there are no magical powers that will pull your dog to the sound or make it respond to the whistle commands. Most of the time, your dog will just ignore the dog whistle sounds, if it is busy smelling things outside or is involved in a fight with other dogs. If you want your dog to respond to the sound you have to provide the appropriate training. It is observed that a dog which responds to the voice commands of a dog trainer is easier to train, to obey whistle commands. Just like a verbal command, these whistle commands rely on sound cues to train the dogs.
The first step in this process is to pick up a set of whistle commands, to act as cues. For example two short toots can be associated with 'stop' or a long toot could be associated with the command 'sit'. To help the dog learn, pair up the whistle command with a voice command. So for the 'sit' whistle command, give the verbal command followed by the whistle sound that the dog learns to associate the command with it. The idea is to incorporate it for all the other commands and to keep it simple.
Additionally, there are many types of whistles which produce various tones, which can be associated with a particular command. Dog whistles have the advantage of being more consistent than human voice commands and are excellent tools for clicker training. Remember that different types of dog whistles are available, to suit the deaf and the older dogs with hearing loss. You should keep in mind that these whistles can cause damage to your hearing, so be careful as to how often and where you use them. Happy training!