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I’ve received that question a couple of times when my dogs have sat down really promptly at the stop whistle or responded with lightening speed to the recall whistle. If it had been as simple as selling magic whistles, I’d become rich 😉 , but as we all know, unfortunately there aren’t any magic whistles. Naturally, it’s all about the training on responding to the whistle. Just as we teach our dogs to respond to the verbal cues “sit” or “down”, we need to teach them to respond to the whistle.

Photo of the magic whistle 😉

Among the plethora of whistles that are available to buy, they can sound as different as the verbal cues “sit” and “down”. Sometimes dogs respond the same to a new whistle as they would to their old one if they are in close proximity to you, but the further away they get, the sound seems to become more different to the dogs as well. The same thing goes for when different people blow the whistle – everyone has their own way of whistling and the dogs learn what signals they should listen to and which to disregard.

It’s completely up to you which whistle you choose. There are two common varieties of tuned plastic whistles used – Acme 210.5, often referred to as the spaniel whistle, and 211.5, also called the retriever whistle. The advantage of choosing a tuned whistle, is that they sound exactly the same, so you can have many lying around, knowing that you can always get a hold of one that sounds the same as the others. I for example have a whistle attached to each jacket and a whole bunch sitting on whistle lanyards.

A great many choose to use horn whistles. However, metal whistles, supersonic whistles or drill whistles (referee whistles) are rarely used in retriever contexts. Naturally, you could train your dog to stop or recall on those kinds of whistles too; they’re simply not used traditionally.

Since I have a retriever, one would think that I use the 211.5 whistle, but I don’t. I don’t like its sound. Instead, I use the 210.5 whistle. When Keen came to me, he was used to 211.5, but I chose to transfer his signals to my whistle instead. It went smoothly, but took a couple of weeks.

So, choose the whistle that you like the best and teach your dog exactly how your whistle and your signals sound. 🙂


Retrieving for All Occasions - Foundations for Excellence in Gun Dog Training
Retrieving for All Occasions - Foundations for Excellence in Gun Dog Training

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