Do Dog Whistles Work? What Are They For?

person blowing dog whistle with a dog in the background

(Picture Credit: Getty Images/jarih)

Even though many of us pet parents have loved dogs for our whole lives, few of us have actually used a dog whistle before. What are dog whistles, exactly? What do people use them for? Do they whip dogs into a frenzy like in cartoons?

A dog whistle, known also as a silent or Galton’s whistle — after inventor Francis Galton — is a high-pitched whistle generally used for dog training. The sound it emits comes from what is known as the ultrasonic range, a pitch that is so high humans can’t hear it.

Dogs can hear these sounds, however, as can cats and other animals. Because of this, the dog whistle is a favored training tool, though it may not be for every dog parent. Here’s what you should know about dog whistles.

Training With A Dog Whistle

Dog whistles are most commonly used during dog training. You will often see them coupled with clickers and treats to signal to a dog that they have performed a task correctly.

The noise they make will likely grab a dog’s attention, but they will not usually make dogs go wild like you may see in cartoons or movies.

The type of dog whistle a person uses doesn’t matter that much. While the most commonly used are physical whistles, you can also use digital ones. I actually have a dog whistle app on my phone!

Training with a dog whistle, like all other forms of dog training, will take time. But it can be one of the most successful forms of communicating with your dog when you want them to perform a certain behavior or task.

Other Purposes For Dog Whistles

farmer with dog and chicken

(Picture Credit: Getty Images/urbancow)

While many pet parents enjoy the directness whistle training provides, this method also helps with other dog activities as well.

Many canine sporting events and competitions utilize silent whistles to communicate to dogs when to go and when to stop. You will see this a lot in sheepdog competitions where whistle commands instruct the dogs on what to do. These whistles are usually not “silent” whistles, but their purpose is more or less the same.

The silent whistle is employed with hunting dogs or gun dogs, as well, since the range of frequency that hunting dogs can hear at is higher than many animals.

Do Dog Whistles Work?

This is the most important question. Unfortunately, like with all other training techniques, that answer can only be given as a “maybe.”

Every dog is different, and some simply don’t respond to a whistle command the same way another might to voice or treats.

It’s best to know your dog when you proceed with this method of training. Don’t dismiss training your dog completely if they don’t take to the whistle. Try another method until you find one that works for your individual pooch.

Do Dog Whistles Hurt Dogs’ Ears?

a woman training her two dogs by using a whistle

(Picture Credit: Peter-verreussel/Getty Images)

Some dog parents might be concerned that the high frequency of a dog whistle might actually hurt or damage their dogs’ ears.

It’s best to think of a dog whistle like any other whistle in this regard. When a person blows a normal whistle, it will likely get your attention. However, unless they blow it extremely loudly, or for an extended time, or directly next to your ear, the whistle isn’t likely to hurt you. The same is true of dogs and dog whistles.

So long as you don’t blow a dog whistle very loudly, blast it for a long time, or use it directly next to your dog’s head, it should not hurt or cause damage to their ears. That said, it’s best to learn from a professional trainer how to use a dog whistle properly and safely before you start using one during training.

Do you have a whistle-trained dog? Have you used a dog whistle before? Let us know in the comments below!

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