Whistle Recalls

I remember it being so challenging learning to whistle as a kid.  My dad can make a very distinct sharp whistle sound of the side of his mouth.  I’m not that talented.  But once I did learn to whistle, I’m functional at it.  Certainly not incredibly musically talented with it like Roger Whittaker:

But I can reliably recreate certain pitches in a set series.  Hence my whistle recall.

I love training a whistle recall because for me it is the hardest one to dilute and therefore risk lessening criteria on.  In order for me to whistle, it takes more cognitive thought than for me to just call out “come” or “here” or “Zora.”  So once I’ve made the decision to whistle, it’s easier for me to follow up on reinforcing the dogs appropriately, and the whistle over time gains a really high importance for the dogs, good things always happen when they find me after hearing the whistle sound.

Video Description: Zora out of sight and sound in the woods down a trail. I whistle. You hear her bell start to sound as she runs to me, then into the picture, coming to tap my hand with her nose.

I introduce the whistle recall early into my relationship with any of the dogs in my life, especially those who will potentially gain off leash privileges at some stage.  I pair the whistle to mean “good things (most often food, but depends on the dog) will occur at Katrin when you hear this sound, so get to her as fast as you can.”  Starting with no distractions, then as the strength of the conditioning builds, in increasing distraction environments, until I feel confident if I whistle the dog will stop what they are doing immediately and seek me out.

I will admit occasionally (most often when the dogs are at an age of thinking they don’t need no stinkin humans), if I whistle and get no response, I leave and let the dog get “lost.”  (me leaving often means I hide behind a tree).  When they finally “find” me we have the biggest party ever.  This only happens after I’m sure the dog has had a previous ton of conditioning on whistle = run to me as fast as they can for an awesome time.  As otherwise I wouldn’t have taken them off leash.  And then they earn a long line (and a lot more training reps) for a while longer until once again I feel confident they will come when they hear me whistle.

The whistle recall is valuable for me because a. I have to think a lot more to do it, b. it’s a distinct sound, and c. the sound itself seems to travel farther than just me calling out.

What’s your favorite trained recall cue?

0 thoughts on “Whistle Recalls

  1. I have actually not done whistle recall with Bree. I cannot whistle very loudly myself. I have a shepherd’s whistle, which, (once I finally figured out how to blow it,) is quite loud. Once I was hiking with someone, and I realized I’d dropped something, so she agreed to wait while I went back to look for it. It took me longer than she thought it would, so she came back looking for me. At one point I thought I heard something, so I stopped, and realized she was calling for me, but I could only just barely hear her and I knew I couldn’t yell loud enough to respond. So I blew the whistle as hard as I could so she’d know I was okay. She said later that she really appreciated that because then she knew I was fine and she could stop calling and wait for me to get to her. Whistles are super useful!

  2. I have to use my voice as I am unable to whistle. For our dog Tia I use a higher ptiched voice and call Tiiii Ahhhh with the Tiii the high note and Ahhh lower note. She runs flat out like a pup and she is now 12. For my horse Biasini a call Beeeebuulls same high then low. He does not come running but he leaves whatever he is doing and comes to the gate to meet me.

      1. for little Tia I also open m arms wide and hold them there while I call and until she gets right up to me. I was taught that with our first schnauzer when we lived in the city. Theperson who trained us said it is important to also use the arms in case the dog does not hear the call if there is noise in the park and thedog is off leash.

        1. Adding additional visual signals to the verbal can be helpful for many dogs, giving them another way to realize you are calling them. Glad Tia responds so well, she sounds like a great dog! 🙂

    1. Thanks! That’s her CoyoteVest. It’s a Kevlar vest with spikes. I wrote a post about it a while back. I have no idea how truly effective against a coyote it would be but it def seems to deter dogs from grabbing and jumping on her and it helps keep some of my anxieties in check. Lol.

        1. I saw that on your blog, Yikes!! That poor cat & family, so sad. A friend of mine is an emergency clinic vet tech and she calls me so many mornings on her drive home off the overnight shift to say how glad she is I have the coyote vest for Zora as they had another case come in of an attack. It’s awful. Balancing your dog being able to do doggie things that they love vs the coyotes

          1. Yeah sorry to repeat myself. I realized after I commented that you’d seen that post. Luckily or unluckily we don’t have the kind of dog we can let off leash except in fairly limited circumstances. Still I might look into this vest. Finn weighs about 50 pounds. Two coyotes could easily take him.

          2. I think I read the company recently started making them for larger dogs. Though I’m not sure for what sizes. When I got Zora’s hers was the largest size they made, they made ones smaller for even smaller dogs.

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