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The trouble with whistes

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So, whistles...It would be so nice to have them.

Now I have no trouble at all operating the traditional whistle, I have been training myself dilligently using it (in the car as not to drive my dogs, wife and children crazy). Choose my whistle commands, exercised while imaging giving those commands to a dog.

Don´t laugh, but I have been doing this for more than a year , probably closer to two.


And when I step on the training field and try this out in real life, it all falls apart.

As I pointed out to Sue in another topic I am male, and the cliché says we can´t multitask. For me at least that cliché holds true.


Yesterday I tried it out once again, simple short outrun, -come bye-whistle-come bye-. Gláma goes to the away side, I correct her and give the same command a bit sterner. Dog looks at me in confusion, slowly going in the direction I wanted her to go. Which is the "away" side, because the stupid handler doesn´t know his left from his right while at the same time having to concentrate on translating his voice command to whistle.

So I drop whistle training and spend the next ten minutes sending her on short outruns in different right directions to try and restore her confidence in my ability to mean what I say....


I feel my main trouble is being "directionally challenged", I start to get it, but need all off my concentration giving the right command for the direction I want. Even the relatively simple task of adding a whistle to that command seems to be too much...

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Just work on the lie down and walk up whistle with the dog. Than just work on the come by side, everytime there is a come by to be done; say come by, do the come by whistle. than just do the whistle. Don't mix it up with other whistles, just concentrate on one.


The best thing i did was buy a trained dog with whistles that would do the thing I asked her, even if it was wrong :)


I used to do my flank whistles in the car while driving; Turning right, come by whistle; changing lanes to the left, short left flank whistle...


NOTE: don't do square flanks your self while driving :)

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Thanks Cynthia, that actually sounds like very sound advice, just taking it one whistle at the time, especially where the flank commands are concerned.

I will try it like you described.


Now I have to get the image out of my head of a car changing lanes while "squaring his flank"... :D

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I think if dogs could give you the finger mine have done so on just the type occasion you describe. I give the whistle, dog takes the whistle, I yell at said dog cause he even crossed over to do the wrong command....after yelling I then realize I gave that command and have to stop say I"m sorry and practice the "right" command again!


IT used to be that if I gave a command that didn't make since to Mick, whistle or voice, he'd stop turn and look at me just to see if I wasn't going to change my mind. Poor dogs putting up with me.


But I've also stood around and watched open handlers out on the trial field realizing they were doing the same thing then hoping no one noticed!


So don't feel to bad, I think we all do it occasionaly!


I love your imagiation with the car. I've done the same thing with other objects. To funny!

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Teach one whistle at the time, that's very good advice! And go slow.


So I started with the command that I give when the dog is the farthest from me - the lie down command, because I give it at the end of the outrun.


When you are in the car, practice giving commands with the whistle in your mouth. So with whistle ready in your mouth: "leggstu wee-you" "leggstu weee-you" and so on this is very helpful later, you won't have time to take the whistle out of your mouth for a command. At least in my case it was very helpful.


And if you can drive and whistle, gee, you're telling me you can't multi-task. Haha.


two topics on whistling:

one and two



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Knew a handler who frequently showed-up with 4-5 whistles hanging on his neck, because, "They are so often defective", he would say with a twinkle in his eye, and little smile. Never saw him use one, even once. Said he had drawer full at home, and none of them worked. A long-time farmer who knew his stuff, he could get dog and stock to do anything he wanted.


Seriously (no...not really :huh:), my metal whistles over time develop, well, let's call it junk in them, and at an inopportune moment, the nice crisp "wwhhheeeEEETTTT", "wwhhheeeEEETTTT", sounds more like "gurGGGUL", "gurGGGUL". They need cleaning once in a while -- toothpick, handy splinter on the ground. Always looks good to pick up twig after an ugly whistle, whether it is clean or not :D . There are various whistle designs, and had to experiment to find one that worked best. For me, brass and large gets a consistent sound. Large hole and wide separation between two halves. It provides a sound that carries several hundred yards, even when whistle is wet with rain/snow/other precipitation. The hole and space between halves can get clogged with mouth fluids, or precipitation, so the larger they are, the less likely whistle is going to suddenly quit. With this whistle, I try to not use it within 5-10 feet of others, as the decibel level is not pleasant :( .


Have another thin whistle, which has small hole. Weak sound in comparison to above-described. Still use it for close work, in dry weather. Normally use voice in that situation, 'cause forgot the whistle.


Keep working at it. Found that stock are not fond of high volume voice commands that are needed for great distances, and that dog's response is more calm/consistent on whistle, because most the emotion is removed from the situation. -- Best wishes, TEC

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I know this sounds silly, but I am still learning so these are the things that are working for me....


I carry TWO whistles, I know it sounds goofy, but if for whatever reason I stop getting sound(usually cause of spit, gross) I can pick the next one up and get clear sound....don't know why, it just helps me :D Sometimes a quick mental re-focus while switching whistles is helpful also..of course I'm not trying to get anything practical done with my dog..yet..


I pratice in the car on my way to work...playing to the music..then I picked out a set of whistles I liked and could reasonably do..and practice in my car when I'm not with my dogs..


The biggest step for me was actually working my dog with the whistles and I just had to make myself get out there and do it..


So I am....started with a walk up and a stop and check...now I'm working on directions and incorporating in the stops and walk ups...I still wear my two whistles and switch back and forth if it gets full of spit of I randomly can't make sound :P


It's definetly a journey.... :0

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Thanks for all the advice, and the funny stories, whistles do seem to bring out the sense of humor in people.


I tried what Cynthia suggested, dropped the flank whistles for now, and concentrate only on down (just one long sound), and walk in (three short "pips"). It works, not in the least because I don´t confuse them ;).

We´ll move on when we got those two licked, adding one flank command at the time, not both at the same time.

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  • 2 months later...

Just a small update, the down, walk in and recall whistle are going well, and have been integrated in the work.

Most sheep are home again and the dogged ones have been put in the training field so now I am going to start teaching direction whistles planning on putting a whistle on Gláma´s best side, the comebye.


By the way I mainly finger whistle now, I don´t really like my shepherd´s whistle, it is the one from acme. I vaguely remember this whistle not being recommended here (it was a gift).

Think about trying to order a boulder bluff plastic whistle for those "dirty hands days" (I have stuck my fingers in my mouth before realizing just having handled horse dung...).

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Yeah, it seems to be pretty personal.

Here in Iceland there is no place you can buy stuff like this, so you have to order online, and importing like that is a bit of a drag (tax nonsense).

It would be nice if one could pick up some different kind of whistles while visiting a trial.


By the way Maja how is that metal whistle you prefer called?

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  • 4 weeks later...

I would practice playing familiar songs to get better with pitch and breath control. Play them until others can recognize what tune you're playing. If you can blow softly you can blow harshly but the opposite not always true. Work dog as much as possible with soft whistles, it will learn to listen much better and possibly be a little more responsive. Good luck.


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  • 2 months later...

My metal one is a montana lite. I've tried others and that's my preferred choice. Didn't like the plastic, they are to thick. I also can't use the A shape, it blows out my mouth!


Dishwasher works for cleaning too!

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