Visits to the park and dog walks in the shimmering heat of a summer’s day is either upon us depending on where you live, or is very near. Playing outside with your dog is one of the best parts of summer. Does your dog come when you call them, or does whistling work? Better yet, can you whistle? For me this brings up memories from when I was a child when whistling didn’t come so easily. When my son tries to whistle he just makes a tooting sound instead of the actual whistle. I used to think it was the most incredible thing to hear my dad whistle, especially when it was a to the tune of a song.
There’s a children’s book called ‘Whistle for Willie’ by Ezra Jack Keats that inspired the subject of this month’s blog. The story is about a boy named Peter that wants so badly to be able to whistle for his dog Willie, a dachshund. He tries and tries but his dog still just walks on. While trying to whistle, he spins, hides, draws with colored chalk and finally remembers that grown-ups can whistle. His dad can whistle. He goes home and puts on his father’s old hat hoping that it will help him, but still no whistle. Still he walks along cracks in the sidewalk and even runs away from his shadow until finally he finds Willie again and then magically, he can whistle and Willie comes to him! He is so proud of himself and so are his mother and father. So why was Peter able to whistle? Was it the spinning? Hiding? Drawing with colored chalk? His father’s hat? Whatever it was, Willie finally came when he whistled. In the spirit of Father’s Day, I like to believe that it was his father’s magic whistling hat.
So can you whistle? Have you tried running away from your shadow or walking along cracks in the sidewalk? If those tactics still haven’t worked, there is a solution: a dog whistle. If your dog doesn’t come by calling him or otherwise, there are two types of dog whistles: loud and silent. Your Dog Advisor explains that dog whistle training is super effective because the sound of the whistle holds no emotion unlike your voice which can sound happy or angry amongst other emotions and can affect your dog’s reaction differently. They’re inexpensive, they are easy enough even for kids to use and the sound of the whistle carries outside so no need to yell.
There are a few whistle cues that can be used.
The first one is Recall: Three Short Blasts. Since the sound of the whistle travels much further than your voice, no matter where your dog roams. If you choose a whistle for training, make sure to have your dog sniff the whistle when you get it and associate it with positive cues, like food. When you start to use the whistle for recall purposes, continue with the tasty treats to reinforce the good behavior. Start out walking with the leash and then without. Soon you won’t have to yell or spin to get your dog to come back to you.
Sit/Down: One Long Blast is the next technique. Even if your dog already sits on command, the whistle could still be a useful tool to accomplish this command. Start the same way with a whistle and treats when motioning your dog to sit; again a positive interaction. Once your dog really has a handle on the whistle-sit association, try it from a far distance or even at the dog park. How impressive would that be to have your dog follow your command from far away? Plus you wouldn’t have to yell, hide or draw with colored chalk to get your command across.
Finally, there is the Change Direction command using One/Two Long Whistle Trills. A long trill is different from a blast in that a long trill is several long seconds of steady whistling, not just one blast. To start teaching this command, it is best to use two or three people. Begin by standing on one end of the room and your helper(s) at the other end of the room. The object is to get your dog to change direction on command. Have the dog start with you and then let them roam. Have your helper standing on the other side of the room hold up a treat to attract your dog to them. Blow a long trill into your whistle and this will command your dog to change direction back to you. In a real life situation, this will help if your dog is off-leash and about to run into your neighbor’s yard or after a cat. Not only could this command help avoid a sticky situation but you will also not have to yell or wear your father’s old hat.
Fun Fact: Did you know that some dogs are afraid of people wearing hats? I remember the dog we had when I was young would always bark at people with hats on. Bark Post explains that “the reason for this is that dogs have difficulty understanding ‘removable parts’ and see them as an alien object that changes the silhouette they’re familiar with.”
While you are out whistling while you work on your dog’s training during their walks and otherwise, don’t forget to put their “sox” on! Since we are in the beginning of summer and that shimmering heat will be inevitable, Lavasox is here to help. Protect your pup’s paws from summer heat, dirty sidewalks, hot sand and much more. The built-in heat barrier reflects radiant surface heat and the breathable mesh fabric allows for natural cooling. Perfect for when the temperatures soar! Choose from Pink Sorbet, Flame, Citrine and Marina Blue.
So are you a professional whistler (which is apparently a thing) or are you like Peter? Well grab your father’s old hat and whistle away and teach Willie to come, sit or turn around. Whistle while you work or play and make it a great dog day! Happy Walking! –Team Saltsox
Keats, Ezra Jack. Whistle For Willie. New York, The Viking Press, 1964.