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 Gundog whistle commands
Gundog whistle commands are more likely to be used on a shoot than verbal commands, though both will be heard.   Gundog whistle commands may well be followed by a hand signal / command .... the attention of the dog is obtained with the whistle .... and a hand command is then given.

Gundog handlers, pickers-up etc need to have good control over their dogs and tend to use gundog whistle commands for long-distance instructions, rather than voice commands.  Some beaters / Guns might wonder what is happening ..... so this a short explanation of the whistle commands normally used for gundogs ... it's not a guide on how to train gundogs .... there are gundog books and DVDs on our online bookshop.

There are 3 main gundog whistle commands you may hear whilst beating or shooting, though not all handlers use them in the same way:

1) A single whistle 'pip'
..... is the 'sit' command, (think of the short sharp verbal 'sit' command and you will see why it is used) though you may hear some dog handlers (Labrador/retriever owners rather than spaniel owners) using a long blast.  The single pip is often accompanied by an open palm signal on a raised arm.

2) 2 whistle pips
..... is the 'turn' command (think of 'left / right'......or 'back / forward') ...... which is used to get the gundog's attention (they look to their handler) and then see which way they need to go from the handler's hand/arm signals - left or right, back or forward.  I've heard some advanced handlers use a 'bosuns pipe' type whistle to move left or right, rather than just hand signals.....and just recently a long blast followed by a pip to go left and a pip followed by a long blast to go right.  I use the bosuns pipe (high to low) to get my dog to lie down.

3) Continuous or 'extended' whistle pips
(I've heard people use between 3 and 7 whistle pips) are normally used to recall a gundog.  You may also see the gundog handler stretching both arms out as a visual signal to their gundog to return. (Though I just extend my right arm and the dog accepts that.......and I then lean forward as he comes right into me).

By the way, a whistle 'pip' is created by using the tongue, more or less in a 'spitting' fashion.  You may have learned how to do so if you played a wind/brass instrument.  You just keep blowing whilst darting your tongue back and forth to block/clear the airway.  You can try it without having a whistle between your lips.   Just one thing.....when you next have a dry mouth, move your tongue around and instantly you start to salivate.  When tonguing your gun dog whistle the same thing can happen......and you can end up getting some very 'wet' notes!  So a discrete shake of the whistle now and again can remove any accumulated spit!

Gundog whistles are widely available and the models are usually numbered, so if you lose one you can easily get a replacement. But if people near you are using the same model as you, your gun dog may be a tad confused. 

Many people use 'silent' dog whistles instead.  They are not 'silent' at all, but they are adjustable so that sounds outside the range of the human ear can be detected.  The easy way to test this is to sit your dog down and start blowing the whistle and turning the threaded bolt.   My dog's reaction was immediately noticeable as I reached a pitch which really made him react.  I went up above and just below again and then found the perfect whistle pitch.

A little tip: once you have got the right whistle pitch, use some Fernox or similar plumbers leak gel (jointing compound), which sets reasonably hard in joints, to rub around the join of the whistle and the bolt and locking nut.  That should hold it in place once dried - spray with water to harden faster.  I lost 2 gundog whistles as they unscrewed themselves from the bolt, just due to walking, as the locking nuts wore loose and then the whistles fell off.

Which gun dog whistle to buy to suit your dog?

No whistle is best for any one breed.  However,
  • the Acme 210 gundog whistle is often used by spaniel owners
  • the Acme 210.5 dog whistle has a slightly higher range
  • the 211.5 - Labradors and retrievers
There are many types of gundog whistle available and most of them are shown here.

If you want to know the verbal commands in common use please visit the dogs page.

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