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sheepdog whistle and whistle language

Some village people talk by whistling in the black sea region of Turkey.
They can tell anything by whistling. For instance a mother can call her child from the house window and tell him to go to the bakery to buy bread or husband call his wife to make the food ready while on the way of his home or someone call her neighbor for drink tea.
You can hear some whistle talking from the below link. You notice the terrain! It is difficult to reach from one house to another, but easy to talk by whistling.

I use roy gonia whistle but can’t manage to different tones like this people
and can't whistle by my hand like these people. I wonder sheepdog whistle which people use in Scotland can do the same effect.

Is it easy to whistle the sheepdog whistle? Is there any video which teach how to use this whistle?

I have a sheepdog whistle and despite much spit, copious hours spent gobbing down it, I can't even get a pfiffle from it!!!!

josie wrote:
I have a sheepdog whistle and despite much spit, copious hours spent gobbing down it, I can't even get a pfiffle from it!!!!

Laughing Laughing

sinan - what a fantastic thought provoking post.

My dog will respond to quite a number of voice commands and some whistle ones - i had never really thought about a whistle language. but will now.

i have seen a lab handler use one whistle (212 1/2) to send out and retrieve and a different whistle (horn) and a different pattern of pips to direct left /right.
windem bang

Hi Sinan,

I cannot whistle a language and I cannot whistle properly in the pursed lips manner but I can whistle in a way that would just about burst your eardrums ! This is a mouth only whistle, no fingers are used, my lower lip is sucked in, my upper lip protrudes slightly during the whistle. I never could whistle properly in the normal manner so worked on my own way of doing it while I was a boy. Although I am now missing several teeth I can still whistle at a very high pitch and whistle some horrible sounding tunes in that way.

I taught myself by trial and error 30 years ago to use a shepherds mouth whistle but gave it up because my own natural whistle can be louder and I think it is more variable in pitch.

When I first started with gundogs I trained using my own natural whistle but stopped when I found out if I wanted to sell a dog I could not sell my whistle to go with it!

I don't much like shepherds mouth whistles, I find them awkward in the mouth, slavery when taken from the mouth and the occasional handler I have seen using one with gundogs sounded like the dawn chorus but were no more effective on the dog.

It is possible to vary the sound made by a normal whistle by drilling a hole in the tube and using it a bit like a flute. Ready made whistles of this type have been on sale for years. I have one but never use it, I find I can make all the sounds I need for gundog training by "tongueing" a normal 211+1/2 plastic whistle.

Bill T.

Two tone of whistle is enough for working gun dog. I use two whistles one with pea and other without pea. I consider whistle language for all voice commands. It is may be useless for working dog but I would like to use it in my shows. All dog trainers’ show roughly the same.
I would like to make difference and command my dog with whistle and do the tricks with whistle too.
For instance it is not possible to command the dog with two tone whistle for the tricks such as rollover, high five, crawl, spin, walk backwards etc. and all other commands sit, down, stay, recall etc.
You can command all of these with your voice but from the distance with whistle you need something like whistle language. I thought if people talk with each other with their whistle language the dogs could be commanded with this language. Because of that I am looking for the whistle, which makes many tones. You don’t have to know the language like our villagers but you should find different tune for each command with the whistle. Shepherds’ whistle seems to me as if possible to make several tones with it.
What is 212 + 1/2 and 211 + 1/2 whistle? Can you make the same tones as shepherds’ whistle with this 211 + 1/2 whistle?
windem bang

Sorry Sinan, A 211+1/2 whistle is not nearly as variable as a shepherds whistle. The shepherds whistle took me no more than a few minutes practice to make noises. Refining these noises and learning to make the same noises or tones consistently took more time. I was self taught I just tried various things until I could do it.

I did not find the shepherds whistle comfortable in my mouth however and so reverted to using my own natural whistle. It may interest you to know that some shepherds in this country can whistle in the same manner as me but most of them need to use their fingers too.

The shepherds whistle is not expensive to buy but I don't know of any video etc. that teaches its use. I have seen them used for sheepdogs and for gundogs and it may very well suit you for dog demonstration purposes.

Bill T.

Hi, Bill
I did it with my credit card.
I fold my expired credit card and made a hole on it and tried and nothing happened.
After I found below mentioned instruction on the web.
I understand that there are two holes on the whistle. Than I made another hole opposite of the first hole. It is 3.30 am here and everybody were sleeping. They are not now. Very Happy Very Happy
It is working and quite louder.
I will make from metal tomorrow.


Shepherds Whistle Instructions.

1. Place whistle in mouth with the curved open edge facing outwards.

2. Hold in the mouth in such a way as to create a gap underneath the whistle. The back of the whistle will sit on the back of the tongue.

3. Blow and by varying the blow, you will create different sounds.

4. To create an even wider range of sounds, move the tongue up and down reducing and widening the gap underneath the whistle.

N.B. if you place your tongue against the lower hole you will silence the whistle. It doesn’t matter which way up the whistle is placed. This is just one of nineteen outdoor whistles & Calls in the world famous Acme Range.

This whistle does require a few practice blows before you get a sound, but once one sound is achieved, it is plain sailing or whistling.
windem bang

Hi Sinan, I'm glad you got your whistle to work even at 3.30 in the morning Exclamation Laughing Laughing

I have tried both metal and plastic shepherds whistles, I found the plastic whistle more comfortable.

Bill T.

I think you need to get out more.


I have worked very hard over the years to cut down to an absolute minimum the number of commands that I use for a dog. Not only that I have tried to discipline myself to use the correct, and only the correct command when needed.
This is the current list.
Hup, come, get in, steady, over. (Often preceeded by dog's name)
Drop/hup, come, turn.
Drop/hup, come, this way.

I fully appreciate that there are little tricks you can teach dogs that assist with general obedience but would never use in the field. e.g. wait at the open door while another dog is called through. etc. I just don't see the need to complicate field matters by connecting them to the whistle.
windem bang

Des, I read your list and noticed there does not appear to be any command by whistle,voice or arm signal for go and hunt. Am I correct in this? Do you simply release your dog in the hunt area and allow it to hunt with no command to do so?

I am in no way criticising Des, I am simply curious as to what you do on the cast off?

Bill T.

I agree with Des about fieldwork.
I made another two shepherd whistles with air gun’s pellet box today. They worked better than credit card whistle and they are louder than my roy gonia whistle. The sound changes according to size of the hole, level of the blowing and position of the tongue. It is not difficult to whistle but need practice to catch the stable sound for the cues.
It is difficult for me to hold it in my mouth without holding with my hand. May be it could be easy for original whistles.
Bill, you said that the plastic one is more comfortable. Can you hold it without help your hands? And which whistle do you recommend from this web page?
windem bang

Sinan, I do not recommend any of these whistles but the plastic 4001 Pacific looks much like the one I used. I put it in my mouth and did not need a hand to hold it in place. It was, for me, more comfortable than the metal one I tried. I did not like that one at all.

Bill T.

Bill T
The "go hunt" command is very complex and not covered as you rightly pointed. I could best describe it as "Removing the lead". Go hunt is the easy one, stop hunting is the difficult one.

I have a Roy Gonia - Special Field Trial (With pea) Clear, WITH megaphone. I blew it in a friend's ear once for a laugh and he couldn't hear right for a couple of days. I isn't for me to say how anybody should work their dog but I can't concieve of a type of work where the volume possible with this whistle combination would be needed regularly. I have been trying for some time now to do everything in training at a lower volume. I feel if you are loud all the time, loud is what will become the norm and you are quite likely to get no response or at least a reduced response for anything else other than loud. I now try to keep it relatively low so that in competition it all seems calm and under control but I still can do loud for really important life or death (in or out) situations.

I have used several shepherd's whistles and now prefer the plastic one because when I tried it out some years ago it was the only one that you could attach a lanyard to. The idea was that I could handle a dog while shooting and not worry about spitting the whistle out and loosing it. I can actually play several bits of Mozart's Nacht Musik on it. Some time ago when I was still seeking the Holy Grail, the Perfect Whistle and my collection numbered about thirty odd I took a friend to a valley in the Mournes and he blew all the whistles for me at a distance of about a quarter of a mile. I find it difficult to accurately describe why, but the easiest to hear was the shepherd's whistle. There were some quite a bit louder but the shepherd's seemed the most penetrating. Acme themselves do a whole range of whistles and they are designed for different usage. One is for a life jacket and is designed to work on the first blow even when full of water. They all work, to my ear anyway but some have a wishey washey feel to them and don't seem strident enough for dogs. Without a doubt the Acme dog whistles are as good as any and better than most and most importantly they are consistent and can be easily replaced.
I think I am correst that at least in the UK and Ireland the only gundog competitions where two dogs run together are Pointer & Setter Trials. That is why I have done so mush research on the subject of whistles.
windem bang

Hi Des, I can see that as a "go hunt" command , removing the lead would take a lot of training! Agree with you that catching the bloody dog and getting the lead back on is often even more difficult!
I also agree about sound levels and use my whistle always trying to leave a bit in reserve - just in case.

I think that in addition to pointer/setter trials, spaniels are also trialled two at a time. Thank God H.P.R. trials are one at a time affairs, two of those things on at one time is my idea of a judges nightmare.

In spaniel trials the dogs may be running at the same time but on different pieces of ground.

Thanks for all of you. I decided to buy plastic whistles.
Do you think that border collies are more obedient to the whistle commands than other breeds? I think this is inherited to this breed as their herding ability.
How many whistle commands are needed in sheep dog trials? I think a gun dog doesn’t need whistle commands as much as herding sheep dogs and probably most gun dog breeds can’t be as good as border collies for the whistle commands.
I had read an interesting point about border collies in the book of “applied dog behavior and training” by Steven Lindsay saying that the Border collie’s ability to herd sheep not only depends on a genetic endowment (e.g.traits like crouching and showing eye) and intensive training but also on the selective breeding of sheep willing to be herded. Some breeds of sheep (notably African and Latin American varieties) do not respond by grouping tightly together and fleeing when challenged by a border collie but instead may attack the dog when provoked.” I understand that even sheep inherited behaviors from their ancestors. Each breed has inherited abilities and some times do their works without proper training. Most of the hunters do not train their pointers here in Turkey. Their commands only recall and retrieve. The dog does his work without training. The dog finds the bird, point and retrieve. I mean if you want the dog to obey whistle commands perfectly need a breed like border collie and come from working stock. Because of that I don’t expect much work with whistle commands for gun dog breeds like border collies. Am I right or wrong?
windem bang

Hi Sinan,

I don't know if you are right or wrong, I have only owned 2 border collies now known as working collies to differentiate them from the ones the show people are now breeding. The K.C. in its wisdom, decided a number of years ago that the breed was pure enough or good enough to be shown.
I don't think collies are genetically disposed to answer to whistle commands, I do think they, with the right handler, want to work and want to work with him. This of course means they will be responsive to whistle.
I did not use my collies for sheepdog work and have little knowledge of this. My first ever dog when I was a boy was a border collie, my second collie was an obedience ring dog and later when I needed a gundog, he was that too. He took to it like a duck takes to water.

Because of their willingness to work and their responsiveness to handling the border or working collie is one of my favourite breeds.

Not all gundogs in Britain get much training, many beaters dogs seem only to be taught to come when called and some of the dogs don't even do that!

Bill T.

I’ve got my new whistles acme shepherds mouth whistle and 211,5
There is a handle on the shepherds whistle and good to attached it to the lanyard. The sound of this whistle as I want it. But I find this whistle not too handy for the gun dog fieldwork. You have to put whole whistle into your mouth and all dirt are coming into your mouth. Other whistles have small parts of them, which your lips touch it. Shepherds whistle very good to give more commands and I will use it as I said before.
I liked the sound of Acme 211,5. I had never used and never seen anyone use it. I was using roy gonia special. I think acme 211,5 whistle has sound higher pitch than my roy gonia special. I am not sure about the pitch level but its sound seemed to me thinner than and nicer than roy gonia.
I moved from roy gonia to acme 211,5 for my spaniel and it took about three sessions to change the whistle for her. I tried the known cues with acme whistle first and she did not at all respond it. In order to use my new whistle I gave the cue with old whistle and after immediately gave the same cue with the new whistle and click and treat as if teaching the new behavior. After enough practice I removed old whistle and go on same cues and C/T with new whistle. She now obeys the both whistles.
Some trainers prefer contrary of this way. They give new cue first. I tried these on many dogs. Both of them work. But the new cue after the old one is more effective and quick way. Forum Index -> Training
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