Per­fect your whis­tle work

Sporting Shooter - - Contents - with Howard Kirby Howard Kirby runs Lains Shoot­ing School and Mul­len­scote Gundogs in Hamp­shire

Last month, we took an over­view of how we might start to reschool a dog that has come off the whis­tle. This time, it’s my in­ten­tion to take a slightly more in-depth ap­proach to some of the tech­niques we can use to teach the dog to lis­ten and take in­struc­tions.

We are go­ing to start right at the be­gin­ning! The be­gin­ning starts with you and your abil­ity to as­sess the dog’s be­hav­iour and your re­la­tion­ship with it! We need to check to see if your dog fully un­der­stands the whis­tle com­mands that we are go­ing to be giv­ing him. Let’s run through a check­list and do a few sim­ple as­sess­ments.

THE SIT A sin­gle ‘peep’ on the whis­tle should see your dog ei­ther sit in­stantly at heel or, if out in front of you, stop, sit and look straight back at you. Most im­por­tantly, the dog needs to be in a mind­set where it’s look­ing at you to help it find the dummy rather than as a de­mand­ing nui­sance.


Call the dog to heel and walk along at a slow walk. Bear­ing in mind that the dog’s ears are just a me­tre from your whis­tle, gently blow your Sit com­mand… peep.

If he sits, in­stantly re­ward him. If he doesn’t, we need to get the dog back on the lead. Once again, with the dog at heel, move for­ward, blow the whis­tle and give a gen­tle pull back­wards on the lead. As soon as he sits re­ward him with a ‘Good’.

Quickly re­peat this ex­er­cise un­til the dog is re­spond­ing with a quick and ac­cu­rate sit to the whis­tle. This needs to be done over sev­eral ses­sions, en­sur­ing you are us­ing a lead ev­ery time, and at dif­fer­ent paces – walk, trot, can­ter – with in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult lev­els of en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­trac­tions. If he fails to re­spond to the whis­tle com­mand, im­me­di­ately cor­rect/in­struct him. You will need to be con­sis­tent un­til the dog is trained to sit each time you blow the whis­tle.

Now we can try the same ex­er­cise with­out the lead. If we have done enough train­ing he will give you a con­sis­tent Sit. If not, it’s back to lead on.


Take your dog and a dummy out­side. Re­lease him from your heel, but keep his at­ten­tion and try to en­cour­age the dog to stay close to you. Blow your Stop whis­tle; if he sits, im­me­di­ately throw out the

dummy, hold him in the Sit for a few sec­onds be­fore send­ing him for the re­trieve. If he ig­nores the whis­tle then here’s an ex­er­cise you can use:

As be­fore, get your­self out­side with a dummy and the dog. Once again, re­lease the dog but keep his at­ten­tion – try tap­ping the dummy a few times to get his fo­cus. As the dog looks at you thrust the dummy up into the air, im­ply­ing you are go­ing to throw it. The dog will re­spond im­me­di­ately, but keep hold­ing the dummy high above your head and prompt him to sit us­ing first your voice and as he sits blow the whis­tle. As his back­side hits the floor throw the dummy.

How much school­ing the dog has had will de­ter­mine whether he runs in or waits to be sent for the re­trieve. Ei­ther way, give the Fetch com­mand and let him have the re­trieve. Reg­u­lar prac­tice of this ex­er­cise will see a high-drive, dummy-fo­cused dog throw­ing it­self into the Sit in an­tic­i­pa­tion of a re­ward, with the mind­set we want when a dog hears the stop whis­tle.


A se­ries of pips on the whis­tle will see your dog gal­lop­ing across the field… or not?


Leave the dog in a Sit po­si­tion and walk about 20m away. Turn your back on the dog and put your hands in your pock­ets; this is to stop you us­ing them as a vis­ual cue.

Now blow the Re­call whis­tle. If your dog is on the whis­tle it will race to­wards you. If not, you need to do some more work. Some dogs that are re­ally good on the whis­tle get a lit­tle con­fused by this ex­er­cise, so ini­tially you might have to prompt

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