Whistle Training for
Agility Dogs

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Recently the subject of using whistles at shows came up on the forum and some people said their dogs were scared the first time they heard a whistle. 

If you go to UKA shows you will almost certainly get some classes where a whistle is used.  Many KC shows will also have special classes such as a helter skelter or a steeplechase but some may have a pay on the day or a special fun class where dogs are started with a whistle or they have to complete a sequence when the whistle goes.  All of this can be scary for a dog.  

The photo below shows a UKA show in Cornwall.  Sasha's running in the steeplechase but in the ring next door a dog is running over agility equipment.  There's a see-saw crashing and at some stage a whistle may suddenly blow. It's something to be aware of before you enter a show and a little bit of training goes a long way.

It's very simple to condition a dog to the sound of a whistle.  All you need is a whistle and some delicious dog treats and away you go.  Wait until your dog is doing nothing in particular or in a another room and then blow the whistle quietly.  Most dogs will turn to look at you or come running and you can quickly offer a treat.  Repeat the exercise until you're dog is thoroughly happy with the whistle and then start blowing it a little bit louder. 

It really doesn't take long to get a dog used to the noise.  Sasha's scared of everything usually but by using the whistle quietly and carefully at first she soon came running towards the sound.  Now that she associates a whistle with sweeties there's absolutely no problem.  The only worry is that if she hears a whistle at a show she might go looking for sweeties.  (She's exceptionally greedy.)

There are various kinds of whistle available.  You won't want a silent one!  I've heard pea whistles and gun dog whistles being used at shows so maybe it would be an idea to get a dog used to both sorts.  Good luck with your training.


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