Dog Whistles: How and Why to Use Them

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When a neighbor (and good friend) of mine got her first puppy years ago, I was able to to help her out with tips on both leash training as well as crate training which my friend and her new pooch, aptly named Bob Barker, were able to master in no time.

The feeling of pride those accomplishments instilled in us didn’t last too long. Neither of us were prepared for the insanity of him barking throughout the night.

When you’ve lost sleep night after night because your new puppy or your neighbor’s dog barks all night long, it’s the worst. There’s not much you won’t do for some relief. Most people start out with a quick Google search.

neighbors barking dog at fence dog whistle training

Do this and you will find plenty of results that talk about checking local laws and city ordinances. You will unfortunately also find plenty of creeps encouraging varying ranges of violence against the dog.

I was looking for a solution that fell somewhere on the spectrum between murder and a lawsuit. Dog whistles to the rescue!

What is a Dog Whistle Used For and Other FAQs

The purpose of this device is usually either to get a dog’s attention, for behavior modification, or for training purposes. They are a great training tool for both dog owners and exhausted neighbors.

These handy training whistles are also sometimes referred to as a silent whistle or a Galton’s whistle, invented in 1876 by Sir Francis Galton who did experiments on the range of frequencies that could be heard by different animals.

So How Does a Dog Whistle Work?

Because a dog can hear at higher frequencies than humans can, you will only hear a quiet hissing sound when a high pitch dog whistle is blown. The pooch should have no difficulty hearing the sound when you blow one of these “silent” whistles.

How the dog responds to the high-frequency whistle depends on how you have trained them to respond.  You can’t just take the whistle out of the package, give it a good toot, and expect miraculous behavior out of the dog instantly.

If you find something that works that quickly for training, please contact me immediately.

No, seriously. Please help me. Training isn’t always my strong suit (obviously).

Do Dog Whistles Hurt Puppy’s Ears?

do dog whistles damage puppy's ears
Did you know they make ear protection for dogs? How adorable are these doggy ear muffs?

Let’s say you’re watching a football game on TV, and you hear the ref blow the whistle. Probably didn’t hurt your ears, right? Now imagine the ref is inches from your face blowing that same whistle.

Depending on the whistle itself and how hard it is blown, the result could range anywhere from annoying and unpleasant to downright painful and damage causing. It’s the same for dogs when it comes to silent whistles.

Can’t I Just Use a “Regular” Whistle to Train My Puppy?

Sure, if you want annoy the heck out of every human within a mile of you. Silent whistles gained popularity for a reason. You need to use a whistle that will capture the attention of the dog, not the neighbors.

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Can People or Other Animals Hear Dog Whistles?

Whether or not people or other animals can hear dog whistles depends on the frequency of the sound of the individual dog whistle being used.  People can generally hear within the range of 64-23,000 Hz, and most dog whistles are at a frequency above what humans can hear.  A dog’s hearing ranges from 67-45,000 Hz, as compared to the bat who comes in at 2,000-110,000.  He has heard ALL your dirty, little secrets.

Species Approximate Range (Hz) 
human 64-23,000
dog 67-45,000
cat 45-64,000
horse 55-33,500
sheep 100-30,000
mouse 1,000-91,000
ferret 16-44,000
bat 2,000-110,000
beluga whale 1,000-123,000
elephant 16-12,000
goldfish 20-3,000
tree frog 50-4,000
parakeet 200-8,500
owl 200-12,000
chicken 125-2,000


Can a Dog That is Deaf Hear a Dog Whistle?

The answer to that depends on the extent of the hearing loss and what range of the dog’s hearing is gone. Your best bet would be to try an adjustable dog whistle so you can play with different frequencies until you find the one that gets your pet’s attention.

If that doesn’t work out, you could try a special vibration collar designed for dogs who are deaf for getting their attention. They still be trained commands with the use of hand signals. Like the silent whistles, the collars aren’t a magic fix. They must be used in conjunction with proper training. 

Different Types of Dog Whistles

There are many different types of dog whistles on the market today that produce different fixed sound frequencies, and there are also dog whistles that are adjustable as well as electronic options.

Electronic Dog Whistles

electronic dog whistleThere are currently several different types of electronic dog whistles available for purchase. I’ve never used one and it’s hard for me to tell based off of the reviews how well the products do or don’t work. The lung powered whistles have all got a comparable amount of negative reviews online.

I attribute this to the fact that some people don’t seem to understand that it takes more than just sounding a whistle to make an animal do what you want it to do. There has to be some silent whistle training in order for the product to work.

Or if you are feeling adventurous, you could always try your hand at constructing a homemade electronic dog whistle.

There are many devices purporting to be an electronic dog repellent or a bark silencer (this one is my favorite). There are some that claim they will stop dogs from fighting and barking. Without the proper training in conjunction with the use of the whistle, all it can do is provide a temporary distraction at best, and even that depends on the dog’s level of aggression.

Again, no magical quick fixes exist when it comes to pet behavior. It’s only consistent training that will get you where you want to be.

Dog Whistle Apps

smartphone apps

You can also use your smartphone to download apps that make the sound of a dog whistle.

Much like both the lung powered whistles and the electronic ones, the dog whistle apps available have mixed reviews. And much like both of the other categories of whistles, I say it’s because people aren’t using them in conjunction with proper training. Dog whistles are a training tool, not a magic wand.

Fixed Frequency Dog Whistles

  • Acme 110.5 Frequency Dog Whistle

The Acme 110.5 Frequency was the first dog whistle I ever purchased for myself.  It’s what’s known as a fixed frequency whistle. All you do is put it to your lips and blow. Nothing to adjust or tighten.  Perfect for a first-timer.

Personally, I love the fun colors they come in.  Having a lanyard is nice, too, especially when you’re trying to hang onto a large dog and palm your treat stash while blowing your whistle, doing a handstand, and juggling knives.

BTW, mine was purple.

  • Acme 211.5 Frequency Dog Whistle

I also have owned the Acme 211.5 Frequency whistle. I couldn’t really tell the difference between the two personally. But then again, I don’t hear quite as well as my dogs do. The main difference between this one and the model shown above is that the frequency the whistle sounds at is at a slightly different fixed rate.

This seemingly minor difference between the whistles can have a big impact on how effective it is on Fido.

Different breeds of dogs have different hearing abilities. Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, poodles, and cocker spaniels rank among the breeds with the best hearing capabilities.

There are many factors other than breed that can affect a dog’s auditory range. Much like in humans, ear damage from loud sounds or trauma, as well as things like deterioration from age can play a factor as well.

And don’t forget about the ones who just have selective hearing.

Adjustable Dog Whistles

This adorable little adjustable dog whistle is around the size of your pinky (well, maybe not YOUR pinky, unless your pinky is average to smallish in size.)

The metal pitch rod lets you change the frequency easily by tightening or loosening the rod. The frequency range this produces seems to work well for most dogs.

The only issue with this type of whistle, besides being easy to lose (as well as a choking hazard for some dogs) because of its size, is that it might take a bit of trial and error before you get the whistle adjusted to the pitch your dog will respond to. Once you find it, setting the frequency of your adjustable dog whistle is easy though.


This one is an adjustable whistle with a locking nut on a chain. Very biker chic. I dig it.  But like I said, if your dog doesn’t listen to your verbal commands, he’s probably not going to respond to you making a sound with a whistle either, no matter how cool it looks.  adjustable sliding dog whistle



How to Adjust a Dog Whistle

To adjust the frequency your silent whistle makes when blown, simply twist the pitch rod slightly. Turning the pitch rod counter-clockwise will result in a higher pitch and clock-wise yields a lower pitch.

Once you’re satisfied with the frequency you’ve adjusted to, secure the pitch rod locknut. Easy as pie!adjustable dog whistle


How to Use a Dog Whistle Properly

It might seem like it would be simple enough to use a dog whistle properly. You just blown in it, right? Sorry to say you’re going to have to put in just a little work than that in order to condition a dog to respond to the silent whistle.

This article from Psychology Today also discusses the need to incorporate proper training with the use of a dog whistle.

Conclusion: Do Silent Dog Whistles Really Work?

I credit the basic dog whistle for helping me shut my neighbor’s dog up. It took many nights of effort on both our parts. Imagine me, if you will, standing in my backyard in my PJs at 2:00 a.m. tossing treats over the fence to Bob Barker while tooting on my whistle.

There is no whistle that can magically stop a dog from barking

Long story short, it eventually worked beautifully to quiet the pup down. It simply took a bit of reinforcement training to go along with the use of the whistle.

Over the years I’ve found it to be quite a helpful tool when to use in training a dog for a great variety of things.

Dog whistles: I approve this product.


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