Although it may seem like it when observing a highly trained dog obeying the whistle, these tools are not magic and will not work all of the time. The whistle is simply a stimulus to which the dog is reacting. His reaction is learned. While whistles can be useful in barking cessation training, it is the process of disruption, redirection and reward that eventually will cure you dog’s unwelcome habit, not the whistle itself.
Dog whistles are useful for two main reasons: They are distinctive and they are loud. Their distinctiveness means that the sound won’t get lost in the mix of a noisy street and their volume means that you can use them to communicate with your pooch over longer distances than you could with just your voice. Some dog whistles are inaudible to human ears. This is because the sound it produces is too high a frequency to be detected by humans. The main function of the whistle is to get the dog’s attention. Early on during whistle training, the dog must learn that the whistle is significant. Typically, he learns this because his owner gives him a reward for looking up when the whistle sounds.
The process of stopping a dog from barking has three steps. The first is to distract the dog. This is why the whistle is potentially more useful than the human voice. Imagine you’ve spent the past three weeks shouting “quiet” at your dog when he barks. He’ll be so used to hearing that sound and it carrying no particular consequence, that he’ll ignore it. The whistle, with its distinct, high-pitched tone, will get your dog’s attention. It will make him stop barking, even just for a few seconds, because it removes his attention from the stimulus causing him to bark. That is the crucial window of opportunity.
The redirection stage is brief and acts more as a link between distraction and reward. Once the dog has looked at you, move your hand or show him a treat or toy. This will bring his attention away from the barking stimulus, whereas the distraction method may only work for a second or two before he returns to barking.
Without the association between the whistle sound and the reward, the whistle has little influence over the dog. The key is to issue the reward when the dog has been quiet for a few seconds. Otherwise, he may think he’s being rewarded for barking, rather than stopping.
Using the whistle once will not cure your dog’s barking. You must employ a strict whistle regimen, whereby each time he barks, you sound the whistle, redirect him, then reward him. Eventually, your pal will learn that the sound of the whistle is followed by a positive stimulus. With sufficient repetition, the whistle will become sufficient stimulation without the treat.
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