Dog training tips: using a whistle to train a border collie

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Training a border collie with whistle commands is a relatively easy process because this dog is naturally inclined to bring livestock to its owner.

Training a border collie with whistle commands is a relatively easy process because this dog is naturally inclined to bring livestock to its owner.

The Border Collie

Border collies, originally bred on the border of Scotland and England, are highly intelligent and obedient dogs.  Averaging between 30 – 50 pounds and standing 19 – 22 inches tall, they are generally black and white, but red, blue, and chocolate coloring, with or without tan or white, is also acceptable.  Intended to work in inclement weather, they have a double coat.  The outer coat can be long or short.

Highly cherished by their owners as working dogs, they do not make good family pets unless you continually provide them with intellectual and physical stimulation.

Choosing a Whistle

Initially, shepherds merely used the fingers on their hands to make a whistling sound.  Then they originated the first fabricated whistle, a lid from an empty can of dog food folded in half with a hole punched into it.  Shepherd’s whistles, today, still hold that unique half-moon shape, but now they are made of various materials – plastic, aluminum, brass.  The various materials lend a different sound to each type of whistle.  Which one you choose is a personal decision.  The whistle’s sole purpose is to instruct the dog on what to do, and it must be heard at great distances.

Commands

Border collies respond best to training between the ages of 10 months to 2 ½ years.  A Dairy Farmer who wants help from his dog to bring in the cows for milking in the morning and in the evening need only teach four or five commands:  Move faster, move slower, flank, come by and the way to me is the most important.

Flanking commands the dog to get up behind the livestock and to gather them in bunches.  Come by commands the dog to move around the livestock in a clockwise fashion, while the way to me instructs the dog to move around the livestock in a counter-clockwise fashion.

Whistle Training

Whistle training is nothing more than communicating your commands to your dog through whistles – talking to your dog through whistles.  Make sounds with the whistle which corresponds to your voice.

If you want your dog to move quickly, blow the whistle with a sense of urgency.  If you want your dog to move slowly, blow the whistle with less urgency.
Consider a normal flank, start in the middle of the whistle with a medium speed and tone.  Then you can teach extremes on both sides, a slower, quieter whistle corresponding to move slowly and a faster, louder whistle corresponding to move quickly.  Only blow as loudly as you must for the dog to hear.
Be sure to use the same whistle for the corresponding command each time.  It’s best to record and to study your whistles to avoid any confusion in the dog.  The first note of each whistle should immediately signal the command so differentiate between them.
As the training progresses, you and your dog will work as a team, and which whistle, or command, you choose to give will be based on the dog’s mood and the pressure of the livestock upon him.

The border collie’s capacity to learn is incredible.  Your dog will be willing to work to exhaustion for you and to accomplish any task you ask of him.

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