Whistle training is extremely beneficial for intelligent dogs like border collies.
Originally meant to teach sheepdogs how to be effective shepherds, whistle commands have a wider application on farms, in competition, and in every day life.
Common whistle commands like ‘come where’ and ‘lay down’ tell your dog what you want them to do. The whistle makes it easy for your dog to hear you over larger distances. More complicated commands like ‘Come By’ and ‘Way to Me’ teach your dog more advanced herding techniques that depend on your input.
Here are 10 of the most common and useful border collie whistle commands.
Whistle Training for Border Collies
Most dogs can be trained to come when you whistle. However, sheepdogs are an entirely different matter.
To whistle train a sheepdog, you need a special type of whistle. You can blow this whistle in multiple different patterns and bursts to give your dog commands at a distance.
This is used for sheepdog training because the sheepdog needs to be able to return home over great distances, particularly when they are watching the sheep.
Whistle training your border collie means teaching them different commands based on whistle patterns, combinations, and sounds.
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Why Should you Whistle Train your Border Collie?
Whistle training your border collie can be extremely helpful in competitions. However, it’s useful at home and on the farm, too. Using a whistle allows your dog to hear you from further away.
If you integrate whistle commands with your command words, your dog will learn to respond to both. If they are up in the pasture with the sheep, they’ll be able to hear a whistle but might not hear your voice.
Plus, it’s better when you need your dog to hear you over hills, valleys, and other uneven terrains. The pitch of the whistle carries easily, while your voice might not.
If it’s windy, your commands could be carried away. If you use a whistle, your dog is much more likely to hear it.
Using a whistle to issue commands keeps emotion out of your voice, too. Border collies are extremely intelligent and eager to please. If you sound hesitant about a command, they will hesitate. Using a whistle removes the emotional component in your commands.
In turn, your dog won’t be distracted. He’ll know to do exactly what you tell him to do.
Can You Whistle Train Your Border Collie Yourself?
Whistle training should be done by someone with experience in training. Someone who knows the dog is ideal. If you have the time and patience to teach your border collie the whistle commands you want, you can train him yourself.
There are a variety of dog whistles available on the market, including inexpensive tin whistles. However, the more expensive shepherd whistles will give you the best sound range for training.
If you don’t feel up to the task, you can also hire a professional to whistle train your border collie. Work with a trainer to learn the different blasts and what they mean.
10 Essential Border Collie Whistle Commands
Whistle commands are somewhat normalized among trainers and training programs. It’s worth it to note that border collies don’t know these commands automatically.
You’ll have to teach them these commands. As long as you can keep the commands straight with your dog, you could conceivably use any type of sound or pattern for each.
Still, it’s best to use the standard command patterns. We’ll describe them using different kinds of sounds and patterns you can make using most standard shepherd whistles.
‘Come Here’ is the most important whistle command your border collie can learn. No matter if you’re training him for farm work, competitions, or just for obedience on walks and in social situations, you’ll need to know ‘come here’.
It’s the first command you should train, as well as the most important.
While herding, this command tells your dog to leave the herd and come to your side.
It’s also great for calling your dog back over longer distances, such as if you have a roaming dog on a large property.
The ‘Come Here’ command sounds like “Whee-Whee-Wheet” on the shepherd’s whistle.
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‘Look Back’ is an important basic herding command that tells your dog to round up more livestock. This signal is especially useful during herding competitions, or if you have a few particularly difficult sheep.
When your dog hears this whistle, it will prompt him to turn around and herd the other sheep into the main herd. The ‘look back’ command sounds like “Who-Hee-Who”.
That Will Do
‘That Will Do’ tells your dog that it’s time to stop working with the herd. If you have multiple herds, this might be the signal you use to tell them that it’s time to move to the next.
Otherwise, this can be used as a universal signal that it’s time to leave the herd alone and turn in for the day. The ‘That Will Do’ signal sounds like “Hee-Hee-Hee-Hee”.
Lay down is a rest command that you can use between other commands. When it’s time for your dog to take a break, or you need him to avoid driving the sheep for a moment, the ‘lay down’ command can help.
It’s also extremely useful at home or on walks, as well as in situations away from the farm. The whistle command for ‘lay down’ is a single, long blast on the whistle. It’s the same command as ‘stop’, but you might use it in a slightly different context. Your border collie is smart enough to tell the difference.
Stop is a command that will be useful for your dog whether you are herding or not. This command can be used at home, in competitions, and during walks to stop your dog right in its tracks.
The stop command lets your dog know to stop walking and drop, which can be helpful if there is danger, or if you need to correct his course.
The stop command is simple to learn and it’s easy to teach. One long blast tells your dog that it’s time to quit.
“Come By” is a command that indicates that you want your dog to circle around the livestock herd clockwise.
This helps move them closer together in preparation for your next directional command. This helps when you need to change the direction the herd is moving. The whistle command for ‘come by’ sounds like ‘Wheet-Wheeeo’.
The ‘walk up’ command tells your dog to approach the livestock. It’s a signal for your dog to start walking directly at the herd and tells them that another command should be issued shortly.
This command usually signals the beginning of the work period, too. The whistle command for ‘walk up’ is two short whistles with no inflection or unique sounds.
Sometimes, your dog will be too close to the livestock. When this happens, they aren’t driving as effectively. It can mean that your herd gets spooked or splits off, allowing some of the herd to wander away.
When you notice that your dog is driving too close to the herd, this command can alert them that they need to fall back ways. The command for ‘get out’ is the same as ‘back up’, which tells your dog to back up but remain facing the herd.
The whistle command for both of these sounds like “Wheet-Wheeo-Wheet-Wheet.”
Way to Me
The “Way to Me” command tells your border collie to run around the herd counterclockwise. This counterclockwise circle allows the dog to gather the herd, turning them in a direction that you specify.
If you need to drive your herd into a pen or away from danger, this is the command to use. On a shepherd’s whistle, the sound is most like “Whee-Whoo”.
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“Steady” is a command that tells your border collie to slow down or reduce the pace when driving the herd. If your dog is driving too fast, it usually isn’t good for the sheep.
Steady tells your dog that it’s time to reduce the pace. This command can be taught as a “Hee-Hee” sound on the shepherd’s whistle.
How Many Commands Can a Border Collie Learn?
According to Dr. Stanley Coren, Ph.D., most intelligent dog breeds can learn up to 250 words or commands. This varies by the dog. It’s worth noting that border collies are also ranked as the most intelligent dog breed according to Coren.
This number shouldn’t be taken as a hard limit. Your border collie might be able to learn more than 250 commands. Some famous border collies have learned over 1,000 commands, words, and modifiers over their lifespan.
Whistle commands are not word commands, and there are only so many ways you can blow a whistle.
Understandably, border collies may learn fewer whistle commands than word commands. However, border collies usually take to whistle training quite well. It all depends on your dog!
Whistle commands are a simple way to teach your dog to perform certain actions. They are especially useful over long distances, or in competition settings. Your border collie can learn a large variety of whistle commands, so it’s worth looking into whistle training.
Though you can train some whistle commands yourself, it’s better to choose a certified professional to work with your dog.
Are Border Collies hard to train?
With the right trainer, Border Collies can be extremely trainable. However, their high intelligence and strong will can be a problem for inexperienced trainers.
Are Blue Heelers independent?
Blue Heelers are extremely independent, mostly due to their breeding. They were bred to watch sheep independently from their masters, and that trait still exists in the breed today.