Dog Training With a Whistle

Whistle commands are widely relied on by handlers of working dogs, the sound signals they create carrying further and being so much less ambiguous and confusing than voice commands.

Man Using a Sheepdog Whistle

Working dog handlers therefore take their whistles very seriously – seeking out an instrument whose tone their dog respects and responds well to. None more so than sheepdog handlers whose Border Collies are often working out of sight, sometimes more than a mile away, in all kinds of weather. 

Back in the 1960s my father, Harford Logan, was fashioning his own little whistles as a way to 'talk' to his dogs. The basic half-moon folded lip whistle had been around for a very long time; but that wasn't enough for Dad – so he set about creating the first 'Logan Whistles' with which he has since had so much sheepdog trialling success.

These sheepdog whistles had a serious day job, making sure the full team, my dad and all his Border Collies, could work together with a succinct and clear language – one that got its meaning across quickly and easily, often over very great distance.

But there was also glory as his own special whistles were something of a secret weapon at the many sheepdog trials he attended. Sheep dog trial fields are in all sorts of places and the crucial whistle commands needed to help win the day are often required to compete with all kinds of weather too - rain, fog, blistering heat but most usually just a swirling wind, sometimes bouncing back off trees, at other times uninterrupted for miles, blowing across wide flat open ground.

Using a Logan Whistle to create whistle command sounds

Logan Whistles are capable of the full musical scale and have been relied on for years to train dogs to respond to whistle sounds, each of which has been assigned a clear meaning. 

Their pure clear tones can be used in a very subtle way to communicate with a dog, keeping it focussed, and alerting it to any corrections needed in a simple and calm way – a much better alternative to shouting, or full volume single tone whistle blasts.

Typically the sheepdog would learn the following basic commands – although not all working dogs, nor pets, need to have this level of whistle knowledge!

Stop/Lie Down

to stop the dog, but not necessarily require it to lie down.


to slow the dog to a steady walk towards the sheep.

Walk on

to encourage the dog to move forward towards livestock.

Go Left or 'Come Bye"

to move dog clockwise around the stock.

Referred to as the Flank Commands. Typically the only two commands that are different when working two or more dogs together.

Go Right or 'Way to Me'

to move dog anti-clockwise around the stock

Look Back

turn the dog back to look for and gather more livestock.

That'll Do/Recall

tell the dog to stop work & come back to you.

One of the first things we did when we began to offer Logan Whistles outside the ‘sheepdog world’ was record some of the standard farm dog or sheepdog trial whistle commands and share those with anyone interested in those sounds - and you can find some whistle command sound clips on our web-site.

But we always knew there was more we could do to help people understand these sheepdog whistle commands and then select their own whistle sounds to use in training other working dogs or simply as an effective recall whistle for their pets.

‘Stop’ and ‘Recall’ whistle commands 

Even if you are training what will become the next world champion sheepdog, you still have to begin by teaching it to respond correctly to a Stop and Call-Off or Recall whistle command, commonly the voice command “That’ll Do” for sheepdogs. These two commands are for working dogs generally as well as non-working dogs of any breed.

The Stop command whistle sound for sheepdogs is usually just one straight whistle tone and is one of the few commands that is consistent across handlers.

The Recall or Call-Off whistle command can vary enormously between handlers but is often a mix of up and down tones. Select sounds you can produce and repeat consistently and instinctively. Use this link to hear two recall whistle sound examples:

Recall Whistle tones by Allistair Lyttle and That'll Do by Julie Hill

How to create a ‘set of dog whistle commands’?

For those who want to train the dog on more tasks, then you will need to select and practise a ‘set of commands’.

What makes the Logan Whistle special is that it can easily create a range of tones or pitch patterns to form a set of distinct whistle sounds.

A dog hears and acts on the very first part of the sound it has been trained to respond to, so if it is a voice command then it will react just to the first syllable. 

A 'set' of whistle commands therefore needs to be a distinct set of tones or sound patterns that replace voice commands for trained responses. The very first part of each whistle command should be sufficiently different for the dog to understand what each sound means quickly and easily.  So, for example it is important that the voice and the whistle command for ‘go right’ (‘Away’ in sheepdog parlance) is very different from the commands for ‘go left’ (Come Bye). 

When creating a whistle command with a Logan Whistle you can use

A single steady tone or note which can be repeated or elongated for emphasis

A Rising tone or repetition of that tone

A Falling tone or repetition of that tone 

And often used is a combination of rising and falling tones

Dogs can hear the difference in these sound ‘shapes’ – steady tones, rising and falling tones. So, to create two sound commands that can be distinguished easily one from the other by your dog use different sounds at the start – for example, a ‘go right’ or ‘Away’ command may begin with a falling tone and a ‘go left’ or ‘Come Bye’ command begin with a rising tone. 

An example of different sounding commands would be:

Away Whistle Command (go right)

Come Bye Whistle Command (go left)

You can then add expression to your commands, heightening or softening the normal tones – using repetition, speeding them up or slowing them down, softening or sharpening the tones. We’d always suggest using the Logan Whistle as softly as possible so the dog can just hear it whatever distance they are from you.  How you use the whistle can 'ask' the dog to complete a certain action, or if necessary 'tell', then 'insist' on a given action. Elongating the sounds and softening out tones can suggest a wider or gentler action or can be used to calm the dog. While rapid repetition and sharpness suggests urgency and is therefore asking the dog to speed up.

The online Logan Whistle Command Sound Guide

To help illustrate the whistle sounds commonly used in sheepdog training, we have created a much more comprehensive Logan Whistle Command Sound Guide.   

This online Guide contains the recorded whistle commands of four separate handlers for you to compare, with accompanying visual illustrations to help you see the shape of the sounds. It also describes 

  • how to use your Logan Whistle 
  • how to begin to train a dog on whistle commands
  • the relevance of frequency, pitch, tone and timbre for whistle commands
  • sound clips and visual guidance on building a ‘set’ of commands
  • how to work two or more dogs together using the same whistle
  • advice on selecting a Logan Whistle for your own needs

Whatever breed your dog, or level of training you intend to perfect, a Logan Whistle offers a special way to communicate and build a bond with your dog. We hope you’ll find this Guide helpful and enjoy using your Logan Whistle.