Dog Whistles Are Legal, the Things You Need to Know

Dog whistles are legal to use, and dog owners can use them for various purposes:

  • For teaching your dog recall
  • As an all-round training tool
  • To get your dog’s attention once you’ve found the correct pitch
  • They are not recommended for stopping bad behavior in a neighbor’s dog

If you have ever seen someone blowing a whistle and yet not heard a sound, you have likely seen a dog whistle in action. You might wonder whether these whistles are illegal to use. Would you be breaking the law if you bought one? It’s best to find out before you do.

In this article, I am going to look at the laws surrounding dog whistles and what to expect if you use one. All the facts are here:

You won’t need to go anywhere else to find the answers you are searching for. I’ll reveal a few things about my own experiences with my dog, Freya, too. Let’s get started.


Dog whistles are legal to use

There are no laws in the US that say you cannot use a dog whistle. Any dogs in the vicinity when you blow it are going to hear it, but you won’t annoy any humans by using one.

Indeed, it is far more likely you would fall foul of the law if you allowed your pooch to constantly bark and cause a nuisance to your neighbors. No one is going to complain if you buy a whistle to start training the dog not to bark as often!

You can purchase a dog whistle from a good pet store or a selection of online stores. Make sure you buy a metal one as they last longer and can easily be cleaned when necessary. Mine has a rubber sleeve over it to prevent it from being adjusted by accident. I’ll tell you more about the adjustment part of it shortly.


 Dog whistles have a pitch only dogs can hear

This means that if you use a dog whistle, you’re not going to be causing a noise disturbance for your neighbors or anyone else nearby. You might worry about this, but if the whistle is a genuine one, it will be pitched too high for a human to hear.

You can also refer to it as an ultrasonic whistle. It works on a much higher frequency than humans can hear. This means you need to be careful when you blow it and remember that you won’t hear anything.

Some say you can hear a dog whistle, but this is not true. There is some sound because you can hear the air being blown through it. This means the user hears a small sound and so might anyone else close by. However, no one else would hear it.

A normal whistle is pitched for humans rather than dogs, but these whistles are designed to work the other way around. As humans age, we hear a far smaller range of sounds, so dog whistles are usually well out of reach for your ears and mine.


You need to adjust the whistle for your dog

This might sound strange. Surely a whistle is just that – a whistle? You blow into it and it works, yes?

Well, it does… but some dogs respond to a different pitch than others. If you have two dogs, don’t be too surprised if you blow the whistle and one dog reacts to it while the other does not.

One end of the whistle can be turned to adjust the pitch. You won’t be able to hear it, so when you purchase your whistle be sure to adjust it before you start using it. Twist it a little and blow gently – watch your dog to see whether you get a reaction. If the dog does react, you know you have hit the correct pitch for that dog.

If you have two dogs and you want to whistle train both, you should try and find a pitch that both pooches react to. If you can’t, you might need two whistles – but in that case, label them.


Dog whistles are commonly used as training tools

Some people make the mistake of buying a dog whistle and assuming their dog will stop any bad habits or behavior when they blow the whistle. It might get their attention… but unless you back it up with proper training, you’re not going to get the results you want.

Think about it – your dog isn’t going to know why you are blowing a whistle if you’ve never done so before. Your pooch might think you’re behaving strangely, but it won’t know that you want it to stop barking, digging, or doing anything else you don’t want it to do.

It is a relief to know that dog whistles are legal to use because many people use them as an indispensable training tool. The whistles work over a range of about 400 yards, so they are excellent for recall purposes, too.

Indeed, this is one of the best reasons to start training your pooch using a whistle. If you take your dog for a walk and let it off the leash, you need to be sure you can bring it back whenever required.

If you train your dog to recognize the pitch of your whistle, your pooch will respond to it. If the place you visit is crowded, your voice may not carry above everyone else’s. Your dog may not hear you and wouldn’t know you wanted them to come back.

By adopting a special tone or ‘toot’ on your whistle during training, the dog will hear and respond to it even if you’re in a busy park or somewhere else with people around that might be a distraction.

And since it is legal to use the whistle anywhere, in public, in your yard, and in other outdoor spaces, you don’t need to worry that someone would report you for using it.


Develop a series of sounds for each command

It won’t be enough to blow the whistle and expect your dog to do whatever you want it to. It’s best to think of the whistle as giving you a language both you and your dog can understand.

Here are some examples:

  • A single short whistle blow – sit
  • One longer whistle blow – come
  • Two short quick toots – stop (useful if your dog is off the leash and there is danger nearby, such as a road)

It doesn’t matter whether you use these suggestions or develop ones of your own. The point is that the whistle allows you to give a command the dog will hear at any point up to 400 yards away from you.

For instance, using the longer whistle blow would indicate to the dog that returning to you is what you want.

I’ve found that Freya, my Bichon Frise, responds best when I tackle one command at a time. Trying to train her to understand more than one command at once confuses things.

So, I started with the sit command. Once she got the hang of it, I decided to add another command in – this time the stop command.

I kept on with the original sit command too, just to be sure she didn’t forget. She’s good though – once she’s got the hang of something, she doesn’t forget in a hurry!


Dog whistles to stop a neighbor’s dog barking

One potential area of murkiness you might have thought about when looking for information on the legality of using dog whistles concerns using them to try and correct behavior in other dogs.

What do I mean by this? Simply that you might have a problem neighbor… or more accurately, a problem dog. Most often, this means the dog barks – a lot. It might do so early in the morning, late at night, continually throughout the day… or all three.

You might experience frustration at being barked at whenever you go out into your yard. Maybe the dog barks at your dog even though your pooch isn’t bothered by the mutts next door.

Many people buy dog whistles to try and correct this behavior. However, it is not advisable to do this. Your first approach should be to talk to your neighbor to explain the problem and see if there is a way to resolve it.

Using a dog whistle in this situation essentially means you are taking control of their dog – or at least trying to. Even though it is legal for you to use the whistle, it would likely be frowned upon for you to use it to try and change the way someone else’s dog behaves. Even if you have a good reason for doing so.

So, while dog whistles are legal to use in America, you should still refrain from using them to train any dog other than your own.


Writer: Allison Whitehead

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