Are dog whistles cruel?

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Is a dog whistle mean?

Are dog whistles cruel? The small training tool (here’s a list of the best) is fairly common not only amongst hunters and field trailing competitors alike but also the general population. They’re fairly inexpensive and seem quite effective, but are they cruel and unusual to your pet? 

It’s a very important question we need to ask ourselves. Dogs are very intelligent animals that have feelings and can feel pain. The right thing we need to do is to respect them and treat them and similar animals in a humane way. Those that fail to do so are morally wrong and might even be breaking an animal-cruelty law. 

Since dog whistles emit an ultrasonic sound, it’s important to remember that dog hearing is far superior to that of humans. The anatomy of the middle and inner ear of dogs is similar to us. But dogs have 18 more muscles in their ear that allow them to control their ear flap. This means they can control their ear canal. This anatomy difference allows them to hear from further away and far more accurately. 

So are dog whistles cruel? To answer that question succinctly: That really depends on how they are used. It’s just another tool in the toolbox. Think of a regular whistle – normally it is harmless if it is used properly. In general, it’s a fairly effective and safe way to get attention from someone. However, it can be very painful if someone blew it loudly (especially if right next to your ear). 

Likewise, a little common sense is all that is required with a dog whistle to use it effectively and painlessly:

  • Don’t blow it very loudly
  • Don’t blow it for an extended period of time
  • Don’t blow it right into your dog’s ear

What’s a good level of strength for your dog? If you just bought the whistle, you can try this exercise. Blow slightly into the whistle and gradually increase the strength until your dog responds. Eventually you’ll get a sharp sense of what a good strength is for your dog (every dog is different.)

Using a dog whistle safely is no different than using doggie treats or training tools like a clicker. You’re getting your dog to associate good and proper behavior with your training tools. Certainly it’s more humane and less exhausting than angrily yelling at your dog. 

With innovative new products, there is always the worry of a health risk. But remember, dog whistles have been used for decades, particular for advanced hunting maneuvers. It’s not using untested technology. In reality, it’s a very low tech solution. At the end of the day , it’s a simple whistle.

Hopefully that settles your concerns. In addition, it’s important to think about how a dog whistle might be more humane and safer than just hand signals or shouting.

It’s also consistent in sound. It won’t communicate emotions such as frustration or desperation, which dogs can pick up on. When an owner yells at his or her dog, the dog feels emotional pain. This doesn’t happen with a whistle. This means with most dogs it’ll be more effective.

A whistle can also allow communication between dog and owner when it’s not normally possible Unfortunately, hearing loss is not a rare occurrence in dogs (especially in older ones). What’s great about whistles is that the frequency can be altered. There might be a chance that a dog with hearing loss can still hear at a certain level. 

Lastly, consider what is considered cruelty by ASPCA (the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and the humane society. If you go to their websites, they list activities like dogfighting (a horrible blood sport where dogs are forced to fight for entertainment), certain practices of the commercial puppy breeding industry or animal hoarding (when an individual has more animals than he or she can care for). Those are clearly terrible practices and it’s no where near similar to using a whistle to issue commands to a dog. 

If dog whistles were cruel, there would be a movement to ban them. People would boycott stores which sold them. You’d hear about it in newspapers and magazines. No such movement exists. They’re really just harmless as a regular whistle.

Dog whistles are a very effective tool for training. It’s important to ask if they’re cruel or humane to animals. For multiple reasons, they should be considered safe and harmless.

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