Neil Varney gives you his top tips for introducing the stop whistle, including using the quieter so-called "silent whistle".

Introducing the stop whistle is one area of gundog training that can cause handlers some issues — possibly because they rush it, so that the lesson is not fully learnt by the dog, or they overdo it and the dog grows bored.

With my spaniels, I like to develop their stop whistle training with the dog out in front of me. In most cases you will be stopping a spaniel when he is hunting out in front, especially when he flushes game. Dolly already recognises my raised hand as the “sit” command, so it is then a case of introducing a single blast of the whistle at the same time, so she gradually learns to associate the two signals.

stop whistle

Dolly recognises Neil’s raised hand as the “sit” command, so he brings in a single whistle blast

Silent whistle for spaniels

At this stage, everything is done at close range and I always go back to the dog rather than calling her back to me. I prefer to use the less common “silent whistle” for the spaniels. In fact, these are not totally silent, but they are far quieter than the more commonly used Acme 210½.

In most cases, the dog is working nice and close to me, so I have no need for a loud whistle, but also I find that when working the dogs in the beating line with other handlers and spaniels if everyone is using the same tone of whistle it can be confusing for a young dog.

stop whistle

Neil prefers to use the less common and far quieter so-called “silent whistle” for the spaniels

Over the past month Remy the Labrador has taken a bit of a back seat as I am keen to progress the two spaniels ready for this season. Remy’s retrieving and hunting for dummies and tennis balls is at the point where I can now start to put in a degree of steadiness and control.

stop whistle

Neil gives Remy the Labrador a short “sit” command before giving a sharp blow on the whistle

Introducing the sit/ stop whistle

As with the spaniels, I have been working on his stop/sit whistle command, but there are a few differences in the way I train him. The first is that I always start with him on the lead and walking next to me at heel. I give him a verbal “sit” command and then a sharp blow on the whistle.

Once again, over time, he will start to associate walking to heel, me stopping, the verbal “sit” command, then the whistle command, before I move on to any distance work with him.

I will have to be 100 per cent convinced that he understands and responds to the commands when he is next to me, and I will be working on this over the coming weeks.