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The Shepherds Whistles
Kathleen Ward


There are an amazing array of whistles. Made of various metals such as Stainless Steel, Aluminium, Sheet aluminium, Tin, Sterling Silver or Titanium. Then also from plastic, bone, wood, corian and horn such as water buffalo. Some are machine made and some are hand made. With names such as Half-moon, Montana light, Titan, Triangular, Side-winder, and "A" shaped You also have whistles that are beautifully engraved. There are references where a tobacco tin has been cut open to make a whistle. There was also a nose whistle. This obviously did not become popular.

The choice of whistle has to do with what is available or sometimes just a very personal preference. The plastic ones are thick and take some getting use to. The square metal ones might not be comfortable in your mouth or you don't like the feel of the metal on your teeth. Metal is also sometime very cold in the winter months. The light Montana whistle is very easy to blow but has rivets that can irritate your lips.

To hang the whistle around your neck there are many different materials used. There is rolled leather, leather, cord, ribbon, bead work, nylon or a beautifully braided lanyard with a swivel on the end. This can made from leather, kangaroo leather, horse hair or lightweight nylon cord.

The whistle use for the bird dogs, are not suitable for the shepherd you only have one pitch.

Rugby whistles have been used but again all you have is one pitch, good enough for a stop. How effective this would be over a distance is also in question.

The various shapes give arise to various pitches of whistle. (Decibels). You find dogs that have been on a certain type of whistle for a long time, don’t react well when their commands are given with a different type of whistle. You see the hesitancy they will either not react or have a delayed reaction turning there heads to look at you.

There are people who can blow with their mouths others use their fingers. Speaking to AJ Burger, he tells of someone who treated his sheep for blowfly strike and then commanded his dog using his fingers to blow and became ill. It appears he had been using dazzle to treat his sheep and then got enough in through his fingers to land up in hospital.

The need for a shepherds whistle arised from the need to communicate to a dog at a distance.

If you don't think you need a whistle try commanding your dog over a flock of bleating ewes and lambs or goats, out of a Bakkie or over a distance or when the wind is blowing strongly. Try moving sheep back and forth for shearing and you need to work all day for a week or more. Your voice does not last long. Working a dog up a mountainside and directing it towards sheep. Anyone who has left their whistle at home when they have gone to collect sheep in a camp, knows the frustration of not being able to communicate to their dog at a distance. When you have one or more dogs working in different directions you have very little control.

How to blow a whistle. The act of blowing over your bottom lip a sort of phew phew - you don't have to make a whistle sound. It is the same sought of action you would use to blow your whistle. The whistle is placed with the long side at the bottom where you would hold the protruding piece. Your tongue is placed against the half round piece at the back of the whistle. Take a good lung full of air and allow it to escape over the whistle. Not really blowing hard just a controlled escape of air. Don't blow hard just try and get a squeak out. You must relax around your mouth, you can also move the whistle slightly up and down in your mouth. It is rather like blowing over a bullet casing. There is no wrong way to blow a whistle as the two holes allows for it to makes sounds both ways. Once you get sounds out, practice blowing tunes. So with time you can blow consistently. When you think you are consistent try recording yourself and hear how inconsistent you are. Think of when you are under stress how badly you blow. (We wonder why the dogs don't react the way we want them to.)

How to blow the whistle.

If you have already blown over a bullet casing or a coke bottle you will have the a good idea of how to blow the whistle. If you can blow over your bottom lip with a phew phew. Use that same blowing action. Place the whistle with the half moonshape against the tongue and the longer side down. There is no wrong way to place in the mouth it is just easier to hold the piece sticking out, at the bottom. Have the whole whistle in your mouth. Swallow all saliva in your mouth take a deep breath filling your lungs with air and allow this to flow over the whistle. Don't get tense around the mouth. Don't blow too hard just allow the air to flow. Be happy with little squeaks. The louder sound will come. Don't think holes and blowing through them.

What commands to give to your dog. The stop whistle is usually a sharp blast from a high down to a low. Tweewhoet. For the steady a flat twooo. For the one flank you can have a wolf whistle Whoet-whoo and for the opposite side a two sharp twee- twee Try and get the pitch of this whistle very different from your stop. Come Here Whoet-whoet. Your bring can be sharp twiet twiet and for the drive just lower pitched twoet twoet. A look back Whee whoo whee and that'll do Whee-oe-ooo. You can really just make you own set of whistles. A practical demonstration is always the best.

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