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Can Deaf Dogs Hear a Dog Whistle? Vet Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Kristin Hitchcock

By Kristin Hitchcock

woman using dog whistle

Vet approved

Dr. Lauren Demos  Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If a dog is completely deaf, they won’t be able to hear a dog whistle or any other sounds. Their ears don’t work, so they can’t hear any sound. However, dogs with partial hearing loss may be able to hear some parts of the sound spectrum, including dog whistles.

In these cases, dog whistles may get your dog’s attention when they can’t hear your call. However, dog whistles aren’t particularly useful for training, as positive reinforcement can be utilized with deaf dogs just like hearing dogs (and is a more effective training technique).

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What is a Dog Whistle?

Dog whistles produce a very high frequency of sound that isn’t detectable by the human ear. However, it is detectable by dogs. Typically, the range is between 16,000 to 22,000 Hz. This is well beyond the range of normal human hearing.

This frequency also travels further than the average human’s voice. Therefore, it works well in long-range situations when your dog likely won’t be able to hear you. Furthermore, it can be used for regular, close-quarters training, too.

Dog whistles come in many different shapes and sizes. Some are adjustable, allowing you to change the frequency as needed. For deaf dogs, this can be extremely helpful.

With all that said, dog whistles can be unsafe if used improperly. Blowing the whistle too loud for too long can damage a dog’s hearing, just like loud sounds can damage a human’s hearing. Therefore, you need to use it safely and in moderation to be effective.

dog whistle on wooden table
Image Credit: Andrew E Gardner, Shutterstock

How to Tell If Your Deaf Dog Can Hear a Dog Whistle

If your dog is deaf, you’ll need to test and see if they can hear a dog whistle, as every deaf dog is different. We recommend choosing an adjustable dog whistle, as your dog may only be able to hear very specific frequencies. Generally speaking, higher frequencies are lost first, in age-related hearing loss.

You can’t just ask your dog if they can hear the whistle, so you must look for several potential signs.

Start by adjusting the whistle to the lowest frequency and give it a blow. Wait for any response from your dog. There are several potential responses, depending on the dog. These may include:

  • Turning their head
  • Moving toward the sound
  • Wagging their tail
  • Barking

You may need to test several times to see if their reaction is actually to the dog whistle and not a coincidence. Test each frequency option on your whistle to see if your dog can hear any of them, as partially deaf dogs can often only hear very specific frequencies.

If your dog doesn’t respond to any frequencies, there is a chance they simply don’t hear them. However, it is also possible that your dog just isn’t responding. Many dogs don’t respond to dog whistles unless trained to do so. To many of them, it is just another sound.

dog barking outdoor
Image Credit: dog barking outdoor

Can I Use a Dog Whistle to Train a Deaf Dog?

There are several factors to consider when deciding whether to use a dog whistle as a training tool. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, as every deaf dog is different.


Dog whistles often travel further than the human voice, so they are often used for recall. However, deaf dogs may not hear them as far away, even if they can pick up the frequency at a close distance.


You can’t just use a dog whistle to train a dog. You also have to use positive reinforcement. Generally, the idea is to get the dog to associate a dog whistle with a reward, which then causes them to respond to the dog whistle like a reward.

However, if your dog hasn’t had any previous training, getting them used to the dog whistle can be harder and take longer.

man using whistle to train his dog
Image Credit: Miriam Doerr Martin Frommherz, Shutterstock


Dogs have different preferences, and dogs with partial hearing can pick up on different things. Sometimes, a dog whistle doesn’t work for one dog, and that’s okay. If your dog is very responsive to a whistle, great. Don’t feel like you have to force it if they aren’t.

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Alternatives to Dog Whistles

There are several alternatives to dog whistles, too. Just because your dog is deaf doesn’t mean they aren’t trainable. Several techniques may be far more effective than a dog whistle:

  • Visual signals: You can use hand cues to train deaf dogs with great success. Often, dogs can rely on hand cues just as readily as they can listen to vocal commands. This training method isn’t much different than training a hearing dog—you’re just switching out voice cues with visual ones.
  • Vibrating collars: Of course, visual signals only work if your dog is looking at you, and it’s challenging to make a deaf dog look at you much of the time. Therefore, vibrating collars can help fill this gap. You can train the collar’s vibration as a “come” command, just like you would train a vocal to come command. Then, whenever you want your dog to do a command, you simply make their collar vibrate first.
  • Positive reinforcement: Deaf dogs will respond to positive reinforcement like any other dog. It’s extremely important to use positive reinforcement to encourage your dog to follow commands, especially at the earlier stages of training.
woman training a maltese dog outdoors
Image Credit: Monika Wisniewska, Shutterstock

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Dog whistles may work for some deaf dogs. However, dogs that are completely deaf won’t be able to hear dog whistles—just like they can’t hear anything else. Therefore, it is important to check and see if your dog can hear the dog whistle, typically by checking for reactions to the noise.

However, even if your dog can hear the whistle, its effectiveness may be limited. They may be unable to hear it at longer distances. Furthermore, dog whistles cannot be used alone for training. You’ll have to pair it with positive reinforcement.

Every deaf dog is an individual, first and foremost. Therefore, you’ll have to adjust your use of the dog whistle to meet your dog’s needs.

Featured Image Credit: SpeedKingz, Shutterstock

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