Dog Whistles on Tour

I recently met an expat living in China who told me “if I can give you one bike touring tip, it is to carry a dog whistle!”. His time in China had taught him that dog whistles were a worthy investment.

I had never thought of carrying a dog whistle, as I had always thought of them as a training implement, rather than something that will quiet dog barking or fend off an aggressive dog. But as I thought about it more, it has made a bit more sense.

I have recently read that ambulance crews in Great Britain often carry a dog whistle to distract protective dogs when the owner needs the crew’s assistance. Apparently the whistle is distracting enough for dogs to allow the ambulance crew to carry out their procedures.

Dog whistle manufacturers will never recommend the use of their whistles to quiet barking dogs or fend off aggressive dogs. They claim that there product should be used for its intended purpose; to train dogs. They also claim that a significant percentage of the dog population is deaf, rendering whistles useless for most applications.

There would have to be an element of cruelty if using a dog whistle inappropriately. However, it cannot be all that bad if whistles are sold and used for training purposes.

In the countries where dogs are more often a problem, whistles and dog training methods are typically not used. The sound of the whistle would therefore be something dogs do not associate with obedience and training. If you were not comfortable around a dog or group of dogs approaching, blowing the whistle and leaving slowly could ensure that you do not have any followers.

The irritable sound of a dog whistle could also urge a wild dog to steer clear of an area that you are occupying. Furthermore, if there were barking dogs at night, a dog whistle could annoy them enough to quiet down and move on.

As I haven’t used a dog whistle myself, I am not making any recommendation to use one. But I think it is an interesting topic for discussion and I’m interested in bringing one on tour next time to see whether it helps me out at all.

  1. To fend off dogs, I carry balloons. You fill one up and then pop it. The sound will scare them away. I haven’t used it already, but I saw this trick recommended more than once and it makes sense. Plus, empty balloons have almost no weight and can fit anywhere. I keep 2-3 on my handlebar bag just in case. I don’t support the use of violence against animals to shake them off (unless if life-threatning), so these simples tricks, like dog whistles, balloons or horns should be used instead.

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