There is no doubt that different whistle users have different styles of blowing their chosen whistles. The classic example, often quoted in whistle lore, is the world-famous rugby referee whistle.

It is designed to offer a range of sounds depending on how the breath pressure is varied. This enables the referee to “talk” with their whistle, which is thanks to the thoughtful and tried and tested design of our sports whistle models.

A gentle blow of the rugby referee whistle can be given to signal to the players, “enough of that, I’ve seen you, no more now!” Alternatively, a strong, furious blow can say ”that is a serious offence, do that again and you’ll be sent off.“

It can be so expressive that a blind man, listening to a game of rugby, could tell by the referee’s use of the whistle, exactly what the atmosphere of the match was, at bad tempered times and lighthearted ones.

rugby-referee-whistle Rugby referees need a versatile whistle

So how do you blow your whistle?

The golden rule is you can only get out what you put in, and most whistles need to be blown hard. The best way to do this is with short sharp hard blows produced by lungs full of air.

Some people refer to this as “spit blowing”. This will produce a crisp, distinctive sound. Dog whistles, sports whistles and survival whistles are best blown in this way.

A useful technique here can be to place your tongue over the end of the mouthpiece, effectively blocking all sound, build up pressure in your mouth and then release your tongue, allowing the air through.


referee whistle Football referee signals

T2000 - Waterpolo Academy T2000 airfast whistles


Airfast Whistles (whistles without a pea inside) are harder to blow and need a good sharp blow. They will sound weak and ineffectual if they are blown in a gentle, drawn out way. They are designed to be on or off with no in between. Examples of Acme Whistles that must be blown in this way are: -

  • Survival Whistles 649, T2000, 636
  • Sports Whistles T200, 888, 622,623 ,635
  • Dog Whistles 210½ ,211½, 210, 535, 640,641 ,212

shepherds whistleA farmer praises his cocker spaniel

The exception is the Shepherds Lip Whistle which has its own unique usage.

Shepherds' whistle mouth position

Shepherds' Sheepdog Whistle Instructions (Model No. 575 & 576)

  1. Place whistle in mouth with the curved open edge facing outwards resting on your tongue.
  2. Hold in the mouth in such a way as to create a gap underneath the whistle. The back of the whistle will sit on the back of the tongue.
  3. Blow and by varying the blow, you will create different sounds.
  4. To create an even wider range of sounds, move the tongue up and down reducing and widening the gap underneath the whistle.

NB. if you place your tongue against the lower hole you will silence the whistle. It doesn’t matter which way up the whistle is placed.

This whistle will require a few practice blows before you get a sound, but once the sounds is achieved, it is plain sailing - or whistling.

Correct use of airfast whistles

If you blow airfast whistles gently and in a prolonged way you will get a variation in pitch so that your whistle will sound different every time. This will confuse a dog, which is why correct operation of dog training whistles is so important. Incorrect use can prevent the whistle from being recognised as a whistle.

Correct use of the pea whistle

Pea Whistles are a choice when variation is needed in the whistle sound. These whistles are easier to blow and require far less effort. A good crisp blast, as described above, is often used. They also allow a more prolonged blow that still gets a loud consistent sound. This cannot be achieved with an airfast whistle.

Acme Whistles with a pea which can be used in this way:

acme thunderer group shot ACME Thunderers in a range of finishes

  • Dog Whistles 576, 640, (trialler end only) ,641 (trialler end only)
  • Sports Whistles All Thunderers, 60 ½, 59 ½, 58 ½ ,58, 660, 558, 658, 63
  • Metropolitan cylindrical whistles

metropolitan police whistle The world-famous Metropolitan Police whistle

Important notes on getting the most out of your whistle

If you vary your breath pressure you will change the frequency of your whistle. Hard blows mean higher frequencies.

This can be an important factor for dog trainers. The 212 model dog training whistle is specially designed to control this variation that may confuse some dogs. But it is not generally a problem, just be consistent in the way you blow your whistle.

dog training whistle 212 ACME dog training whistle 212 in black