I’m partial to my whistle. It’s a hand-me down from my older brother, who bought it in 1986. It has tooted for two Labs, one Golden, and now for Pritchard. It’s an Acme whistle with a pea, and the human teeth marks on it prove it has seen some good times and bad. But I often wonder if I should be using something bigger or newer or just plain different.

To get an answer I called my friend Steve Snell, owner of Gun Dog Supply. Snell owns 13 dogs (a mix that includes retrievers, pointers, and brittanys) and keeps six whistles in his truck. “And I always have two whistles on me,” he says. “Because one day I actually shut my whistle in the gate of the pickup.” Here’s what he had to say about your choices:

Distance and Volume: You need to ask yourself in what type of situations you plan to use your whistle. A retriever trainer who will be working on long blinds needs a whistle that has the power to carry, such as a Roy Gonia. A flushing dog trainer doesn’t need a whistle that will cover insanely long distances. In those cases an oblong Acme whistle would work fine.

Pea or No Pea: A pea in a whistle allows you to trill, which can be a helpful command. Snell uses a trill when he wants his pointing dogs to quarter. But a pea can freeze if it gets wet in cold conditions, and then you have nothing to toot. Precisely why duck hunters working in extreme weather prefer a Fox 40–a pea-less whistle that has mega power. (It’s also the brand used by professional refs in the NFL and NBA.)

It’s Your Choice: Even though some whistles are better suited for different situations, Snell still feels there’s room for personal preference. There is no such thing as a magic whistle…just solid training.

Be Consistent: No matter what whistle you choose, to get the most out of it you must be consistent with your tones and know how to blow it. For most of us, we’ll never need more than three whistle commands.

So, I’m sticking with my old whistle. It’s got history and it works. How about you? Swear by a certain whistle? Any tips I left out? Let’s hear about it.