You can (and many do) spend thousands of dollars on wingers, bumper launchers, e-collars, training programs, birds and every other training aid known to man, but the one training item you’ll use more than anything else, the one you will never, ever be without, costs about five bucks.

It’s a whistle, of course, and for many of us it’s our primary means of non-verbal communication with our dogs. It’s also perhaps the most individualistic training item. Everyone has a favorite whistle, whether it’s hand-carved from a bit of antler, an old heirloom brass athletic whistle or a modern plastic whistle specifically designed for dog work. They all work, but some are more popular than others.

Go to a field trial and you’ll see a dizzying variety of whistles on the handlers’ lanyards, with names like “Green Monster” or “Mega-Earsplitter” (OK, so I just made that last one up…) but chances are a big chunk of the whistles will be one of two rather ordinary looking specimens, the Roy Gonia Special and the Acme Thunderer.

Between them, they’ve probably trained more gundogs than any other whistles out there. I have either a Gonia or a Thunderer on every lanyard I own. I personally can’t tell a decibel’s worth of difference between the two, and my dogs don’t seem to care. I’ve tried any number of whistles, and I keep coming back to these two, because they’re cheap and they work, and for someone of my limited means those two words go together like chocolate and peanut butter…

So that’s my choice of whistle. What’s yours?