Prac­tice makes per­fect

Ex­pert gun dog trainer Mark Davis ad­dresses some of the com­mon prob­lems hunters en­counter.

Field and Game - - GUN DOGS - With Mark Davis

My re­triever doesn’t see the downed bird that falls be­yond the de­coy spread. How can I get her to work fur­ther out and not be dis­tracted?

This ques­tion has two parts — the first in­volves teach­ing the dog to run very ba­sic blinds (pick up unseen items of game), the se­cond is fa­mil­iaris­ing the dog with de­coys and other dis­trac­tions so the dog ig­nores them dur­ing a re­trieve.

Firstly, run­ning blinds: this can be started at quite a young age, six months on­wards, and you will need train­ing dummies.

Take the dog to a train­ing spot with no dis­trac­tions, sit the dog then walk off 20 m and turn to face the dog. Drop the dummy on the ground, giv­ing the ver­bal “cue” for dead bird, then re­turn to your dog and lower your hand to be­side the dog's head, mak­ing sure he does not go be­fore sent.

When he is fo­cused, re­peat the dead bird com­mand and fetch — he should al­ready be fa­mil­iar with the fetch com­mand.

When he is con­fi­dent do­ing this ex­er­cise us­ing the same spot ev­ery time but with­out see­ing you place a dummy (three or four a night over a cou­ple of weeks is usu­ally suf­fi­cient, ini­tially), it is time to in­tro­duce him to this ex­er­cise in the water.

If us­ing a dam, to help en­sure your dog un­der­stands and goes straight in the water, sit your dog at the edge and hand throw a dummy in the di­rec­tion you will be plac­ing blind. Do not pro­ceed with teach­ing blind un­less your dog hap­pily goes di­rectly into the water.

If he is, then sit him on the edge of water and walk around to a position di­rectly op­po­site your dog and drop the dummy into the water us­ing ex­actly the same pro­ce­dure as we did on land.

If you have pre­pared him prop­erly he will go straight into the water. Re­peat this ex­er­cise over a pe­riod of weeks un­til he will en­ter water to re­trieve with­out see­ing the dummy placed.

Now to part two: the sim­plest way to fa­mil­iarise dogs with de­coys is to place them on the ground at home, let him in­ves­ti­gate them but dis­cour­age any at­tempt to pick them up, then throw a dummy over them. If your dog is con­fi­dently re­triev­ing dummies he will quickly learn to ig­nore de­coys — re­peat the ex­er­cise in water and fi­nally in­tro­duce de­coys to your blind train­ing.

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