Go back Fido!

Di­rec­tional work can be taught quite early, but be­fore start­ing, your dog should be sit­ting re­li­ably to the whis­tle at feed time and on the move (run­ning sit ex­er­cise), heel­ing off lead, and re­triev­ing con­fi­dently to hand.

Field and Game - - GUN DOGS - With Mark Davis

These ba­sic pre­lim­i­nary ex­er­cises are the foun­da­tion for all that fol­lows. The back cast should be taught first. You will need to do this train­ing on a fence line, it helps the dog hold his line, but if you do not have ac­cess to your lo­cal farm­ers’ pad­docks, then I sug­gest some door knock­ing; land­hold­ers are gen­er­ally re­cep­tive to some­one want­ing to im­prove the be­hav­iour of their gun­dog.

If you live in subur­bia then it can be more of a chal­lenge find­ing a suit­able area to train. The bound­ary of an in­dus­trial es­tate or recre­ational re­serve may suf­fice, but you need the struc­tural straight line.

It is of course pos­si­ble to teach di­rec­tional work without the aid of the straight line but the re­sults are not nor­mally as good, es­pe­cially when you start build­ing dis­tance into the ex­er­cise.

We start with the back cast be­cause gen­er­ally, it is ac­cepted as the hard­est for the dog to grasp. Driv­ing the dog away from you when he is used to com­ing in is the chal­lenge, but once the back cast is mas­tered, adding left and right is easy.

With your dog at heel, walk along the fence line and drop a dummy as you go, let­ting the dog see you do this (as he pro­gresses this will be­come multiple dum­mies). Con­tinue on 10 m, then sit your dog and walk an­other 10 m. Turn and face the dog and blow the stop whis­tle as you com­plete the turn, then slowly raise your hand di­rectly over­head and give the back com­mand.

If your dog is con­fused, move to­wards him re­peat­ing the com­mand. Most grasp this pretty quickly but if your dog just doesn’t get it, re­turn to his side, leave him at sit then walk out, pick up the dummy and drop it to the ground. This will re­mind him there is some­thing to re­trieve then re­turn to your orig­i­nal po­si­tion and re­peat the com­mand, this is nor­mally enough to prompt the cor­rect re­sponse.

When he is con­fi­dently tak­ing the back cast, grad­u­ally in­crease the dis­tance be­tween the drop of the dummy and the dis­tance you walk off un­til you are stand­ing 50 to 80 m away and he is cast­ing the same dis­tance back for the re­trieve. The next stage is to drop three or four dum­mies as you go, let­ting him see you do it, which al­lows you to in­crease the dis­tances even fur­ther. This has the ef­fect of devel­op­ing the dog’s mem­ory as the time be­tween casts in­creases.

Next is the left and right com­mand; it doesn’t mat­ter which, but they must be taught sep­a­rately un­til the dog is cast­ing 50 to 80 m be­fore mov­ing to the next.

Sit the dog on the fence line and walk out 10 to 20 m to place the dummy, al­ways mak­ing sure the dog sees it, then walk out 20 m at 90 de­grees to the fence line and fac­ing the dog, blow the whis­tle and cast the dog.

As he is now fa­mil­iar with run­ning the fence line, tak­ing the cast will not be an is­sue for him.

It is very im­por­tant to blow the stop whis­tle im­me­di­ately be­fore the cast; it not only gains the dog’s at­ten­tion, but more im­por­tantly it is the con­nec­tion be­tween the whis­tle and the re­ward — the re­trieve.

When he has mas­tered left and rights you can then place multiple dum­mies in each direction, keep­ing them 10 m apart; you can then al­ter­nate the direction you cast him, which re­in­forces each com­mand.

To pre­vent pre-empt­ing, oc­ca­sion­ally cast him the same way a num­ber of times.

The next ex­er­cise, teach­ing the dog to stop on the whis­tle at dis­tance, is again done on the fence line. Walk him along the fence drop­ping a dummy as you go, the same as for the back cast then walk off an­other 20 m. In­stead of cast­ing him back, call him to you with the come in whis­tle (se­ries of short blasts). When he has trav­elled 10 m hit the stop whis­tle (one long blast), rais­ing your hand slowly over­head for the cast. Don’t for­get to re­ward a pos­i­tive re­sponse with “Good dog” then cast him back for the dummy. >>


Like all train­ing drills, if he hasn’t grasped what you are teach­ing then sim­plify it.

In this case, shorten the dis­tance you walk away from the dog, and when he has mas­tered this and sits smartly to the whis­tle ex­pect­ing the re­ward of the re­trieve, you can then ex­tend the dis­tances.

If he pre-empts and slows or even sits be­fore you blow the whis­tle, then call him all the way to you a num­ber of times and re­ward with a treat.

Re­in­force this ex­er­cise by throw­ing a dummy at 90 de­grees to you when he sits, this achieves a num­ber of pos­i­tives — it pro­vides an­other re­ward for re­spond­ing cor­rectly to the whis­tle. That is, see­ing an­other bird hit the ground and tak­ing the back cast with dis­trac­tion.

Next is­sue — blind re­trieves.

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