Gun dogs

Teaching a dog to mark a retrieve is a lesson that’s done in stages and at a pace to suit the individual dog.

Some learn quickly, but others don’t.

The ability to mark starts in early basic lessons when the dog is made to sit and watch as a single dummy is thrown out, then given the signal to fetch. The lesson then progresses to two or more dummies.

As the dog – spaniel or Labrador – gets better at marking I move over to a dummy launcher which throws the retrieve a much greater distance, thereby making marking more of a test.

A hand-held launcher is fine but I prefer to use one that is held against the shoulder when being fired.

In this respect it’s more like a gun and dogs tend to show it far more interest and attention. It can also be fired more accurately than the other variety.

When a dummy is launched the sound of the shot will draw the dog’s attention and he will then begin to watch the fall of the retrieve. You can also use a ball as a dummy, which then bounces before coming to rest.

Again, his adds to the interest of the exercise and helps eep a dog on its toes and paying attention.

A gun dog’s ability to mark a retrieve is essential both for
field work and competitive trials.