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Common terms used in Retrieving

If you are new to Retrieving, you will quickly discover that the sport has a ‘lingo’ all of its own. Many terms are familiar words, but used in different context to their usual meaning. To the uninitiated, ‘Retrieving speak’ may seem a little confusing at first. When this is case, use this Glossary of Terms to decode the language of Retrieving.

Action and Style - refer to visual traits in a gundog based on its enthusiasm, courage and actions whilst working in the field, as assessed by a Judge.

All Age Stake – the highest competition level in Retrieving Trials where the most challenging runs are set for retrieves. Competed in when a dog has attained 3 first places in Restricted stakes. Also see ‘Restricted Stake’ and ‘Novice Stake’.

ANKC – an acronym meaning Australian National Kennel Council Ltd. A peek body in Australia that represents and promotes all State and Territory canine registration authorities (Member Bodies), and canine activities and standards at national levels for pure breeds. 


Blind (or Blind Find) - a retrieve where game is placed in the field (as opposed to cast into the field). The dog has no knowledge of its presence before being sent to find it and must be directed via commands given by the handler. Also see ‘Blind Find Retrieve’  in ‘Retrieve Descriptions’.

Blinking (or Blinker) – is when a dog locates game to be retrieved but refuses to pick it up.

Break (or Breaking to Shot) – is when a dog leaves the Firing Point without permission from its handler with the intention to retrieve. Often occurs when a handler fires a gun.

Breaking Fence – is the act of a dog, when walking to heel, going through, over or under a fence, without order from its handler.

Breaking from the Hide - is when a dog moves outside an area designated by a Judge as the Hide. See ‘Hide’.

Bugging – refers to the act of a dog turning its head away or from side to side when being sent by the handler rather than looking in the direction of the retrieve.

Bumper –is an item that resembles a boat bumper used in place of game for retrieving. It is another name for a Dummy and is mostly a USA term. See ‘Dummy’.


Cast (or Casting) – refers to hand signals (e.g. ‘Back’ or ‘Over’ casts) used to direct the dog to fallen or placed game.

Championship Stake - is a Stake held by ‘Member Bodies’ in each state once a year. It is confined to gundogs that have placed first in a Restricted Stake or first, second or third in an All Age Stake or have the title All Age Retrieving Dog (AARD). Championship Stakes award higher ‘Championship Points’ to winners than Club Stakes.

Championship Points – are points awarded in registered Stakes and accrue towards a dog receiving a Retrieving Champion title (RtCh). 

Channel – refers to a lengthy but narrow body of water that a dog is required to swim without diverting to the side.

Cheating  - is when a dog attempts to avoid certain types of land cover or water on its way to a retrieve. De-cheating is the term given to training a dog not to cheat.

Cigaring – describes when a dog holds its retrieved item out of the side of its mouth (like a cigar) instead of centred. More commonly seen with dummies than with game.

Come” or “Here” – are verbal commands used to recall a dog ...choose one and stick with it!

Control Area* - is the area encompassed by the Control Point markers and the Firing Point markers (pegs) in a Trial.

Control Point* - is the point set between two markers (pegs) at which a dog and handler come into the control of the Judge for the purpose of commencing a Run. A handler will normally surrender the dog’s lead and take possession of the gun in front of the Control Point, then following the run, return to the Control Point to surrender the gun and game to the Judge.

Cover – is vegetation such as bushes, lantana, reeds, grass-tussocks etc, that serve as concealment in retrieves. Cover may be used to challenge dogs by inhibiting a direct ‘line’ to reach the game.

Creep (or Creeping) – is a term used to describe a dog that is becoming gradually unsteady by virtue of it creeping forward from a ‘stayed’ position.

Cue – is a verbal or physical signal made by a handler to alert a dog to what is about to happen and set them in the right frame of mind. Examples: “Working” – get ready to hunt, “Watch” – look for a moving ‘mark’, “Dead bird” – prepare for a ‘blind’ retrieve. 


Decoy – in Retrieving (i) any object that may distract a dog away from what it has been sent to retrieve, (ii) an anchored plastic or wooden duck used in water runs. 

Decoy Retrieve – see ‘Retrieve Descriptions’.

Dog – in this website generally refers to a Gundog of either sex.

Double Blind Retrieve - see ‘Retrieve Descriptions’.

Double Fall Retrieve - see ‘Retrieve Descriptions’.

Double Mark Retrieve - see ‘Retrieve Descriptions’.

Double Rise Retrieve - see ‘Retrieve Descriptions’.

Drive – describes a dog’s desire and strength to enter and go through cover. Also see ‘Pace’.

Drop” or “Down” or “Sit” – are verbal commands that should stop a well-trained dog whilst working. Once given, a dog may sit, stand or drop in position, but must not move from that position until ordered.

Duck Call – in Retrieving, is a sound made by a ‘Thrower’ to attract dogs’ attention prior to casting game.

Dummy – is a retrieving item used in place of game for training gundogs. Often made of canvas or plastic material. Read more.


Entire - (see ‘Whole’)

Entrants (also Exhibits) – refers to a dog and handler team that have registered to compete in a Trial or Show.


Fetch” – a verbal command used to send a dog to retrieve an item. Commonly used for ‘Mark’ retrieves.

Field Trial (FT) – is a meeting where competitions are held to work dogs in the field. A Field Trial may be limited to a specific breed or breeds of gundog. Read more.

Field Work – refers to training a dog in open natural terrain (similar to competition environments) to practice long-range retrieves and skills including ‘Marks’ and ‘Blind Finds’, etc. Also see ‘Yard Work’.

Finish (or Finished) – refers to all retrieves being successfully completed by a dog after the last run of a Stake.

Firing Point (or Firing Line)* - is the point from which the handler fires a gun and directs the dog to retrieve. A handler moving outside the Firing Point to handle their dog can be penalised by a Judge.

Force Fetch – refers to training techniques that use pressure (through forced response) to condition the dog to retrieve items when commanded.

Freezing  - refers to when a dog is reluctant to release game to the handler.

Fun Bumper - is a ‘Dummy’ thrown for release of pressure, for a warm up prior to a training lesson, or just a retrieve for fun.


Gallery – a group of individuals (often competitors) gathered in a place nominated for purpose of observing a retrieving run; an audience.

Game - any bird or ground animal legally hunted for sport. In Retrieving competitions this includes quail, duck, pigeon, partridge, pheasant, rabbit and hare. In RATG ‘game’ is either pigeons or dummies only. Cold Game - is deceased game that is cold stored before use in retrieving practice or trials.

Game Bag - a bag for carrying retrieved game, especially birds. Usually made of leather or canvas and worn by a handler or carried by a hunter.

Game Sense - a dog’s ability to use it natural senses (e.g. sight, hearing, and particularly smell) to find dead or wounded game in working situations.

Game Steward* – (i) a person employed to procure, care for and despatch game for a Retrieving trial; (ii) the official term for person responsible for casting game for a run (see ‘Thrower’).

Give” or “Drop” – are verbal commands given to a dog meaning to release the retrieved item held by the dog.

Gun Shy - a dog that recoils from the sight or sound of the gun. A penalisable fault whilst being adjudicated in competition.

Gun Steward* – (i) a person appointed to load a gun for a run, then hand it to and later disarm handlers at the ‘Control Point’; (ii) a person elected fire a gun on behalf of handler who, for legitimate reasons, is unable to do so themself.   

Gundog - any dog that has been trained to help a hunter, as by pointing, flushing or retrieving game. In Australian Retrieving competition, this is limited to registered breeds listed in ANKC Group 3 - Gundogs.



Handle - the ability of a dog to be directed when at a distance from the handler.

Handler - anyone in physical control of a dog, or directing a dog in the field.

Handling Pattern – a drill done in the ‘yard’ to teach casting.

Hard Mouth*- a dog is deemed to be hard-mouthed when there is unmistakable evidence of any markings or damage on game retrieved due to biting or crunching by the dog. Considered to be a major fault in gundogs and a disqualifiable offence in competition.

Heel” – a command that requires the dog to walk beside its handler with its head close to the leg of the handler. Also see ‘Walking to Heel’*

Hide – an area (defined by the Judge) normally with restricted view of surroundings; where a handler must leave their untethered dog to be summoned on command. Where possible, a Hide is part of the natural terrain or constructed of natural materials. Also see ‘Break from Hide’.

Hunt Cue - an audible command given to instruct a dog to hunt the vicinity they are currently in. “There”, “Easy”, “Hunt” are examples of typical verbal commands.

Hup” – a verbal command for sit or stay, more commonly used in the UK and in Spaniel retrieving.

Hup-Hup” or “Hey-Hey” – are verbal sounds made by the ‘Thrower’ to attract a young dog’s attention towards a Mark in training situations.


In Line Game* - refers to the maximum allowable length of separation between two items of game. The length varies depending upon the distance from the Firing Point.


Judge – a qualified person authorised by ANKC and appointed by a club to adjudicate a Stake at a registered trial.




Launcher – another term for ‘Thrower’.

Line - the route a dog takes to the game or dummy going out, and on return to the handler, when it is straight in direction.

Long Line (or long-lead) - a very long training lead (often 9 metres or more) used in training to assist with ‘recalls’ or help with steadiness issues.


Mark - (i) a mechanically or hand cast item when in flight or where landed; (ii) a verbal cue given to a dog to watch for a cast item.

Marked Retrieve – a fallen item (mostly a bird or dummy) that has actually been seen by the gundog.

Mark and Blind Retrieve - see ‘Retrieve Descriptions’.

Marking – the act of a dog watching or memorising where a cast item (mostly a bird or dummy) has fallen and gauging the distance to it.

Marking the Pile – in Training - use of a verbal cue then sending a dog after throwing a dummy towards a pile of dummies in order to establish the line.

Marshalling Area – an area where competing dogs are kept, from which they can not see retrieves in progress.

Member Body* - means a canine controlling body (affiliated with the ANKC) that is responsible for the registration of dogs and events in each State or Territory. Namely: Dogs ACT, Dogs NSW, Dogs NT, Dogs Queensland, Dogs SA, Dogs Tasmania, Dogs Victoria, and Dogs West.

Memory Retrieve – refers to 'game' or a 'dummy' that has been placed in view of a dog but a significant amount of time and / or distance has elapsed before the dog is sent for the retrieve.

Muster – a term sometimes given to gathering competitors for briefing purposes.


National Championship Stake – is a Retrieving Stake held one a year by ANKC, hosted by States and Territories in rotation, and features the most potentially challenging runs set for dogs, with highest Championship Points and honours going to the winners.

No-Go (also called Balking) - refers to a dog not moving after it has been given the command to retrieve.

No Score* - is where a dog has been marked as not completing (or finishing) a run. A No Score dog may continue in a Stake at the discretion of the Judge as a ‘non-competing’ dog. In subsequent Runs they must be run after competing dogs.

Non-Compete – is a term given to dogs that are entered in a Stake but are not eligible to compete for points (i) because they have received a ‘No Score’ from a previous run, or (ii) a Club has granted permission for a dog to participate as ‘Non-competing”. Non-competing dogs may only run at the discretion of a Judge, and after all competing dogs have completed their runs.

Novice Stake - the entry level in competition Retrieving Trials, Retrieving Ability Tests, and Field Trials where attainable challenges are set for dogs beginning retrieving competition. Also see ‘Restricted’ and ‘All Age’ (RT), and ‘Open’ (RATG and FT).   


Obedience - refers to (i) prompt compliance with a handler’s commands; (ii) formal dog training activities conducted through registered clubs and bodies. 

Oestrum - a recurring period of sexual receptivity and fertility in many female mammals; on heat; in season. Also see ‘Vetting’.

Open Stake - the advanced level in competition Retrieving Ability Tests and Field Trials, where multiple retrieves and harder / longer challenges are set for dogs. Competed in after dogs have qualified in respective Novice levels. Also see ‘Novice Stake’.   

Over” (or “an Over”) - a verbal command given to a gundog meaning to go either left or right depending on the arm direction given by the handler. Commonly applied to assist dogs in blind retrieves.


Pace - the speed at which the dog hunts for game or dummies. Also see ‘Drive’.

Peg(s) - typically a wooden or plastic stake driven into the ground, used to indicate the Control Area and the spots where a handler must stop and send the dog from on a retrieve.

Pick-up Dog - a helping handler and his/her dog who stand well behind the handler/shooter, and (i) in a hunt, systematically retrieve the dead, sometimes injured game, or (ii) any unretrieved game at a Retrieving trial.

Pile – in Training - a number of dummies placed close to each other, used for conditioning the ‘Fetch’ and ‘Back’ commands. Also see ‘Back Pile’.

Popping – is when a dog pauses from hunting without command and turns to seek guidance from the handler. 

Positive Training - offering positive attention to the dog, e.g. kindly spoken words, a food treat or petting as a way of showing the dog approval of its actions so that it might do it again.

Pottering - refers to a dog that hunts around in a confined space covering ground that it has already worked, or one that lingers on an old scent leaves it and then comes back to it.

Pressure – is a means of compelling a dog to behave in a certain fashion through application of escape and avoidance techniques. Also see ‘Force Fetch’.


Quartering - a to and fro or back and forth movement of the dog as it hunts in order to cover the ground efficiently and thoroughly as it attempts to find or flush birds.


RAFT – an acronym for Retrieving And Field Trial Committee. A body governed by ANKC consisting of representatives for each Retrieving discipline, from all state Member Bodies. The National Committee (NRAFT) is responsible for making administration decisions, setting policies, and rules for the conduct of Retrieving and Field Trials.

RATG – an acronym for Retrieving Ability Tests for Gundogs. Read more.

Recall – an obedience exercise in Retrieving Ability Tests (RATG) where a dog must remain in a stayed position while its handler walks 20 meters, turns and commands the dog to come following the Judge’s instructions. 

Remote Position – is when a dog sits facing the handler from a distance.

Restricted Stake – the intermediate (mid-level) in competition Retrieving Trials where runs contain multiple retrieves and blind finds. Competed in after a dog has won 3 first places in Novice level. Also see ‘Novice’ and ‘All Age’.   

Retrieve - the act and performance of the dog from when ordered to retrieve until it delivers the game or dummy to its handler.

Retrieving - the term given to organised competition sports involving gundogs in simulated hunting activities.

Retrieving Ability Test for Gundogs (RATG) – a registered gundog event that combines obedience and retrieving activities. (Formerly called Gundog Working Tests (GWT). Read more.

Retrieving Trial (RT) – a registered event that tests the retrieving abilities of gundogs under simulated hunting conditions. Read more.

Retire – is the act of withdrawing a dog from competition prior to the end of a Stake.

Reward Based Training – see Positive Training.

Run* – (i) describes the activities that occur whilst a competitor is under the control of the Judge;  (ii) the hunting terrain set immediately in front of a competitor who stands at the Firing Point.

Run-off - an additional gundog test at a Retrieving Trail, Field Trial or Ability Test used when a Judge has been unable to separate two, or sometimes more, dogs for a first place or an award.

Run the Bank – describes when a retrieving dog deliberately breaks a direct line (to the game or back to the handler) and follows a bank's edge to avoid entering water.


Shopping – a term given to the act of a dog picking up more than one retrievable item at a time. Often experienced when dogs train with ‘Piles’.

Shot Over – refers to firing a shotgun with the dog located at heel or in the hide.

Single Mark Retrieve – see ‘Retrieve Descriptions’.

Silent Cast – is when a handler gives a hand signal to a dog without any verbal communication.

Slip Lead - a lead used by gundog handlers. A slip lead is a combination of both a dog lead and a dog collar allowing quick control and release of the dog. Read more.

Soft Mouth - a dog that will pick up and hold game softly but firmly on the retrieve taking care not to puncture or damage it. Properly retrieved game must be considered “fit for the table”.

Stake - is a competition held for gundogs at a Retrieving Trial. A Trial can contains multiple Stakes.

Steady – describes a dog remaining in a sit or stayed position whilst a Mark is thrown or while handler/hunter fires a gun at game, until it is commanded to retrieve.

Style - the bodily action of a dog when hunting and working for dummies or game.

Swim-by - a command taught for the purpose of enforcing correct returns on water retrieves. The swim-by is a tool to apply pressure on a dog when it is ‘cheating’.

Sweepstake – refers to an organised Retrieving Stake or Test that is not registered with a Member Body. Successful entrants in Sweepstakes are not awarded Championship Points.


Thrower – a term used to describe, (i) a catapult device used to cast birds into the air; (ii) a person operating a catapult or who hand-throws dummies or game for retrieves. 

Tongue (or Giving Tongue) – refers to when, in the opinion of the Judge, a dog makes an excited noise such as barking, whining or squeaking whilst being adjudicated. This often occurs on the dog’s way out to a retrieve.

Trial Manager (also Stake Manager) – a person appointed by a club to assist Judges at a Trial. A Trial Manager is also responsible for appointing Stewards and coordinating Competitors and equipment used at a trial.

Triple Mark Retrieve – see ‘Retrieve Descriptions’.

Two-Bird Retrieve – see ‘Retrieve Descriptions’.


Utility Dog – in Retrieving, refers to a dog that hunts in front of the gun and locates, points or flushes game as well as being sent to retrieve the game after the game has fallen to the gun. In Australia 'Utility' breeds currently include: Brittany, German Shorthaired Pointer, German Wirehaired Pointer, German Longhaired Pointer, Italian Spinone, Large Munsterlander, Hungarian Vizsla and Weimaraner.




Walking to Heel – describes when a dog's head is close to the side of the heel or immediately behind the heel of the handler whilst walking.

Walk-up Retrieve – see ‘Retrieve Descriptions’.

Water Run – is a retrieve where the dog is required to retrieve from or across a body of water such as a pond, dam or creek or river.  

Whistle Command – is a command issued via the use a natural or manufactured whistle.

Whole (also Entire or In-tact) – a casual term to describe dogs that have not been de-sexed (spayed or neutered).

Work / Working / Working Dog - in Australia and New Zealand, a working dog is one which has been trained to work livestock, irrespective of its breeding. In Retrieving, it refers to purebred Gundogs that are trained to assist hunters or competitors in finding, tracking, and retrieving game.

Wounded Bird Retrieve – see ‘Retrieve Descriptions’.

Wounded Rabbit Retrieve – see ‘Retrieve Descriptions’.



X - marks the spot where your dog needs to go to!


Yard Work – in Training - refers to dog training that is generally performed in familiar surroundings and includes basic obedience exercises and close proximity drills, mini-T etc. (also see Field Work).

Vetting – is the practice of inspecting bitches to identify if they are in season (‘Oestrum’) at trials, shows and events where dogs in this condition must be excluded from competition and grounds.

Yo-Yo - is when a dog moves from side to side when sent, instead of straight back or away from the handler. Typically seen when beginning to work on Blind Find retrieves (not to be confused with ‘Quartering’).




* For further detail refer to ANKC Rules for Retrieving