By Jeff Griffiths
24 Feb 2010
Gundog Retrieving Ability Tests and Retrieving Trials, one of the most
important skills for your dog to develop is the ability to mark.
Marking is when your dog sees an object that has been thrown and
watches it down to the ground. He should be able to judge the distance
the retrieve has been thrown and take as straight a line as possible to
Some handlers who are starting out in these Gundog
trials find it difficult to get their dog to look forward and watch the
retrieve when it is thrown. Some dogs want to look up at their handler
rather than look forward, or they may be a dog that wants to look
around, left and right, rather than focus out in front.
start a dog on accurate marking, keep the distances short. This applies
whether you’re starting with a young dog or an adult. Ideally get
someone to throw the mark for you. Get them to stand 10 – 20 metres in
front and throw the mark. If your dog has difficulty with this distance
reduce the length of the retrieve until he is having success. A
retrieving dummy is ideal for this. The person throwing the dummy may
call or make a noise to get the dog’s attention, but you should reduce,
and then stop this as soon as possible, when the dog is reliably
looking forward. You, the handler, may use your hand or arm to point or
indicate to the dog where the mark will be thrown. Eventually you
should stop using your hand or arm as giving a line for a mark is
penalised in competition. A command to look to the front may be used,
such as mark or watch. Like any other command the dog will soon learn
that this command means to look ahead as something is about to be
thrown and the dog will get to fetch.
Try to stay upbeat with
your voice and commands, especially in the training phase so that your
dog gets excited. You may even say something like “hup, hup” or “hey,
hey” in an excited voice to get your dog really interested. Then throw
the mark straight away.
If you can’t get anyone to help you by
throwing the mark, you’ll have to do it yourself. Just follow the above
procedure, but throw the dummy from beside your dog. The mark
needs to be thrown high enough to be easily seen by the dog. Not too
high though, and not along the ground.
Once your dog is handling
10 - 20 metre marks its time to start to increase the distance. In
Gundog Retrieving Ability Tests a mark retrieve may be 50 - 70 metres.
In retrieving trials a mark may be 100 metres or more. After you have
thrown a mark at the distance the dog is comfortable at, start moving
further back to increase the distance but throw the dummy in the same
place as before. This is where it becomes really useful to have someone
out in front throwing the retrieve for you. Gradually increase the
distance over a number of training sessions. The idea of you moving
back with the dog to increase the distance rather than your helper
moving further away is that a dog finds it easier to go back to
retrieve from a place it has just been to.
In the early stages
your dog will find it easier to train on flat ground with short grass,
such as a sports oval. You will need to introduce cover, such as longer
grass or tussocks, at some stage as the retrieves in the competitions
will normally involve use of cover. This is done to make the dog use
its nose to scent the retrieve and find it. Of course, the dog needs to
mark the area of the fall of the retrieve to get there efficiently to
sniff it out.
Photo by Lara Sedgman
This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in the May
2010 issue of Dogs
page is provided by Working Gundog Club Inc.
(Affiliated with Dogs NSW)