The Double Mark
By Joe Law
12 May 2011

In the Novice Retrieving Ability Tests and Novice Retrieving Trials, your dog has learnt all the skills needed for single marked retrieves.  These basic skills means that:
1.    your dog is steady when game is flushed and shot
2.    retrieves only when ordered to do so and is reliable at working only the area of the fall and
3.    returns directly with the game and delivers gently to hand and then remains steady awaiting further direction.

When your dog is ready, you will move to multiple mark retrieves.  Now your dog must develop memory for the fall of more than one bird and this will require new skills to be added to those developed while working on single marks.  It is now that you will really experience the need for your dog to be rock steady while more than one bird is flushed, shot and falls to ground.  Your dog must learn to concentrate on the different falls and he won’t do this if he is not steady to flush and shot.  He must also learn to remember the fall of different length retrieves.  This will not initially come easily to your dog and it is important that the initial lessons are structured to succeed.

Start with a simple single mark on flat ground with light cover only and then repeat this marked retrieve. Cast this same mark again but add another mark to make it a double.  This second mark should be angled well away from the first fall and your dog should be lined to face the direction of the second mark before it is cast.  When this second bird is down and your dog has remained steady, send him for this second bird as it will be fresh on his mind and we want the dog to succeed without losing all his memory for the first bird that was cast.  As soon as one retrieve is completed, set your dog to face the fall of the first bird and, if you have structured the exercise to succeed, he should show you that he has some memory for that first bird and you will be well on your way to success.
It is important that you don’t rush his training at this stage but repeat this exercise in different places with the birds well apart and slowly introduce birds of different lengths to improve and extend his memory.  By lining your dog carefully to face the direction of the bird you are retrieving, you will also be building your dog’s confidence in you that there will always be a bird in the direction you send him.  You will need this confidence when it comes to doing Blind Retrieves.

Right now though, we want the dog to remember the multiple falls for himself and the lining is just extra assistance and insurance.  By slowly varying the distances of the marks involved and slowly introducing variations in terrain and cover, your dog’s skills will improve.  When you are confident in your dog’s ability to mark and remember two falls, you can reverse the order of the pick-up.  When you introduce this variation, keep the marks simple and be particularly careful to keep the second bird cast clear and simple.  Remember at this stage your dog is learning and you should resist any temptation to test your dog in order to see what his capabilities might be.  When teaching single marks, we suggested it was not a good idea to let your dog retrieve every bird that it sees fall and that your dog should be made to remain steady while either you or another dog did the retrieving.  This same principle should continue while working on multiple retrieves.  You are the leader and you control the game.  If your dog starts to anticipate your every move, it is important to introduce some variation and insist that there is never any doubt about who is running the show.

In order to teach all the variations involved with multiple marks you will be faced with a few choices:

(a)    Enlist the aid of a training partner and assist each other by throwing dummies for each other.
(b)    Invest in throwing machines that can be set to throw dummies at various angles and at various distances. These machines can be loaded and operated by your training partner or by you if you have them fitted with remote release units.
(c)     Throw all your own dummies. This will entail a considerable amount of walking on your part and your dog will need to be well trained to be steady on long sits while you walk and cast your own dummies. Many great retrieving dogs have been trained using this method and not only does the exercise do you good but your dog will think you are wonderful.

WATER:  As your dog progresses with the land retrieves, water retrieves will need to be added to the mix.  A few rocks in your pocket can be useful to assist you dog’s memory if it has forgotten the fall.  However, on longer water retrieves, the assistance of a training partner is invaluable in assuring your dog’s progress and success.

Photo by Lara Sedgmen

This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in Dogs NSW magazine, August 2011.

This page is provided by Working Gundog Club Inc. (Affiliated with Dogs NSW)