Getting the most out of your gun dog: Part 5 Taking your dog skills to higher level

  • 2/08/2020
  • Richie Cosgrove

Getting the most out of your gun dog: Part 5 Taking your dog skills to higher level

In this final article I’ll discuss a couple of skills which you would find useful in the field and which could often be the difference between retrieving or losing a bird.  

But first here’s some more memory training you can do while you’re walking your dog.

Take a dummy with you and as you walk along, get her attention and throw the dummy into some cover.

Walk on for 50 or 60 metres then send her back to retrieve it. 

Once she gets the hang of the game you can add an extra dummy or two and increase the distance you walk before sending her for them.

She’ll love the game and you’ll be surprised at how well she’ll remember where the dummies are.  

Blind Retrieves

Pippa and I at Duck Shooters TrialHow often have you seen someone, unsuccessfully trying to get their dog to retrieve a bird she can’t see and hasn’t seen shot.

To teach your dog to do blind retrieves you’ll need an area with a bit of cover.

Put your dog where she can’t see you and place a dummy on the ground where she’ll be able to see it when she’s close, but not when she’s further away. 

Bring her back and sit her where she can see the dummy.

Line her up (which means that she’s looking in the direction of the dummy and her spine is in line with it) and send her to fetch it.

Put her away again, then replace the dummy in the same spot, bring her back and this time line her up and send her from a bit further away.  

Over a period of training days gradually increase the distance you send her, up to about 70 metres, always letting her see the dummy on the ground, before taking her out of sight of it and sending her to retrieve it.  

Once she’s doing this well start sending her for a dummy she hasn’t seen.

Now ‘lining up’ becomes critical as she should run in the direction she’s pointing.

Initially place the dummy only a few metres away and gradually increase the distance as she gains confidence.

Now, of course, you’ll need to place the dummy in different places each time.

Distance Control

You should now be regularly using your whistle to sit your dog (one blast) and to get her to come to you (three tweets).

You’ll need an area of short grass. Sit your dog beside you using your whistle sit command (which will shortly become your stop command) and throw a dummy to one side of her.

Tell her to stay and walk a short distance in front of her, turn to face her, give a blast on your whistle, then indicate with your arm the direction she needs to go to get to the dummy, giving your verbal fetch command at the same time.

Once she’s retrieving this well (it may take several sessions), do the same thing on the opposite side and when this is also going well start throwing a dummy out on both sides and you should now be able to choose which side she retrieves from.

Now start sending her for a dummy behind her, this time thrusting your arm above you to give her the direction. When she’s retrieving this well you’ll be able to put dummies out in all three places at once and choose which to send her for.

The Stop Whistle

In conjunction with this you need to reinforce the stop whistle.

Occasionally, while you’re walking your dog and she’s nearby, use your stop whistle and have her sit.

If she sits promptly walk up to her, or call her to you and give her lots of praise and a reward.

She’ll soon catch on, that if she sits and looks at you when you blow your whistle she’ll get a reward, either a treat, or better still, a bird to retrieve.

That’s all from me. I hope you’ve found these articles useful.

If you need further help with your training you could contact the NZ Gundog Association at They’ll put you in touch with someone who can help.

John Stevens, President, Waimate Gundog Club.



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