In HRC hunt tests and actual
hunting a dog that knows how to “mark off the gun”
has an advantage. My
dogs move through a transition of training drills in learning
“swinging” gun aids in marking. The first phase in the process is
from the OB drills teaching push/pull. The next step is using
push/pull with two
bumpers in the yard. The dog retrieves after two
tosses at about a 20° angle. The
dog is randomly pushed or pulled
(physical influence) without moving their butt to
teach the direction to
look. Here are a few links to teaching “push/pull”.
note: You may have
to scroll to find them.
Pivoting: One Step
to Tight Lines (link)
Platform Tips - push/pull (link)
note: A young dog
first learn about marking without the
gun and/or a lot of action at the line (in my opinion).
In HRC and hunting, what the
dog must look for may not be in that tight of an angle
those instances, remaining stationary is not always practical.
next step (for me) is what I call the 180° bucket drill.
This is where I introduce the gun.
The rationale for the large angles is
that huge motions of the gun are more clearly
understood. Actually, it is a cap gun with a PVC
barrel extension. This produces a
"noise" while allowing a free hand to
"assist" the dog. This bucket drill consists of
three identified piles
of orange bumpers. I generally have the dog move with "here"
and "heel" to line each pile before adding in the
cap gun's effects. The pointing cap
gun motion (aimed at various piles in random order)
is the initial imprint of "moving
with the gun". It isn't
long before the dog "sees" the cap gun barrel as selecting the
direction to look (almost
like a cast).
Cap Gun Training (Link)
"180° bucket drill (lining first using push/pull - then add the cap gun)"
"intro to marking off shotgun drill"
The final part of the
transition requires simple setups with two wingers. In these
sessions, the dog is sat so as to be facing a direction that splits the
between the marks. The dog is then pushed or pulled with the gun
(cap gun or
shotgun) to the marks (either as singles or a double).
Repetition is critical at this
point to give depth to the new
expectation. In the last part of this skill development,
there is an
effort to keep a young dog stationary by positioning her so that she can
both marks by just moving her eyes and/or head.
note: the cap gun is used when there is a need for more focus on the dog
line (extra hand = more
note: the winger remote is Velcro'd to the pump action of the gun
"remote winger transmitter mount"
"cap gun marks in the field (the red line is a cold blind)"
repeat, prior gun conditioning is
important before starting this drill work. In the
"marking off the gun"
training, "noise" progresses from cap gun, to popper gun with
loads and finishes with the louder, full popper loads. On a side
calling is mixed in as needed. The entire process is done
very gradually within the
context of a regular retriever training
program and often spread out over several
"first set of doubles - popper gun (primer
dog is responsive. By working on "marking off the gun", the benefits are
multiplied in that the retriever is conditioned to pay
attention to her handler. These
conditioned responses in drills carry over to other areas in
training, hunting and
testing. There are no shortcuts to creating a skilled, well
After a steady progression
of training for "marking off the gun", regular maintenance
in training) plus real hunting experiences will have a dog very adept at
knowing where to "look". Get in the swing.
note: After a few hunts, most retrievers will spot
incoming ducks before the gun is ever mounted.
Why not have a responsive, well trained dog?
HR Kwick Daisy's Spirit Keeper
Mississippi R. -