Whether your retriever will be a gundog, hunt test dog or field trial dog his ability to accurately mark and remember fallen game is of upmost importance. It is true not all dogs are created equal when it comes to marking ability, some are just naturally talented and others require a more in depth approach to marking. So how can you improve your dog’s marking? The simple answer is to give the dog more meaningful marks. One mistake I often see owners make is a vast majority of marks the dog has gotten were thrown from right next to the dog. While hand thrown marks such as these are good for teaching the mechanics of a retrieve they do not help the dog with marking and often end up working against the dog in the long run. One major issue a dog will develop from marks such as these is he will have issues with depth perception. When an object is thrown directly at or away from a retriever he is not able to judge distance and is simply running in a direction instead of running to a place. We want our dog to run to place he marked and establish a tight hunt to quickly come up with the bird. The easiest way to fix this is to have someone else go out in the field and throw marks for you or use one of the many types of remote launchers on the market today. Another thing you can do on your own to give marks of substance is referred to as stand-alone marks. A stand-alone mark is when you sit the dog and walk out to throw the mark. From there you can release the dog for the retrieve without walking back to him or you can walk back to him before sending. Both ways have benefits. By sending the dog with you out away from him you will have the ability to help him if he needs it. By walking back to the dog before sending you are building focus and memory in the dog. When we start a young dog on gunner thrown marks we like to start in short to no cover, keep distance short and teach the different throws. Angle away throws, angle in throws and flat over throws. These types of throws give the dog the ability to use his depth perception and begin to understand the differences between the different throws. We start this with single marks and teach the dog instead of going out and testing his abilities. One mentality we want to maintain in training is that we want to keep challenging the dog. If the dog is tackling every mark without issue then he is simply exercising not learning. We want the dog to be successful while challenging them whether that means adding distance, cover or other factors. At the end of the day, most people are training their dog with limited time and it is important to get the most out of every training opportunity. Your retriever will gain more from three meaningful and well thought out marks per day than by throwing a hundred random bumpers around the yard. Until next week, happy training!
Bourbon Bay Kennels LLC