The dummy training originally came from Great Britain, where it was developed for the training of hunting dogs. The dummy is a canvas bag with a plastic or sawdust filling, in different weight versions. In this form of training, he simulates the small game to be retrieved. The dog can be trained in marking, searching and retrieving using the dummy, without having to use real game every time. To this day, dummies are an important component in the training of hunting dogs. Family and service dogs are also encouraged by the dummy training in their ability to retrieve, attention and teamwork. In the meantime, dummy training has established itself as an independent discipline.
Equipment and implementation of the dummy training
Depending on how professionally you do the dummy work, some equipment is necessary. The most important are of course the dummies, the linen bags filled with plastic balls. The dummy training uses the dog’s innate joy of retrieving and learning to train him in the basic hunting activities. In addition to the conventional dummy, feed dummies, dog whistles and clickers are often used as additional aids. A small bag filled with treats serves as a feed dummy and arouses the dog’s interest in the dummy. The smell and the rewarded food reinforce the natural hunting instinct, which triggers the dog. With the clicker, a cracked frog, correct actions can be rewarded so precisely that the dog is able to learn the complex process of retrieving step by step.
Tips for working with the dummy
- Do not always reach for the dummy immediately. First praise and stroke the dog so that it comes to you with its “prey”.
- Alternatively, you can work with two objects or a food bag so that your dog always comes to you with joy.
- Pay attention to the strain on the joints in puppies and young dogs. The dummies should not be thrown too far and not too often.
- If your dog is very excited at work, take sufficient breaks and praise in between for calm behavior.
- Finish the training session when your dog has just retrieved well and before his concentration drops.
- After work, place the dummy in a place that the dog cannot reach. It would not be logical for the dog to have the dummy at his free disposal and then to safely retrieve it. So only use the dummy for retrieving and provide the dog with other toys with which he can play alone.
- Reward your dog with high quality food. Feed rewards should be subtracted from the dog’s daily ration to ensure optimal energy and nutrient supply.
Training content and disciplines
The dummy work is made up of various elements, all of which are based on the requirements for the hunting dog. The dog learns to correctly locate the fall of the game, to be instructed by the hunter, to systematically search for and retrieve the game.
With the marking report, the dog has the task of recognizing the drop location on the basis of the trajectory and memorizing it. He learns to correctly estimate distances and to find the fall point safely even if the flight path is interrupted. He should also be able to remember a drop over a long period of time. What is important in the marking report is the ability of the dog to primarily use the eyes instead of the sense of smell.
Instruction requires a close cooperation between dog and hunter. In this situation, the hunter knows the drop, but the dog does not. The dog must be able to act on the instructions of humans without being distracted by other weather conditions. Instruction is used in situations in which a piece of game is not accessible to the hunter. The dog should first run in a straight line from the handler in the direction he has indicated. If necessary, the dog is then instructed more precisely at a distance by whistles and hand signals.
The free-of-charge search corresponds to the systematic search in an extensive area (approx. 200 sqm-500 sqm – depending on the terrain and weather). The exact fall of the dummy is not known here, so the dog must demonstrate both good endurance and an excellent nose when searching. As a rule, the dog handler intervenes only when the dog leaves the search area. Pointing dogs in particular show a good disposition to search for free animals.
Here the tracing of a tow track is trained, i.e. the track of a wounded animal. You can use both a piece of trailing game and the dummy, which is pulled on a line to the desired position to simulate a track.
Steadiness is the disciplined and calm behavior that every hunting dog demands. He learns not to make a sound even in a tense situation and not to start running until he is ordered to do so.
Which dog breeds are suitable for dummy training?
A special talent for dummy work is shown by dog breeds that were bred as hunting dog breeds especially for the corresponding activities. These include, in particular, retrievers such as the various types of retrievers. The Golden Retriever, the Labrador Retriever and the Curly as well as Flat Coated Retriever already do their job in the name, because the English “retrieve” means nothing else than retrieve. Pointing dogs also achieve good learning success in dummy training. The pointer breeds include, for example, the German Wirehaired Pointer, the German Shorthaired Pointer, the English and Irish Setter and the Münsterländer. However, the dummy work can also be done with any dog breed as a sporting activity. Dogs without an innate hunting instinct get their money’s worth by motivating them with food dummies.
Conclusion: dummy training for beginners and professionals
Regardless of whether you are a dummy beginner or a professional: the dog and owner should enjoy working together. Breeds that were not originally bred for hunting can also be inspired by the dummy work. Due to the variety of exercises, the basic obedience of the dogs is trained, they are busy and physically and mentally challenged. Depending on how professional you want to do the dummy training, certain equipment is necessary. The most important training item is the dummies, which are available almost everywhere these days. With this in mind, we hope you enjoy training with your dog.