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Puppy Marks - An Introduction

What is Marking?

The work of the non-slip retriever, (a retriever not needing to be restrained on a slip lead), is divided into two main tasks, Marked and Blind retrieves.

 

The Marked Retrieve:

Video of Puppy training on marks

In the marked retrieve the dog sits quietly by your side while you or others in your party shoot birds. The dog Marks or watches the birds down and when sent goes directly to the area of the fall, seeks, finds and retrieves the bird.

 

The Blind Retrieve: 

Video Example of Adult dog on a blind

In the blind retrieve the handler uses voice, hand and whistle commands to direct the dog to the unseen fall of a bird. Once the handler directs the dog to the area the dog finds and retrieves the bird.

In both Marked and Blind retrieves the dog is to wait quietly until sent, go when sent and once they find the bird return directly to the handler and deliver the bird to hand, usually from a seated position at heel.

You don't have to wait until he is grown to begin instruction on blind retrieves. The sections on Dixie Cup Drills and on Casting to Palettes show how you can begin teaching him skills in the kitchen that will directly apply to his blind retrieves later in  life. 

Video Example of a Puppy Doing a "Walkout Blind" 

 

Advanced Marking:

Video of Puppy Doing a Triple Mark

For the advanced dogs in competition, and not infrequently in hunting, retrievers are required to mark the fall of three or four birds at a time. When multiple birds fall, the dog is expected to watch them all down, remember the location of each, wait until sent, and when sent, proceed to retrieve and deliver them one at a time.

Again, you don't have to wait until your pup is grown to begin multiples. Dixie Cup drills in the kitchen will begin to stimulate your puppy's memory and teach him the mechanics of multiple marks starting at 8 weeks.

In competitions judges try to place birds in positions in the field that are difficult for the dog to get to. Terrain and relative positions of other marks are the two major influences that determine the degree of difficulty of marked and blind retrieves in hunting and competitions.

Dixie Cup/Paper Plate Drills to Start Doubles

 

Terrain Hazards

A hunt test or field trial mark may be shot or thrown into heavy cover, across a water filled ditch at some distance from the dog.

In a separate section we will look at drills to teach the puppy to Take Avoidable Hazards beginning in the kitchen and then at ways to introduce different hazards in the field.

Video of early work on taking hazards

 

Water Marks

Marking on the water presents many unique challenges to dogs. In order to avoid correcting the puppy for running around many trainers wait until the puppy is much older and has been taught swim-by before they begin instruction on going straight on the water.

Building a Water Mark

In a separate section we will look at drills you can teach from the very first day your puppy begins swimming that will help prepare him for the advanced tests he will encounter later in life. 

How to Teach a Channel Water Mark

 

Technical Marking Configurations

Often much of the difficulty of a long mark comes from its position relative to a short bird. If the correct line to the long mark requires the dog to run very close to the fall of the short mark some dogs will return to and hunt the old fall or once taught not to return will flare the short fall and have still have trouble getting to the long mark.

In a separate section we will look at how you can begin to prepare your puppy for these technical setups first in the kitchen and then in his early field marking setups.

Video of Derby Setup for Puppy

 

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