New and Improved 'Tools 'to Teach Land and Water Retrieving Skills
and to Provide Exercise For all Breeds of Gun Dogs
By Jerry Thoms
There probably aren't many gun dog owners who don't own a
dummy - that is, a device of some sort thrown to improve retrieving
skills and to provide exercise for any breed of hunting dog.
Most hunters with Labradors, Chesapeakes, goldens, or other breeds
bred specifically for retrieving probably already have bags and
boxes full of training dummies. Likewise, many hunters with German
shorthairs, English pointers, setters, or other pointing breeds
as well as shot gunners with various kinds of spaniels will own
dummies for a variety of practical purposes.
"Dummies are important to all gun dog owners because they
are a good way to teach and improve a canine's retrieving skills
and are a great way to provide instant exercise for any dog any
time and anywhere," according to Jim Dobbs, a professional
trainer and owner of Dobbs' Training Center in Marysville, California.
"You can toss a retrieving dummy for your dog in just about
any weather and any where from in your back yard or at the local
park to out in a goose pit or out of a duck blind on a day when
the hunting is slow," according to Dobbs. "Because
most dogs recognize the fun of fetching a dummy, there is no
problem making this part of a lifelong training and exercise
program," Dobbs believes.
"Throwing a dummy for your dog has some important psychological
benefits," in the opinion of Jim Rieser, a veterinarian
and gun dog owner from Franksville, Wisconsin.
"Teaching a dog to fetch or reinforcing a dog's natural
desire to retrieve is one of the easiest and quickest ways to
establish a pattern of bonding and basic obedience that can as
carry over to other facets of training and into the relationship
between the dog owner and the dog," Rieser says. "And
a dog learning to competently retrieve isn't confined just to
the retriever breeds, but is something necessary for all fully-trained
versatile hunting dogs as well," Rieser emphasizes.
In the not so distant past, "dummies" for gun dogs
were just what the term implies - life-less substitutes for game
birds that could be thrown on land or in water for a dog to run
after, fetch, and return to the thrower. The original dummies
were probably just about anything a dog owner could throw and
a dog would run after, pick up, and bring back to the dummy tosser.
Sticks were probably the first substitute for game birds, with
blocks of wood or old socks stuffed with saw dust as initial
refinements. The first major innovation in dummies was a heavy-duty
bag made from cloth fabric and filled with cotton or cork, a
device borrowed from boaters who used these things to protect
their watercraft from bumping into boat docks. Aptly named, "bumpers,"
this term is still used by some dog people as a name for retriever
In recent years, however, dummies have undergone some major improvements
in structural components, overall design, and range of purposes.
These modern "training tools" are now made from sturdy
canvas and Cordura, tough synthetics (plastic and vinyl) or natural
rubber as the main materials in their composition. And the structure
and design of these new and improved "smarter dummies"
has made them much more versatile and useful as devices for training
and exercising gun dogs.