The Conditioning Effects of the Collar, Whistle and Dummy

Mary Beth Piedrafite

    Collar.   It is very important to use a buckle collar for the field.  Please don’t bring your dog out in a show lead or obedience training. A collar is a psychological training aid. In the field, you do not want to use any type of correction with the collar. You need control but you do not want to correct the enthusiasm the dog has from his enjoyment in the field. He doesn’t even need to have a collar on but for safety’s sake a good roll over hunting collar with a nameplate on it is the best. A roll over hunting collar is a buckle collar, either nylon or leather, with an “O” ring in the middle. It has 2 small holes in the side to rivet a flat nameplate. The advantage of a roll over vs. a regular buckle collar is that if the dog should get hung up the collar can freely roll over off the dog. You may lose a collar (by hanging) but you won’t lose the dog.  No dog tags or rabies tags are needed in the field. You don’t want anything hanging off the collar.
    Your dog is using his nose to hunt. You never know when he could come upon the scent of a deer or rabbit and follow (trail.) Please don’t feel if you don’t have a real hunting collar you can’t enjoy the sport. Think how the dog interprets the collar, any collar. Hunting is a natural ability. You cannot teach the dog to hunt. If you could smell the birds you would not need the dog! Hunting is a natural exciting sport and you want to share this with your dog. A collar generates this feeling. He’ll know when you’re packing the car where you’re going.

    Whistle.  The whistle is used in the field
1) because the sound carries over land and water, with and through the wind
2) gives commands
3) prevents you from having to yell
    The wind can play tricks with sound. When it is extremely windy your voice cannot be heard by the dog. The dog is probably having enough trouble with scenting conditions on a windy day. That is when a whistle can be a valuable aid. You can use it to give directions
    When your dog is in deep concentration, the whistle can penetrate and allows you to give commands. The more you practice with the whistle the more useful it can be using to for commands. Whether it is a toot, a couple toots, a long blast for sitting (HUP) right or left turns, or coming back to you, you can build your own vocabulary with your dog.  Everyone’s whistle sounds different and people use different commands. It will help you and your pet become a better team.

    Dummy.   Retrieving dummies come in any size, shape color or texture you can imagine and each has a reason. Every dog should own a baby canvas bumper. It is the perfect size for teaching the beginner to retrieve, right down to the advanced work, because when it is old and dirty it will be small and hard to see, so it will help to teach the blind retrieves. Different sizes (puppy to large) and textures (canvas or plastic) will represent different birds and drag weight ratio in retrieves. Your dog will have to learn to open his mouth without getting water down his throat, and get used to different feelings in his mouth. Different colors (white, gray, red, and black) represent different visibility of retrieves. 
     I would suggest two things before you start throwing dummies for your dog. 
1) next time you go swimming, throw out the dummy, and doggy paddle out to it, and you will be aware of what the dog is seeing. 
2) Practice throwing the dummy without the dog around. You’ll want to throw it underhanded, and follow through with an over exaggerated hand motion, and the dog will be able to see it better. The hand motion in the future will be your direction to “mark it” on blind retrieves (a blind retrieve is when there is something out in the land or water but the dog did not see it out there. You must always be ready to swim when you are training the retrieves. If your dog refuses you must be ready to swim out and help. If he misses the mark, you must swim out to show him. Please do not throw out more dummies hoping he will catch on! You must build on desire not mistakes.
    Training with different sizes shapes color and textures makes for the better more dependable, reliable and consistent English Cocker retriever.