Aug 31, 2012, 1:02 AM EDT
By Jerry Sather
Okay, your dog is making enthusiastic, confident multiple retrieves. Together you’ve worked your way through any problems and bad habits by moving back to singles when necessary and then working your way back up the ladder, all the while ensuring you’ve not diminished the dog’s belief that being allowed to make a retrieve is the greatest reward in the world.
Next it’s time to add beyond 2 and 3 to 4, 5 and perhaps even 6. Your dog can do it if you teach it how and provide all the assistance you can as a handler.
Now if you’re exclusively a hunter and most of your hunting is solo or with just one buddy, working up to triple retrieves may be enough. But if you and your dog will hunt with a larger group on occasion with your pup responsible for all the retrieving chores, then there is the possibility the dog will face marked retrieves of many more birds say when a flock of geese commits to the decoys and it rains birds for three or more hunters. In competition “quads” or four marked retrieves in a series have become fairly common and even “quints” which are five bird retrieves are sometimes thrown. They’d probably be done more often, but events have gotten so big and popular there are just too many dogs to get through the test or trial to make quints practical very often.
Teaching beyond 1-2-3 is done by adding one bird at time, the same as we did to get this far. Again, don’t be afraid to back up when the situation calls for it to break bad habits and rebuild confidence. The difference in going beyond 3 is that it puts a lot more emphasis of good decisions by the handler.
In a test or trial, the reason multiple marks are thrown is to find out if the dog has marking ability and memory and has been trained not to go to an “old fall” or one it has picked up already. The handler helps the dog by carefully selecting the order in which the birds will be picked up.
In nearly every case, it’s wise to have the dog pick up the last bird down first. This is the one it should be “locked on” when you receive word from the judge to send your dog, so it makes sense to get this one first. Then when the dog comes back to the line with that bird, you decide the order on the rest of the marks.
The standard from there is “outside to inside.” So say there are three more birds fallen. Depending on wind direction you would pick the bird farthest to the right or the left to pick up next. When the dog returns with that bird, you’d choose the bird that was farthest to the opposite side of the field to pick up next. Finally you’d end on the bird that was up the middle of the three.
This order of retrieval gives the dog the most individual, fresh mental picture of each retrieve and helps the dog avoid visiting the site of an old fall or switching between birds.
So in most multiple retrieve situations, the two things to remember are: 1) last bird down first, and 2) outside to inside.
One of retriever ownership’s and training’s greatest moments is watching your dog leave it’s hide next to your blind and make half a dozen clean, efficient retrieves without handling from you. It’s one of those hunting memories you’ll tell the grandkids about.
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