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Of course, this only trains for the distraction on the return. Many times there are distractions on the way out to the retrieve. For this, it is useful to have an assistant. Stand your assistant about 20 yards out in front of you and to the side. Have your assistant throw out a dummy and send your dog for the retrieve. As he is running out and before the gets in line with the assistant, have the assistant make a noise and throw a dummy or tennis ball behind you. It is simple to do this but essential he gets it right. Keep your eye on your dog. If he is diverted in any way, stop him on the whistle and send him back for the dummy that was thrown first. When he returns with the dummy, go and pick the diversion dummy yourself.

Repeat the exercise with your assistant now throwing the dummy between you and him but not too near your dog as he goes out for the retrieve. Once he is doing this successfully, now have the dummy thrown over the dog’s head to land at the other side of the line he is taking to the retrieve. Once your dog realizes that he has to go for the one he was sent for, you can now have your assistant throw the dummy or a heavy bouncing ball across the front of the dog as he goes out for the retrieve. Initially, it should be thrown when your dog is well away from the thrower. Build up your dogs understanding so that you will be able to throw the ball across the front of him almost as he reaches the line of the throw. The ball now simulates the flushing of a rabbit or a bird as he runs out to the retrieve.

A useful piece of equipment is a ‘bolting rabbit’. This is a dummy on a long, strong piece of catapult rubber. Your assistant stretches this out and lets it go as the dog gets close to the line the ‘rabbit’ will "bolt" along. As it catapults along the floor, it will bounce and ‘fly’ - making it a very tempting object. If you cannot find an assistant to help you with this, it is quite easy to set up a release mechanism with a gate latch and a long piece of string that you can pull at the right moment. It is a very exciting action and many dogs that are steady to thrown dummies and tennis balls can be tempted by this.

In training for distraction, it is far more effective and the training comes along far more quickly if your dog never gets the distraction retrieve. If your dog goes for the distraction retrieve, it is good if you can stop him before he gets to it - and even better if he cannot pick it himself, in any way. In other words, you or your assistant get to it and pick it before he does.

Take the introduction to distractions in small stages, keep your patience and do not get disturbed if he beats you to the distraction you threw. Just go back a few stages, repeat the exercises and make sure he does not beat you next time.

Watching dogs work, I am in admiration of those who go out for a retrieve ignoring live game taking off at their feet, intent on what they were sent to do and returning with that wounded or difficult bird in their mouth while others fall near to their path on the way back. The focus on their job is so great; nothing else exists. Watch some of the Championship videos from Paul French and you will see exactly what I mean.

Ray Cacchio and Martin Deeley

Martin Deeley has trained and handled gundogs for over 25 years. He is internationally recognized as not only a trainer of hunting dogs, but also of their owners. Deeley has authored three gundog training books, directed and commentated a series of British gundog training videos, and is regularly published in magazines on both continents. Martin established the International Gundog Training Center and presents Gundog Workshops in Europe and the US with reknown American trainer Ray Cacchio.

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