The world of Dummies can be a very confusing one, even for people who are experienced in training with them. There are so many options to choose from; different sizes, shapes, weights and colours.
We know it can sometimes be overwhelming to know the ones that’ll suit you and your dog best. So, we have put this together to help make life a little easier for you!
The first thing to consider when thinking about dummies is the age and experience of your dog.
A young pup is unlikely to have the strength to carry a larger dummy even if they have the drive to, so a dummy specifically aimed at puppies is best when starting out. The firedog 80g pocket/puppy dummy is a popular choice for small puppies (spaniels and smaller labs). For slightly bigger puppies a 100g dummy may suit well. Also, due to being so lightweight these dummies are not only perfect for younger dogs but they are also easy to pop into your pocket on the go!
We have found we still use my puppy dummy now with my adult dog to boost his confidence when increasing dummy weights and they are also great for hunting practice as their small size makes for a nice challenge.
Once you have begun to establish dummy work with your dog it then comes time to move up in weight and size. The next most popular size is the 1/2lb dummy, there is a huge range of dummies in this weight! Many of us started off with a basic canvas style dummy. Again, depending on the size of the dog a 1lb dummy may also work well. Both not only offer a little more of a challenge to the dog but they are also beginning to replicate the real weight of various sized game birds that a dog may need to pick in the field.
These are also the sizes that are routinely used in scurries at game fairs and is something that is really fun to do for both you and the dog - getting them used to the feel of the dummies is important.
The most important thing to remember when progressing with your dummy training is to ensure your dog is comfortable every step of the way, picking something bigger can be a daunting task so taking it slow and keeping the criteria low is very important. As we mentioned before, using a puppy dummy alongside a larger one is a great way to keep your pup keen.
There is such a huge variety in the style of dummies on offer, starting from the basic canvas dummy that come in many different colours and sizes going all the way up to the more advanced dummies such as a pheasant pelt dummy or rabbit skin dummy. With younger dogs it is important to make sure you use a dummy style that they will enjoy retrieving. Some puppies find the basic canvas dummy quite boring because it lacks any scent and therefore by giving them a rabbit skin dummy at the correct weight, depending on the breed and what the puppy is capable of carrying, will be much more interesting for them. By making it fun it will encourage that excitement and drive for retrieving which is so important for a young pup – when starting you almost want them to be flying out for retrieves making sure it is so much fun, building the pup’s confidence. All the steadiness training can then be introduced later in their training.
With such a large range of dummies you would think there does not need to be such a variety, but they all have great uses. For example, you can get dummies in browns, greens and camouflage colours which are fantastic for older more advanced dogs who may be practising blind retrieves - it really encourages the dog to get their nose down and hunt for the dummy as they will not be able to see it. However, an advantage with the brighter colour dummies is if you have an unsure retriever then by throwing a bright coloured dummy for them, they will be able to clearly see it which will help them trust their owner, gaining confidence in being sent out or ‘back’ for retrieves. Plus, you won’t lose them if the dog doesn’t find! Another great dummy style for all dogs are the pheasant/partridge pelt dummies - they have so much scent and a completely different texture meaning the dog can get used to feathers being in their mouth which prepares them more for a shoot day. As well as them having different textures the pelt dummies come in different weights too so it can feel even more like a real bird. Another popular one with my dogs from is the rabbit skin dummies and rabbit dummy balls because they have so much scent, making them much more interesting than a plain canvas dummy. They are very easy to camouflage in long grass, fields etc meaning the dogs are able to pop their noses to the floor and hunt it up which is great. I find dogs tend to hunt for the pelt dummies and rabbit dummies purely because they have so much more scent than a canvas dummy. So, if you have a dog who is not keen on picking up a canvas dummy definitely try out the different textured ones too which are smellier. Dummies get even more exciting when you introduce the bird style ones, with wings and heads, available in a variety of weights – these are for more established dogs who are already confident in dummy work.
Although this doesn’t cover every single dummy available it hopefully will act as a starting point to help you on your way. The paws team is always on hand to help you in your choice and a gundog trainer is also invaluable when training your dog and providing advice.
Thank you for reading our Blog,
Steph, Emily and Poppy xx