FAQ -- Retrieving Dummies and Dog Bumpers
Welcome to "Dog Training Dummies 101"People use training dummies in place of birds for convenience. They are useful in repetitive drills and to teach a dog to handle at a distance. Here are answers to several common questions regarding the different types of retriever training dummies and how to use them effectively:
Why are retriever dummies sometimes called "bumpers?"
Dog Bumpers originally came from boat bumpers -- the rubber or plastic floats that keep a boat from bumping into the dock. Retrievers are water dogs, so it makes sense that they'd be around boats. Most likely, someone threw a small bumper for a retriever to fetch, and realized what a great retriever training tool they were. Dog bumpers float, the white bumpers are easy to see, and with a rope and a little water in them for weight, you can throw retrieving dummies a pretty long way.
Why are there different colors?
Different colors are for different levels of retriever training. Some dummy colors are easier for dogs to see than others. Dogs see contrasts, they don't see in "color."
Retrievers can see some shades of color, but they don't see color the way humans see color. An orange dummy can look gray to a dog. It depends on what background the orange dummy up against, but for the majority of backgrounds the orange disappears. The orange is for you, the human dog handler, to more easily see it. Orange retrieving dummies don't have the contrast that a white retrieving dummy has against a dark background or a black training dummy has against a light background.
The white/black dummies are really popular because you get the best of both worlds. If you drop one against a dark background you have the light contrast, and on a light background you have the dark contrast. Plus, if you throw it in the air against a light sky the black will show up, and when it hits the ground the white will show up. On water the black part of the dummy will disappear, but the white will show up.
Why are most plastic dummies knobby?
Retrieving dummies have knobs because it makes it easier for retrievers to pick them up, like treads or grips. You don't want a training dummy slipping around in a dog's mouth.
What does the water valve do?
The rubber valves on many plastic dummies allow you to add water to weight the dummy. Water makes the dummies heavier so you can throw them farther. Note that most dog dummies or bumpers with water valves will sink if you put too much water in them, but if you put the right amount in them they will float a little lower in the water, making them harder to see -- perfect for advanced retriever training. When you add water using the water valve, it's a good idea to test your dummies BEFORE you throw them in the lake!
Why are there different sizes and materials?
Plastic dummies are easier to maintain, but it's mostly a matter of personal preference whether you choose plastic or canvas. It's a good idea to mix sizes and types of retriever dummies so your dog doesn't get used to picking up just one dummy, and possibly not pick up anything else! It's also important to use birds in training whenever possible for the same reason.
For a more realistic retrieving dummy, take a look at the Dokken DeadFowl Trainer. The advantages of Dokken DeadFowl Trainers are they are life size, mimic a real bird in firmness, and the head and feet are hard which encourages your dog to carry them properly. Also, the hard flopping head discourages the dog from shaking the dummy.
Do I need a firm or soft dummy?
There are conflicting opinions on softness and firmness regarding what's best to avoid, or which will better solve mouth problems with dogs. Some say a firm dummy discourages chewing, and others say a soft dummy that offers less resistance accomplishes the same thing. "Hard Mouth," or a dog being too aggressive with a dummy or bird, can be a genetic trait, a man made problem, or combination of both. The best way to avoid mouth problems is not to snatch from your dog (creating possessiveness), and to practice short controlled retrieves so your dog doesn't have a chance to be too rough. Many dogs are force fetched or force retrieved which teaches them to hold an object properly.
Why use scent while training?
Scent is used to teach a dog to hunt for a dead or wounded bird using it's sense of smell if you don't have a bird for practice. Scent can be liberally applied to a plastic or canvas dummy, or it can be injected into a foam dummy.
Generally you want to throw the dummy in some tall grass so they have to use their nose to find it. After a dog understands to "hunt dead" by practicing these drills, a more advanced drill is to take a dog to an area where the scented dummy has been placed (the dog does not see it thrown) and have them find it.
What brands do you sell?
Our most popular training dummies are regular sized SportDOG Lucky Dog dummies. These dummies are consistently well-made and very competitively priced. Some of the other brands of bumpers and retriever training throw dummies we carry include Flagman, Avery, Dokken, Scott, RRT, DT Systems, PAC, and Real Duck. See all our retriever training dummies and bumpers here.