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Photo: Denver Bryan/Images on the Wildside
Whether you’re training a retriever, a pointing dog, or a hound, for a dog to scent or track prey successfully, she must feel confident leaving her handler and striking out on her own. A retriever can’t continually see the object she needs to fetch come from the handler; pointing dogs must range out on their own, find a scent, lock up, and hold staunch; and hounds must learn how to take a trail, stay on it, and, perhaps, fight their quarry. Remote training devices can teach a dog to complete these tasks independent of her handler, which is exactly what she’ll need to do to find success in the field. Here’s a rundown of remote tools that can help take your training sessions to the next level.
Remote-controlled launchers, which shoot dummies into the air at various angles and distances, teach a retriever to look out over the landscape as if she were sitting in a blind and watching incoming ducks fall. In particular, the Retrieve-R-Trainers Versa-Launch Remote Launcher System is an affordable modular system that allows you to add additional launching tubes as your budget permits—accommodating up to six tubes. The remote system, which is compatible with a wide range of remotes, can hit distances of 100-plus yards, and it can shoot multiple marks (complete with a gun-shot sound) for a dog to remember and retrieve.
Another great training device is a winger, which works like a giant slingshot, launching dummies or birds (frozen, freshly killed, or live). Like dummy-shooting launchers, a winger—such as the Gunners Up Remote Launcher—mimics shot sounds and teaches a dog to look up and out for a bird, and not to key on a handler or a bird boy. A winger’s ability to throw birds is its biggest advantage over dummy launchers. Birds offer an advantage over dummies, as they’re the most realistic reward for retrievers and will keep them driving through cover. A winger’s consistent placement allows you to repeatedly replicate a setup. The tool’s greatest drawback, however, is it can throw only one bird before needing to be reloaded. This means that you’ll either have to walk out to it after each setup or have someone seated next to it.
You can’t have a bird dog without birds, the saying goes. And it’s true: You can train a dog to react to stimulus (i.e., the whoa post), but for a dog to advance to higher levels of accomplishment in the field, she needs contact with real birds. Remote, spring-loaded launchers let you put a live bird into the trap and hide it among cover. Depending on where you place the launcher, you can teach a dog to cover ground, identify likely bird-holding areas, take the chase out, back other dogs, and to point and hold staunchly. The D.T. Systems Natural Flush Bird Launcher is a quality model that comes in two sizes. The smaller version accommodates quail and similar-sized birds, and the larger model works well for pheasants, ducks, and comparable fowl. Also, with the larger launcher, you can throw a pigeons, in place of one pheasant or duck, to simulate a covey flush. As the dog approaches the launcher and locks up, you can remotely release the bird. The launcher then springs open and throws the bird into the air, where it will take flight. By attaching a chunk of hose to a live bird or removing some of its flight feathers, you can keep it from flying too far. If you’re teaching a young dog that doesn’t lock up, you can release a bird sooner and teach the dog not to pursue the bird. By using several units throughout a field, you can mimic a bird hunt and get multiple repetitions and bird contacts, teaching a dog to properly respond to different scenarios and advancing its proficiency afield faster.
Though not an electronic-based remote system like other training aids, roll cages let a dog engage quarry without the sight, smell, or presence of a handler. For young dogs, a roll cage, which is essentially a drum made of wire that holds a raccoon, is a must. Relatively inexpensive, a roll cage teaches a dog to use her nose, pursue prey, and safely “fight” the animal with no threat of being bitten. Successfully giving chase and building self-reliance by following the scent and cornering the raccoon, a dog will build her confidence and drive to stay on the trail.