Assistant trainer advice




Thank you very much for agreeing to help as an assistant.  We are very grateful for your help.  However, you will also most likely find that you actually get a lot out of this by picking up tips and gaining more understanding of how dogs work to help you with your own dog.   You are welcome to bring your own dog along as long as it is reasonably well behaved i e. Kept on a lead if likely to continually run in and it does not whine constantly.  The main trainer will make sure you also get opportunity to do something with your dog and it is also very good steadiness training for your dog.  If your dog is the other way inclined and not so keen to work it can conversely get him or her revved up a bit by using the jealousy factor of watching other dogs work



To assist the trainer by, where necessary, giving small repeat demonstrations to dog owners after initial instruction has been given by the main trainer.

To assist owner understanding by double checking they understand what to do and are more likely to continue repeating good training methods with their dog during the lesson if the main trainer’s attention is on others.

To help throw or place dummies

To ensure that any problems owners have are brought to the main trainer’s attention where necessary.

To ensure an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved in the class.


The ways you are likely to be able to help the main trainer.


In a big group it is not always possible for the main trainer to give continual attention to owners of dogs who are having problems.  It is sometimes very helpful if assistants can give one to one support to dog owners after they have received instructions from the main trainer.  


There are many ways this can be done.  One common example is:  An owner may be having difficulty getting their dog to walk to heel as it may be very excitable.  The main trainer may show them how to use the lead more effectively and instruct them to only walk one or two paces before sitting the dog to keep its attention and stop it lunging forward.  Owners sometimes need a considerable amount of time and practice to get this right and the assistant trainer can be a great help by staying close and encouraging the owner to continue with this approach until the dog has settled.  There will be lots of other similar things a good assistant can help with.


The main trainer should tell you first exactly what he or she would like you to do to help them.


If you see an owner having problems that the trainer has not spotted please bring it to their attention.


It is often handy if assistants have some small tit bits with them in case owners run out or have none available and there is a particular reason they need to be used.


Throwing or placing dummies  


Tips on selecting the area where the dummy is to fall or be placed

Where a dummy is thrown, and how, are very important aspects in a training class if the main objective is for the dog to succeed.  

Conversely, where a dog is prone to running in the assistant can often be very useful by responding very quickly, to any request by the main trainer to quickly pick up the thrown dummy, if possible, thereby preventing the dog getting a reward for running in.


If asked to help throw or place dummies you will often be at some distance from the main trainer.  Below are some tips to enable you to most effectively help the trainer by ensuring novice dogs or those lacking in confidence succeed when retrieving.  The object is to get this type of dog to ideally succeed the first time.  Some dogs will give up very quickly (even after the first attempted retrieve) if they do not succeed.  Good selection and placement of the dummy can be crucial.


With a class of new dogs and where their behaviour is unknown to you.  Always assume, until you know otherwise, that the dogs’ lack confidence with their retrieving and try to be helpful about where the dummy falls.


Bright green or white dummies are usually the easiest for dogs to see.  Orange and red ones can often, strangely, be missed as can dull dirty ones.   Dogs see moving things easier than stationary things.   Dummies laying end on to the approaching dog can also easily be missed (rather than lying sideways on to where the dog will be coming from).  Dummies which lie on the very edge of a path, bank or belt of cover or wood can also be difficult to find.


It is not always easy for a dog to wind a dummy which has fallen or been placed close to a tree trunk, in a rut or close up to a tuft of grass or on the wrong side of the wind to where the dog is most likely to run.   Therefore, where a dummy is thrown is sometimes crucial to quick initial success and therefore building up the dog (and owner’s confidence) and make them want to repeat the experience.


Throwing a dummy.  You do not need strength to throw a dummy.  Practice makes nearly perfect.  Dummies with a toggle are easiest.  Place the toggle between your first and second finger and let the dummy dangle.   Move your arm back behind you to throw underarm.   Do not try to put strength into the throw as the dummy is likely to go straight up in the air and land at your feet.   Keeping your arm straight, move it forward in one smooth steady action and just let go of the toggle as your arm comes forward and it is just at or after waist height.   The dummy should sail through the air and land about 10 to 15 yards away.   You can then take a few steps back if you think you are a bit near to the dummy and might frighten the dog.   However, keep a good mark on where the dummy.  You might need to collect it yourself later or indicate to the owner and trainer when the dog is in the correct spot.


Sometimes it is a great help if the assistant indicates when the dog is in the correct area to find a dummy.  Do this by holding your hand above your head moving it in a circular motion.  This can be easily seen by the trainer and owner who can ensure the dog gets appropriate encouragement to hunt in that area.  Once the dog has found the dummy hold your arm up in the air keeping it still so the owner can instantly give whatever encouragement is necessary to get their dog to return with the dummy promptly.  



Please be careful to never frighten a dog by moving suddenly in the area it is hunting.

Always keep spare dummies in a closed bag or hold them up out of the way.

If asked to fire a starting pistol or make a noise to attract the dog always do this before throwing the dummy.

Unsteady dogs are usually more alert to the thrown dummy.  Therefore, less noise is necessary to attract the dog.  Where owners are struggling to keep their dog steady be alert to this and do not make so much noise thereby making the dog more excited when it is their turn to retrieve.  Of course the opposite will be true where dogs appear to be poor markers or more reluctant to retrieve.


Many thanks for your help.