Teaching Hand Signals





Dog must be steady to dummy thrown by you

Dog must look at you when you blow the stop whistle

Dog must stay

Dog must retrieve

Dog should previously have been taught the “Back” command.


Phase one


1. Sit the dog in front of you and facing you.

2. Back off about two yards

3. Tell the dog to Stay

4. Throw one dummy to the right of the dog about 15 yards

5. Throw one dummy to the left of the dog about 20 yards (this is because this dummy will not be retrieved during this phase and it is better to have it further away from temptation.  With a particularly keen dog, or one who might try and go for this even after he has collected the other dummy, this dummy can be thrown in some cover).

5. Blow the stop whistle so dog looks at you.

6. Put out your right arm and give the OUT command.

7. If the dog seems confused move yourself sideways towards that dummy (even right up to it) to encourage the dog to move in that direction whilst still giving the arm signal and verbal command.

8. Once dog has the dummy recall him back to you.  

9. If necessary move forward the two yards so you are in between the dog returning to you and the left hand dummy.  This helps prevent the dog going for the left hand dummy.

10. Praise the dog and take the dummy.


NOTE:  Sometimes you may find that your dog keeps coming back to you first rather than going straight out for the retrieve.  Usually this will improve as he gains confidence with the exercise.  However, if he does not improve do the whole exercise with a fence or other barrier in-between you and the dog which will prevent him coming towards you.


Phase two


Once the dog is competent at phase one, you need to see how well the dog understands your right hand signal and command.  Do this by making the right hand dummy an unseen retrieve with the marked retrieve still being thrown to the left.  Do this by placing the dummy in the right hand position before taking the dog to the area.  Then you do step 1. to step 3. above. Skip step 4 as the dummy will already be in position and then proceed from step 5.  If the dog is successful you can then proceed to phase three.


Note: another way to place the “unseen” dummy is to proceed to step 5 above and pick up the right hand dummy.  Then walk the dog away, make a big circle around the area and then come into it again from the opposite direction.  This has the effect of making the dummy previously on the left hand side the right hand dummy.   The walking around makes the dog at least partially forget the position of this dummy.  Sit the dog up in front of you and throw another dummy to the left and then give the arm and verbal signal to send him to the right to collect the original dummy.


Phase three


One your dog is competent at understanding the right hand signal and command, reverse the procedure and start working on the left hand signal and command in the same way.  NB Some handlers use a different verbal command for the left hand signel ? Away


Phase four


1. Practice a few memory and back retrieves as in the previous exercise.

2. Sit the dog in front of you two or three yards

Note: It is often helpful to carry out this exercise in short grass to start with.  If the dog has difficulty with any directions use bright green or white dummies to help him succeed with the dummy you do want and duller dummies or smaller retrieve articles for the dummies you do not want collected.  Advantage can also be made of longer patches of grass of cover to throw dummies in which you do not want to start with.

3. Throw a dummy out to the right and left of the dog.

4. Throw a dummy behind the dog, make this a shorter distance away from him and more visible than the left and right hand ones are.

5. Give the dog the back signal and command so he retrieves the back dummy.

6. If this is successful pick up the remaining dummies and put the dog in front of you again.

7. Using the same distances and dummies, throw a dummy to the right, one behind the dog and one to the left.

8. Send the dog for the back dummy using the appropriate commands and signals.

If this is successful

9. Pick up the remaining dummies and put the dog in front of you again.

10. Using the same distances and dummies, throw a dummy behind the dog.

11. Throw one to the right and one to the left.

12. Send the dog for the back dummy using the appropriate commands and signals.


Note: You will probably find you will need to go through all of these exercises gradually over a number of training sessions until your dog is fully confident at this “three card trick”.  


Phase five


Once the dog is confident with phase four.  You can start sending throwing dummies in different orders and sending him for different dummies in turn.  Then you can make some or all of the positions unseen dummies and you will know if he has got the message if he will go where ever you send him.  All that then remains is to increase the distance from you gradually and the difficulty of the terrain.