Training Tip #1
Using the Gunner to Assist Marking Success
From Total Retriever Marking with Mike Lardy
Having the Gun Help
This means that the gun station helps the dog who is lost in the field. Helping can take many forms. The gun can:
Stand and Yell "Hey Hey";
Stand, Yell, Wave Arms and Walk Toward Mark;
Stand, Yell, Wave Arms, Walk Toward the Mark and Throw the Bird Up
The gunner should help in response to a silent signal from the handler such as an arm wave, or to a request by radio. Yelling to signal the gun may attract the dog's attention back to the handler. The gun should give as much help as necessary and as little as possible. It is always better to have the dog resume his hunt in the fall area and find the bird on his own. As the dog resumes his hunt in the fall area the gunner should retreat to his chair. If you intend to use your dog for hunting (I hope you are!) it is helpful to have the gunner repeatedly use some cue such as "find the bird" or "hunt it up" as the dog comes in to the fall area while being helped. You will use this cue while hunting to encourage your dog to hunt up a dead bird it did not see fall or to hunt up and flush a live bird.
Gunner assistance is the term used to describe how a thrower can help a dog who is still at the handler's side.
This is slightly different than having the gun help -- a procedure such as above for helping a dog who is lost in the field. The gunner would normally sit down after throwing a mark. To assist a dog on a memory mark, with the dog sitting at your side, you would have the gun assist by:
Standing and waving arms; or
Standing and yelling "hey-hey"
The idea is the dog will look out and remember the mark or will simply be intrigued enough to run out and check when you send him. You should always have your guns ready to offer assistance when teaching doubles to young dogs. Use a radio or have some pre-determined signal to indicate to the gun to escalate the assistance. Avoid no-goes by reading your dog's uncertainty and offering the gunner assistance before you send for the mark (on the first few taught doubles).