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Jargon Busting Gundogs

Any niche, comes with its own unique language and words that mean something totally different to what we use them for in every day life. It can be a real mine field, to turn up to a training session as a total novice hearing 'cast out', 'blind' and 'runner'. Not to mention when you get your first invitation to go 'dogging in'! Here, we're going to take a dive into some regularly used gundog lingo that you may hear on a shoot day, training session or field trial and do a bit of de-coding!


(Disclaimer: This is what these terms mean TO ME, and how I use them in my training sessions and with my clients. Other people may have a slightly different interpretation.)


First off, we'll start with different types of retrieves that you may get:


A seen/marked retrieve- This is a retrieve that your dog has been able to watch so should know where it is landed. Often, in this situation, the dog will be sent on its name only, and expected to pick the retrieve in an effective and timely manner.


Delayed seen/delayed mark- This is where your dog has had the opportunity to watch the retrieve hit the ground, but something else has happened between the retrieve landing and the dog being sent. this could be another retrieve going out or purposely turning your dog in a circle to create a time delay and break the dogs eye contact.


Memory retrieve- Here's where people start to interpret things differently. For me, a memory retrieve is where a retrieve gets replaced in the same place where your dog has already had success. So your dog should have a memory of being to that area and picking a retrieve previously(success). For example, a mark is thrown, your dog successfully picks, as your dog is returning, the dummy thrower replaces another dummy in the same area and your dog has to return to that area using its memory.


Blind retrieve- No blindfolds required, you'll be glad to know! Often deemed the 'hardest' type of retrieve. This is when your dog has not been to that area before, nor have they seen anything land in the area. Sometimes it may be accompanied by a shot, which gives your dog a bit of an indication as to where the retrieve may be. Other times, it will have no shot, sometimes referred to as a 'cold blind'.


Now that we've clarified what our dummies are doing, lets look into what handlers and dogs should be doing!


Pick/Picked- Your dog has successfully found the retrieve and put it in its mouth. The retrieve has been PICKED up. You may be asked to 'pick from the left', meaning you need to send for the retrieve on the left.


Cast out/line out/send out- The position that you put yourself in when you're sending your dog out to a retrieve. This is totally unique to each dog and handler. Common practice is that your dog in on the left, the right arm extends out in front, indication to your dog which direction they're supposed to go it, then the verbal cue sends the dog. A common cast out cue to hear is 'Go back/Back'.




Push back- often happening after a stop whistle. This is a cue that you would give to your dog in order to get them to run a further distance. Some people train pushbacks with a left shoulder turn or a right shoulder turn, so you may hear 'Right Hand Back' on some training sessions.


Hold and area- You would use this to tell your dog that they are close to the retrieve. This is a great tool to have for working tests and field trials, and if you work in thick cover a lot. In a training session, a dummy thrower may indicate that your dog is 'in the area' by doing a cowboylike circular motion above their head.


Split retrieve- when two retrieves are thrown, one after the other into different areas. the dog and handler are required to mark both, and use their cast out to communicate to the dog which retrieve is to be picked first.


Quartering- a spaniel skill, which means to hunt in pattern. Said pattern can look different depending on the breed of spaniel and wind direction. This skill is used in order to find game, get it to move so it can be shot.


The flush- The act of the game moving from its spot. when a spaniel approaches a pheasant and it begins to get up and fly off, that moment is the flush. 'Stop to flush' is when the dog stops still whilst the game leaves the area. The dog MUST NOT give chase!


Driving cue- Most commonly used on blind retrieves, over long distances and tough ground. This tells your dog to keep running, without the use of a stop whistle or a pushback. The aim is to keep the forward momentum of the dog.


Now, lets get out into the shooting field!


The Guns- Not the boom stick itself, this term more refers to the person holding the gun! A commonly known phrase 'the guns have stopped for elevenses!'


Peg- This is the position in which the guns stand. Each drive has numbered pegs and first pegs will be drawn at the start of the day, pegs usually change after each drive. For example, a gun draws peg 4 at the start of the day. The keeper may state that each gun moves 2 pegs up after each drive. So the gun shoots from peg 4 on the first drive, peg 6 on the second, 8 on the third and so on. This is done to ensure that everyone gets a fair shot (pun intended) at all the birds.


Peg dog- These are the dog/s that sit with the guns, on the peg! These dogs usually belong to the guns, and they get first dibs on the retrieves! It is poor etiquette to pick up from around the guns before the peg dogs have done their job, and the guns have broken their gun and left the peg.


Beaters- The team of people employed by the game keeper to push birds in a relatively orderly fashion towards the guns, to be shot. The beaters may have dogs and flags and may well be making a bit of noise to prevent the birds from going behind and away from the guns. The beat line plays a vital part in a successful shoot day!


Pickers up- The team of people employed by the game keeper who's job is it to find all of the birds that have been pushed over by the beaters and then shot by the guns. On big estates, these people will often have a 'team' of four or more dogs!


Sweeping- This is the way in which the Pickers ups' work their dogs. When we have many birds down, its near impossible to specifically select a bird and use our cast out. So we use a sweeping technique, where we allow the dogs to use their natural ability to find the birds. There's less handler interference when sweeping and its a great way for the dogs to learn their trade.


Pricked bird/Runner- A bird that has been hit, but not killed. It is of upmost importance that these birds are found. picked and dispatched as quickly and humanly as possible.


Cock/Hen- Referring to the sex of a pheasant. Cock birds (depending on the breed) usually have a brown body, a melanistic bluey/greeny head, and possibly a white collar. They are much more impressive looking than their hen bird counter parts.






Field trials have more words to be learning too!


Eye wipe- If one dog fails to find the retrieve, another dog will be sent. If the second dog finds the retrieve, the first dog has been eye wiped (knocked out of the competition). There can be a 1 dog eye wipe, 2 dog eye wipe, 3 dog eye wipe, or a 4 dog/judges eye wipe. In the case of a judges eye wipe, this would be when all 4 dogs in line have been tried on a bird, all of which have failed, the judges then go out, find the bird, and all 4 dogs tried have been eye wiped. Sad way to go!


The fall- This refers to where the bird landed. In some instances, competitors may see a bird shot, hit the ground, and then see a bird toddle off and leave the area. Competitors must 'do the fall' meaning that they dog must go to where the bird hit the ground. This is because the bird seen leaving the area may be a different bird, and by 'doing the fall' it gives the working dog an opportunity to get the scent of the bird and track it if it has left the area.


Red flag- Again, this refers to the person holding the flag, rather than the flag itself. The person carrying the flag is responsible for keeping the competitors who are not in line (the gallery) safe and out of the line of fire.


First Dog Down- This 'rule' is applied when the first dog to be sent on a retrieve is deemed to have had the greatest chance of finding the game. If 4 dogs have been tried on the retrieve, the judges the go out and and also have no luck finding the retrieve, this is where the 'rule' of first dog down may come into play. Usually, if there has been no significant time delay or barriers between the dog leaving the handler and getting to the area, that dog will be classed as first dog down and is likely to be eliminated from the competition even if the game hasn't been found by the other competitors or the judges.



Finally, the one that you've all been waiting for... Dogging in! This is when we take our dogs around the boundaries of shoots and drives to push the birds back into where they should be to ensure that there's as many birds present as possible for when the beaters come through to flush the birds towards the guns.


These are just a few phrases that you will come across in your gundog journey, so hopefully it'll give you a bit of a head start if you're worried about looking like the 'new kid on the block' (although you have no need to be worried, we're an nice community)!


Have I missed something? Or heard a phrase that's really making you scratch your head? Let me know, we'll do a #JargonBustingGundogs pt2!


Now go put that lingo into practice! #HappyTraining


Claud x








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