Contrasting Marks

Discussion in 'Gundog Training, Fieldwork, & Field Trials' started by AlaskaSkeeter, Dec 6, 2019.

  1. AlaskaSkeeter

    AlaskaSkeeter Registered Users

    Sep 3, 2017
    interior Alaska
    A contrasting mark is a mark the conceptually is very different than the previous mark. It could be the second single in a back to back set of single marks for a junior hunter retriever.
    Or it could be the last memory bird of a triple in a Master Hunter setup.

    Contrasting marks can be challenging because they may influence the expectation as the retriever is sent for a mark.
    As an example, imagine a junior hunter with little experience.
    His first mark is a typical swim across a channel and pick up the bird on the shoreline. The next mark is a contrasting mark where pup must swim across a channel, cross and island, re-enter a second channel and drive up a hill to get the mark.
    In pup's mind, the normal routine is to swim across water, and pick up the bird.
    So in this contrasting mark, the island becomes a mental barrier and pup thinks the bird must be there since he has not been exposed in training to marks requiring a re-entry into water.

    Another contrasting mark for a double could be a go bird shot flyer across a channel and up on land. Then the memory bird sitting out in the water in a patch of cattails.
    An inexperienced dog typically will likely swim across the channel and hunt on land rather than hunting in the water, because the first marks was on land and the normal routine has been to swim across water and pickup the mark on the shore.

    On land marks, the indented triple is a classic example of contrasting marks. In this setup, a long shot flyer is mark #1 thrown to the left in sparse cover, a short middle bird is thrown in heavy cover,
    and the go-bird is thrown long to the right.
    Typically an untrained retriever wants to pick up the marks, outside-outside then middle.
    In this setup, if the retriever has picked up the go bird and the flyer, he has run long twice and now needs to hunt short and carefully in heavy cover for the last memory mark.
    Typically an untrained retrieve would over-run the memory mark and might drift long sucking back to the scent of the flyers.

    Terrain can also be used for contrasting marks.
    For example, first single thrown long in the flat of a wide valley.
    Next single, with the correct line angled up a steep hill..
    Typically an untrained retriever might suck back down into the wide valley and hunt long rather than hunting diagonally up the hill to the mark.
    Since these are contrasting marks, pup likely would have no problem if the
    order were run opposite..short diagonal single up hill first, then a second single long in the flat.

    Cover can be used for contrasting marks.
    For example, a double where the go bird is long in sparse cover, then the memory bird requires the retriever to penetrate through cover changes such as sparse cover, a wall of cattails, a slough, another wall of cattails to the mark.

    Sometimes it is best to sequence the order to teach concepts for an inexperience pup. For example,
    if pup has never been exposed to an island mark, where the island is a patch of cattails, start with that mark so you pup is not influenced by the contrast of previous marks that all were swim across the channel to shoreline marks. As your pup gets more experienced, then you can start to run contrasting marks to challenge him, but always strive for success and progress step by step, building your pup's confidence rather than getting him in trouble by advancing too quickly with contrasting marks.

    Also think about how your blinds either re-enforce a concept or dilute a marking concept because they contrast with a mark.
    For example, a long blind after a short check-down mark may be a different lesson to your retriever compared to a short check-down mark after a long blind.
    The long blind after a short check-down mark may help pup learn to line through old falls,
    while a short check-down after running a long blind may help teach pup your cues for a short check-down mark.

    So whenever you are setting up your training marks, think about what your pup's expectation may be due to a previous mark(s) and/or blind(s).

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