Flyers are a retriever's favorite thing in the world, so on behalf of the dog, it's always great to see a flyer station as part of a series.
But flyers present challenges. Both Lumi and Laddie would sometimes fail to bring a flyer back on their early days. And both dogs also needed a lot of work in their steadiness with flyers as the working dog and especially honoring.
This post isn't about those challenges. Rather, this post is about the challenge a flyer presents for line mechanics, and an idea for a drill that can be run without actual flyers to work on those issues.
First to describe the issues. It's not unusual in my experience to see the judge place a flyer station as the go-bird well to one side of the field and fairy short, maximizing its suction away from the other marks. If the dog swings her head to the flyer station prematurely, she doesn't get a good look at the early throws, or may miss the second mark of a triple entirely.
On the other hand, if the dog holds her gaze on the first bird until the next gunshot, and then misjudges the direction of the sound and out of wishful thinking turns to look toward the flyer rather than the second gunner, again she may not see the second throw or may only glimpse it.
If the judges meanwhile decide to retire the second gun, as well as stacking other factors against the dog on that mark, you have a pretty good challenge.
But if you don't have many opportunities to train with flyers, how do you prepare a dog to exercise good line mechanics in the face of such suction?
Here's one idea: Setup the same sort of triple, complete with retired second mark if desired, and have the gunner at the "flyer" station, whether throwing a bird or a bumper, swing the article and perhaps even yell hey-hey or blow a duck call WHILE the other marks are being thrown.
If the dog can learn to perform well with that sort of distraction, she may be somewhat better prepared to handle a flyer distraction at her next event.
Possible risks I have thought of:
* The training is ineffective, because the dog doesn't generalize the lesson to flyers
* The dog gets so good at ignoring the "flyer" during the early marks that she ignores it, or loses intensity, when it's actually time to watch the flyer.
I'll give this drill a try for a few days and see what happens. Hopefully, at the minimum, no irreversible harm.