Field Events & Field Training

Glossary of Field Terms

Most sports and hobbies have their own special terminology. Training and running retrievers in organized field events is no different. Learning the “lingo” before you begin will increase your knowledge and help speed your progress.

Air: To allow the dog to empty his bowels and bladder.

Angling: To cross terrain or enter water on a diagonal line.

Back: A directional signal with a raised arm for the dog to move away from the handler. A verbal command, generally used to send the dog on a blind retrieve, although, in some areas of the country, it is also used to send the dog for marks rather than using the dog’s name.

Balk: Refusal by the dog to leave the handler when sent on a retrieve.

Baseball: A drill for teaching directional casts for the dog to take right and left “overs” and straight “back” casts. The various retrieves are set up in baseball diamond format.

Bird Boy: The person who places the bird for a blind retrieve or throws the bird or bumper for the dog to retrieve.

Birdiness: The level of desire to retriever birds.

Birdy: A high level of desire to retrieve birds.


1. A retrieve on either land or water where the dog does not know where the location of the bird or bumper is, but the handler does. The handler sends the dog to the location, and if necessary, further directs the dog with whistles and casts.

2. A structure used by hunters to hide themselves or for the gunners to hide behind when a mark is retired.

3. A structure used behind the line where a dog and handler to wait until their turn to retrieve.

Bolter: A dog who runs away from his handler during competition or during training.

Break: A dog leaves on a retrieve without being sent.

Bulldog: A bird thrown or shot while the dog is returning from a previous retrieve. It is done to see if the dog will drop the bird he is carrying and switch to the new bird. In addition, it is a diversion for further retrieves. It can be used in Master Hunting Tests and is used on occasion in field trials.

Bumper: Sometimes known as a dummy, it is used to simulate a bird. Just like a boat bumper, it is a plastic or canvas tubular object. It usually has a rope attached so it can be easily thrown in a high arc to simulate a bird flying up and being shot.

Bye Dog: In tests that require an honor, a bye dog will be needed to run the test at the very end so that the last dog being judged can perform the honor. The bye dog can be an unentered dog, or an entered dog no longer in contention.

Call Backs: A list of those dogs remaining in the field trial or hunting test after each series is run.

Cast: A signal given to the dog with the arm and hand, and/or voice, to give it direction after he has been stopped on the whistle.

Cast Refusal: The dog refuses to respond to the direction or cast given by the handler.

Chaining: Creating a reliable series of behaviors from simple to complex behaviors. Can be back-chaining (starting with a complex behavior and going backwards one step at a time until the desired behavior is formed), or forward chaining (starting with simple behaviors and building their complexity). This is a term used in behavioral theory which can be applied to dog training. Each item in the chain is a stimulus to the next item or response in the training sequence. An example would be telling your dog to “sit,” the marks go down, your hand goes over the dog’s head, you give the dog’s name, and the dog is then released to pick up the mark.

Channel Blind: A long, deep and narrow body of water the dog must swim without coming to shore, unless directed to by the handler, in order to reach the bird or bumper.

Cold Blind: A blind the dog has never run before.

Controlled Break: The dog makes an attempt to break, but is immediately brought under control by the handler.

Cover: Grass, brush or any other vegetation, on land or in the water, which may conceal the bird from the dog.

Creep: The dog creeps forward on the line while marking. If the dog has crept too far forward, many judges will ask you to have the dog return to heel position before being sent for the mark. This verges on breaking.

Cue: A verbal cue to the dog (such as “dead bird” indicating a blind), or an instruction such as “way out” for a push bird or “easy” for a shorter mark.

Delayed Bird: A bird which is shot after a dog returns to the line after retrieving one or more birds of a multiple mark. The dog is then sent for this delayed bird before retrieving the balance of the original birds remaining in the field.

Diversion: A mark or blind which is included in a test in order to divert the dog. This makes the test more difficult as the dog can be sent for another mark or a blind after picking up the diversion. A dry shot also can be used as a diversion.

Double: A marking test in which two separate birds are thrown, each in a different location, prior to the dog being sent to retrieve.

Dragback: A scent trail left by dogs returning with birds, especially through high cover where the birds’ scent is left on the vegetation.

Dry Gun or Shot: A shot by a gun without a bird being thrown or a flyer being shot.

Entry and Water Entry: The entry is the place where the line to the blind or mark enters the water. If the entry is at an angle, it can be called an angle entry. Water Entry usually refers to the style in which the dog enters the water, e.g., a big, flying water entry; a slow water entry; a tentative water entry, and so on.

Flat Throw or Square Throw: A bird or bumper which is thrown directly out from the throwers. It is thrown neither back toward the line nor in towards the line. From the dog’s point of view, it is a 90 degree throw.

Flushing: There are live birds in the field and the dog is sent to find them and “flush” them into the air so the birds can be shot by the gunners. This occurs during upland hunting. Occasionally, judges will simulate this condition during hunt tests.

Force Fetch: A training method which convinces the dog he must retrieve when sent. The word “fetch” is considered a command, not a request.

Fountain: Two separate marks thrown from the same gun station, in different directions from each other. Also known as a Momma/Poppa throw.

Freezing: The dog refuses to give up the bird to the handler. The dog appears to freeze on the bird and ignores all commands to release it.

Go Bird: On multiple marks, the last bird down is normally referred to as the Go Bird.

Guns or Gunners: The persons who shoot the live flyers, or the ones that shoot blanks at dead birds or bumpers, or throws and shoots blanks at dead birds.

Handle: The handler gives verbal or cast signals to the dog, such as “handling” on a blind. The handler does this by blowing a whistle which gives the dog a command to turn, sit, and look at the handler. The handler then gives a cast or a command of one kind or another to the dog.

Happy Bumper or Fun Bumper: A bumper thrown in play, or as a reward or encouragement for the dog.

Hardmouth: A dog that abuses, is very rough on, or eats the birds it retrieves. This is a disqualifying fault.

Holding Blind: An enclosure for the dog and handler to stand behind while waiting to go to the line during a trial or hunt test. It is to prevent the waiting dog from seeing the tests before running them.

Honoring: A dog sits near the line while another dog is sent for the bird or birds. The honoring dog must sit quietly and not interfere with the working dog in any way. The honor is usually done after the dog completes its own retrieves.

Key Bird: The bird in a multiple mark which is likely to prove the most difficult bird for the dog to retrieve successfully.


1. The spot designated by the judges from where the dog is sent for retrieves.

2. A straight line from the dog and handler to the bird or bumper.

Line Manners: The dog’s behavior while coming to the line, while on the line waiting for the marks to be thrown, while waiting to be sent on a blind, when arriving back at the line with the bird, and when leaving the line after delivering the bird.


1. Positioning the dog in line with the bird before running a mark or blind.

2. Running a perfect line to a blind retrieve without whistles or casts being given by the handler. “He lined the blind.”

Mark: The fall of a bird, watched by the dog, which he should remember and retrieve when sent. A set up can be a double (two marks), a triple (three marks), or a quad (four marks).

Memory Bird: On multiple marks, this is a bird the dog has to remember, because it picked up another bird first. Any bird that is not picked up first becomes a memory bird.

No Bird: A bird that is either shot or thrown, but the dog is not sent for the bird because it is felt by the judges to be an unfair mark. It may be that the gunners missed the shot, or the shot bird glided out of the area, or some other situation that significantly alters the difficulty of this dog’s mark from the other dogs’ marks. The dog is then allowed to return to the line later and rerun this set of marks.

Over: An outstretched arm signal or verbal command for the dog to move in a lateral direction.

Pattern: Drills repeated by the dog to teach specific routines such as casting or taking lines.

Pin: The dog goes directly to the bird without a hunt. “He pinned the bird.”

Poison Bird: A bird is thrown as a mark and the dog is told to ignore it. Then the dogs is sent for a blind first. On some occasions, the dog is then sent to pick up the poison bird after running the blind.


1. When running a mark or a blind, the dog stops, turns, and looks to the handler for direction without a whistle having been blown.

2. The firing of a gun at the same time a bird or bumper is thrown to simulate the shooting of a bird.

Poppers: Blank shotgun shells, or guns firing blanks. The gunfire is for simulation only.

Quartering: Covering the ground in a systematic, back and forth pattern looking for game.

Rat Trap: A device used for holding a bird and keeping it afloat for a water blind.

Recast: A second attempt to send the dog from the line for a mark.

Retired Gun: Where the gunner disappears from sight after having thrown or shot a bird.

Shore Break: A method for teaching the dog not to avoid water, i.e., stay in the water and not run the shore.

Sight Blind: A blind run in a training session that the dog can see before being sent. The dog sees the bird or bumper on the ground, but it wasn’t thrown. The dog may have seen it dropped while the dog and handler were walking, or it may be visible on the ground from a distance as the dog and handler approach it. This is a good way to start young dogs on their blinds.

Sluice: To shoot a bird once it is down on the water.

Square Bird: See “Flat Throw.”

Steady: A dog is said to be steady when it does not leave to retrieve until sent.

Style: A dog’s manner of retrieving, running blinds, water entry, etc., which indicates his level of desire, speed, perseverance, and attitude. It’s a pleasure to watch a stylish dog work.

Switch: To leave the area of one fall after hunting there to go to the area of another fall. It is also a switch to put down one bird to pick up another. This could occur, for example, during a bulldog when the dog on his way in to the line drops the bird he has just retrieved to pick up the bird thrown as the bulldog. A switch is a disqualifying fault.

Trailing: The dog picks up the scent of a crippled bird that is running or moving out of the area, tracks it down, and brings it back to the handler.

Walk-up: Used to simulate hunting. The dog is not brought to the line and sat before the birds are shot. Instead, the handler, with the dog at heel, walks toward the line as the birds are thrown. Usually as the birds are in the air, the judge tells the handler “You may sit your dog.” Just like running the dog from the line, the handler still cannot send the dog until the judge so orders.

Water Refusal: The dog refuses to enter the water after being sent for a mark or a blind where the line to the mark or blind is through water.

Whistle Refusal: The dog fails to respond to the whistle when blown by the handler.