There is a bewildering range of dummies on the market. They come in all shapes, sizes and colours. It can be difficult to know where to start and which dummies are relevant to different stages of training. Here’s a short guide to the types of dummies available and what they do.
The ‘traditional’ canvas dummy
The go-to dummy and still the most popular. These come in a variety of sizes from the tiny ‘snipe’, puppy dummy or disc up to a hefty 6lb+ hare/goose dummy. Usually made with a toggle for ease of throwing, they also come without (an ‘endless’ variety) for those dogs that like to carry the dummy by the toggle, swinging it around madly or dragging it along the ground as they run back into you.
Plastic or rubber dummies
These are usually referred to as ‘water’ dummies, they are light, easy to throw and float on water. They are also great in muddy terrain as they can be easily wiped clean.
Different shapes and textures
Dummies now come in many different shapes, from discs that roll when they land to bird-like dummies, with a flapping head & wings that help the dog to get a feel for carrying a real bird and discourage the dog from shaking their head as they run back. Some come with rabbit fur or with feathers which give the dog a sense of the ‘real thing’ and helps them start to transition from dummies to cold game.
When you want to build up a dog’s confidence to retrieve, it’s sensible to use a dummy that is easy for them to see. While a dog isn’t colour blind, the colours they can distinguish are more limited than ours. White or blue dummies are clearly visible against most backgrounds (obviously not snow, in the case of a white dummy!). These are ideal when you want the dog to be able to build up their confidence and find the dummy by sight. An orange, red or green dummy will make it more testing for them and will force them to use their nose.
What should I buy?
This is ultimately down to what you want to do with your dog and what stage of training you are at. If you’re starting out with a puppy, a snipe, puppy dummy or a dummy ball is easy for them to carry and can be used when they are older for hunting practice. The KONG Fetch Stick is great for dogs who have been retrieving tennis balls as it has the same feel but with the shape of a traditional dummy. To get the dog used to carrying some weight, start with a ½ lb canvas dummy before you progress to the heavier 1lb size. After that, the world is your oyster! Before you know it, you’ll have a collection of every shape, size and colour.
If you are jus