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The Reluctant Retriever Dummy

Having recently launched the Field & Fireside Reluctant Retriever Dummy to the market, I thought it would be useful to explain how the product came about and how it can be used as a training tool with dogs who have retrieving issues.

Innovative design

The idea for the product came after a conversation that I had with Claire Denyer, of Family Dog Services, who specialises in working with reluctant retrievers, and Jo Perrott, founder of the Ladies Working Dog Group. We all felt there was a need for a product that could help dogs learn to retrieve with confidence and which could also help a dog that wasn’t delivering to hand (or playing ‘keep away’). It needed to be simple to use, have the look & feel of a normal dummy, and be a positive and rewarding experience for the dog. And so, the Field & Fireside Reluctant Retriever Dummy (let’s call it the RRD) was born.

The RRD is a training aid – a tool that is designed to help you overcome retrieving issues that your dog is having. Once they learn to retrieve the RRD confidently, you should be able to transition to traditional canvas dummies. With that in mind, the RRD was designed with the following features:

  • Lightweight – weighing only 120g (1/4lb), it is easy for your dog to pick up & carry and suitable for dogs of all sizes

  • Toggle free – designed to be used over fairly short distances, a throwing toggle is not needed. This also means the dog is more likely to correctly pick up & hold the dummy in the middle rather than swinging it around by a toggle..

  • Made from strong duck canvas – it has the same look and feel as a normal canvas dummy so that dogs get used to carrying a round, traditional dummy.

  • Additional small pocket – placed at one end of the dummy, the small pocket is just big enough to fit small treats or kibble and closes with a Velcro fastening.

Instructions for use

  1. Place a training treat or kibble in the pouch and close the velcro fastening while the dog is paying attention to you. Throw the dummy to the dog or tease them with it if they don’t already catch items – once they have caught the dummy and placed it in your hand, you can reward them with the treat from the dummy pocket. This shows them that in order to get the reward, they need to put the dummy in your hand.

  2. Throw the dummy a short distance, letting the dog go straight out for the dummy without any steadiness or formality. When the dog delivers the dummy to you, reward them by opening the pouch and giving them the treat/kibble (see video below for a demonstration).

  3. Once the dog is going out confidently, you can start to build in steadiness & formalise the retrieve.

  4. As the dog progresses to delivering the dummy to you successfully on a consistent basis, transition over to normal canvas dummies.

With the Field & Fireside Reluctant Retriever Dummy, you can now enhance your dog's retrieving skills and overcome any retrieving issues in a positive and rewarding way, building confidence and a stronger bond with your dog.

Claire Denyer demonstrates an informal retrieve using the Reluctant Retriever Dummy in this video.

Here, Claire explains in more detail how she uses the Reluctant Retriever Dummy to build up to a formal retrieve.

The Reluctant Retriever Dummy can also be used in conjunction with the LWDG Tennis Ball Wrap (small size) for dogs that love to retrieve tennis balls but aren't keen to pick up canvas.

Claire Denyer runs Family Dog Services along with her husband John. They provide training and behavioural services for dogs including a progressive gundog training programme. Find out more about Claire and John and the services they offer on the Family Dog Services website

Jo Perrott founded the Ladies Working Dog Group in 2015, with the goal of being a safe space where women could share experiences and support one another in a shared love of working dogs. Since then the group has grown into a community of over 8,000 members worldwide. Jo is also a regular contributor to the Gundog Journal. Discover more about the LWDG at

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