Chad Hines of Willow Creek Kennels is one of D.T. Systems top Pro Trainers. He has developed a new training technique that has greatly increased the performance of the upland dogs he is training.
“Dummy Launchers have been used for some time in the retrieving community,” says Hines. “Recently, we have been using them in our upland training as well. We have found dummy launchers to be extremely beneficial in increasing prey drive and marking ability.”
In the spring of 2010 Willow Creek Kennels visited fellow Orvis endorsed training and breeding facility, Wildrose Kennels in Oxford, MS. Chad and other trainers from Willow Creek were amazed to see the British labs at Wildrose pick a bumper in a flight pen with over 80 pigeons and pheasants flying around them. This idea transpired into firing a dummy launcher in line with a flushed bird, which a pointing dog had found and pointed. Chad found with proper training, dogs will mark the dummy as if it were a downed bird.
Chad starts by giving the dog the “whoa” cue. Next, he fires a light blank without a bird present. If the dog retrieves the dummies well, this step in training will be very easy. He plays this game until the dog will retrieve the bumper in any situation. They never fire the bumper unless the dog is successful with the “whoa” cue. The fired dummy is positive reinforcement for a properly executed “whoa”. This process is similar to our use of Positive Reinforcement Pigeons which strengthens our dog’s “whoa” using positive reinforcement.
“Next, we transition to retrieving a dummy with a bird present. To accomplish this, we put a bird out and bring the dog in to point it.” Chad says. “We then flush the bird and let the dog chase it. When the dog returns, we “whoa” them, and fire the dummy. This adds a great middle step between having no birds present to being able to walk in, flush the bird, fire the launcher in line with the bird, and our dog will mark and retrieve the dummy. This process allows us to provide a positive reinforcement retrieve on every job well done.”
“The D.T. Super-Pro Dummy Launcher is the perfect tool for this training. The launcher is easy to use and sends the dummy as far as we need for any situation,” says Hines. “We have shot thousands of loads through our Super-Pro launchers and they keep performing.”
There is a big difference between a hand thrown bumper and a bumper fired from a launcher. The increased speed of a fired bumper stimulates prey drive. Being predators, dogs naturally will chase anything that tries to get away.
“When we first start our launcher introduction we use a light blank and fire it low creating a bouncing, rolling bumper that most pups cannot resist,” says Hines. “This bounding dummy is a great way to develop retrieving and prey desire in any dog. It is very important to fire away from the dog because the dummy needs to appear to be trying to get away and not attack the dog. To increase prey drive, we create situations where birds and dummies try to escape the grasp of the dog.”
Before starting to train with a dummy launcher, be sure to have a proper gun introduction for the dog and use an assistant in the beginning to distance the dog from the launcher. This will decrease the chance of having gun problems with the dog.
Chad has found he can greatly increase the marking ability of dogs using this training method. He starts with light blanks and easy marks. In all dog training, the smaller the steps taken, the faster and easier we get there. He then, slowly adds difficulty to the marks and increase the distance by using heavier charged blanks. In Willow Creek’s training program, they try to replicate everything from a high-flying snow goose mark in the open to a low flying woodcock in an aspen thicket. The D.T. Super-Pro dummy launcher makes all these scenarios possible.
The innovation of the dummy launcher has greatly benefited Willow Creek’s training program. Dummy launchers allow them to increase prey drive, marking ability in waterfowl and upland training, and reward our dogs positively for a job well done even when shooting birds isn’t an option.
Chad says, “Dummy launchers can be great tools for training and playing with your dog—just remember to introduce your dog properly to gunfire and enjoy time spent a field with your dog.”
For more information on Willow Creek’s training methods, please visit their website at