The Bucket Drill
Ever since I started running dog trials and hunt tests there has been controversy regarding bucket training your spaniel. Many people feel that bucket training causes an artificial pattern causing the dog not to run the wind properly. I have seen a few dogs at field trials that were bucket trained actually ignore the scent of bird until the bird came into the dog’s pattern. It is my belief that the wind should dictate the pattern your dog should run, not a trained pattern. A big cast on the downwind side and shorter cast into the wind. That being said, I use bucket training with all my dogs but it has very little to do with pattern, rather obedience. The problem bucket training causes for some dogs is the trainer doesn’t allow their dog to deviate off their pattern when the dog smells a bird in the field, conditioning the dog to always stay in pattern regardless of wind or scent of a bird. In my training the bird trumps all. Once my dogs smell a bird 10 yards or 50, I expect them to go get it, period.
My bucket training set up has 2 buckets 30 yards apart and a short fence connected to each about 10 yards to the inside of the buckets. This prevents the dogs from cutting an angle to the dummy. Let the dog see you plant the first dummy behind the bucket just to the outside. I take the dog to the center of both buckets about 15 yards back and then send the dog to the dummy. I want to build confidence and understanding for the dog with this drill. I do the same to the other side and repeat until the dog understands the concept. As the dog gains understanding I place the further around the bucket to get the dog to make a bigger turn around the bucket. Eventually, I will put a dummy at the right bucket and have the dog go around the left bucket before I give the dog a permission cast to go get the dummy at the right bucket. When the dog understands that, I start to have them run a figure 8 pattern around the buckets with no dummy. This is where I get into the obedience portion of the drill. While running the buckets, I may throw a dummy and have the dog hup, have the dog retrieve to hand or just hup the dog, stop the dog and send him in the other direction or drop a dummy at my feet and call him in to me, etc. You can be creative.
With the bucket drill we are working on obedience and you can implement all kinds of training nuances in this drill. Work on your dog’s weakness’s. Another great thing about the bucket drill is you don’t need a lot of space you can do it your back yard.
One important note. When you get your dog into the field let your dog run the wind naturally and remember the bird trumps all!
This article was originally written for Boykin Spaniel magazine