Marking drills are an essential part of any field training program, and should be done each time you take your dog out for training. You will need one helper (thrower) and at least 6 bumpers or dead birds. For puppies or adult beginners, start in a bare or minimal cover field. Have your helper walk out 20 yards and when pup has been told "Mark", throw bumpers or birds (one at a time) as follows:
Mix the throws any way you like; the object is to teach the pup to mark falls and not to go to the old fall location. When pup is confident at 20 yards, move the line back so that you are 30 yards, then 40 yards, etc. away from the thrower. Don't try to go from 20 to 100 yards in one training session. Going slowly allows your pup to build confidence. When your pup is doing well at about 80 yards, introduce light cover to the drill. For this step, use birds rather than bumpers. Have the helper throw medium length, then short, then long in the cover (X5, X1, X3). You have now introduced hunting and the use of the pup's nose into your drills. Continue to do at least one set of marking drills in each training session, and don't do all of them long: throw in a 40 yard mark on a regular basis. When your pup is doing well on marks up to 100 yards, you can begin to add crossing roads, ditches, changes in cover or water to the drills. If your pup is not doing well during a session, stop, shorten it up, reduce any obstacles, and run your pup again. What will serve you best is the confidence that pup has in being successful at whatever length or degree of difficulty be CAN do on that particular day, and then you can end your session on a positive note. Happy training!