Want to teach your dog the skill of retrieving? The best tool in a retriever trainer’s training bag is the bumper. Bumpers come in many styles, shapes, colors, and materials. Some bumpers are designed especially for launcher systems, like the Retriev-R-Trainer launchers, where others are intended to be thrown by the trainer.
The most frequent question we get from customers is, “What type of bumper do I need?” This largely depends on what type of training, how you plan on using the bumper, and even the time of year.
Canvas bumpers such as our, LCS Canvas Bumper, provide a natural feel in the dogs' mouth. They also have the ability to have training bird scent injected into the body of the bumper to provide added scent. This scent is important when training on blind retrieves. We recommend the Training Scent Injector Syringe and our Bird Training Scent. Canvas bumpers also are great for winter months as they will not freeze and crack in the cold like plastic and rubber bumpers could. Canvas bumpers do have some downsides to them. With canvas bumpers being absorptive, they will get dirty and possibly moldy if not dried out properly after each use. Another drawback is when using an orange bumper, they will fade in brightness if left in the sun over time.
Staff Tip: When training your dog on blind retrieves, you want the dog to smell the bird scent and not get used to smelling a dirty bumper.
Plastic bumpers and rubber bumpers are generally firm and are very durable. They often incorporate knobby textures to provide additional grip for your dog. Plastic bumpers, like the SportDOG Plastic Bumper, even include an air value that allows you to change how buoyant the bumper is in water. This allows the trainer to change the difficulty of water retrieves. A real bird might float high or be just below the surface, so it’s great to teach your dog to not always look for things floating high in the water. Unlike canvas bumpers, you cannot inject scent into plastic bumpers due to its hard plastic material. Additionally, the texture of the plastic bumper in the dogs’ mouth is not the most natural feeling for a dog and can even become slippery when covered in dogs' saliva.
Staff Tip: If you want to use training scents with a plastic bumper, we recommend using a scent band around it. You can make your own or try the Hallmark Training Scent Bands that come in either black or white.
Bumpers come in a variety of different colors to allow the trainer to change the difficulty on their training. It's known that dogs see in shades of black and white. As a result, motion and contrast are very important when using bumpers. Most bumpers come in either orange or white, but some even have a “flasher” option that is half-white, half-black to provide a flickering contrast when in the air.
When working in a wooded area or a shaded background, white bumpers work best because they can be easily seen by the dog due to the contrast. When working on a bright day or have white buildings in the background, the orange bumper will provide enough contrast to help the dog track the bumper better.
When training for blind retrieves, we recommend using an orange bumper. To a dog, orange is close in contrast to that of grass and trees, making the bumper harder to see from a distance. When doing blind retrieves, you want the dog using their nose more than their eyes to find the bumper. While orange hides the bumper from your dog, it’s easily able to be spotted by humans, allowing the trainer to see the bumper and help guide the dog into the retrieve.
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