Blind retrieving is the pinnacle of your retriever training.
This is what you have been building up to! And you naturally want to get on with it.
However, rushing a dog with some basic handling skills, into genuine ‘cold’ blind retrieves without sufficient preparation, is a common cause of frustration and failure.
How to fail
Teaching a dog to stop to whistle, and to cast left, right, and back from a remote position to marked dummies, is not going to cut it as preparation for retrieving blind in the field
[wp_ad_camp_1]The dog will soon experience failure, and lose confidence in your directions.
If you are constantly having to handle him way before he gets to the area of fall, you’ll soon struggle to get him away from you for any distance worth mentioning.
If he is a very confident dog, there’s a risk that before long he’ll reckon he knows the job better than you do.
And be ignoring your signals altogether.
What do we want to achieve?
The idea is to get the dog into the area of fall so that his nose can find the bird. We need to have a dog that travels hard and fast along the line he has been sent, without diverting around minor obstacles.
The further away the area of fall is, the more accurate our initial line needs to be is we are to get the dog into the critical area to hunt.
So, we are not just looking for a dog that will handle prettily.
We want one that will line out from our side, and Keep GOING until until he hits the retrieve or is stopped by a whistle and instructed to hunt. This is just as important as handling, if not more so. And it takes practice
How to succeed
So, lets assume we have a dog that we have taught to take directions nicely, using a series of drills with marked retrieves.
How do we get from there, to a dog that will travel confidently away from us over distance of 100 yards or more, and then stop, handle, and hunt on cue when he gets there?
The answer is, through a series of transition blinds.
What are transition blinds for?
The purpose of transition blinds is to prepare the dog for cold blinds by practicing the concepts involved in a situation where success is almost inevitable.
In other words we are setting the dog up to succeed. A crucial part of that is getting the dog to line out away from us over longer and longer distances, with confidence.
Examples of transition blinds
We’ve already looked at creating ‘permanent blinds’ in a previous article. A permanent blind is one of the simplest types of transition blind.
It involves sending a dog to a location where he is confident there will be a retrieve waiting for him. He is confident of this because he has found a retrieve there on several occasions before.
Part of transitioning to cold blinds lies in significantly increasing the distance of these permanent blinds. It’s important to keep the dog running a straight line so don’t increase the distances too quickly.
As an aid, you can initially use marker posts either side of the line and a third of the way along it, to help hold the dog on course
We have also looked at the topic of ‘retrieve markers’. This is another type of transition blind, it is in effect a ‘Portable’ permanent blind.
The marker aids the dog as he approaches the retrieve, reassuring him he is heading in the right direction, keeping him straight and ensuring success.
The blind can then be re-run without the marker on the second or third attempt
You may think all this seems like cheating! After all, there are no markers when you send your dog for the real thing. But the point is to build the dog’s confidence in heading out there, all on his own.
Re-runs – using your old blinds
When you first run your dog on cold blinds, they should be really short, less than half the length of the permanent blinds you have been running.
But what you can then do, is use these cold blinds again, as re-runs the next day.
This means the dog is running on a familiar line, so success is likely. And if you re-run two or three times, you can increase the distance significantly
Getting your dog to run straight lines is a huge advantage when it comes to blind retrieving.
Ideally, if you know where a dummy is, you would be able to send the dog so straight and true that he simply ran right up to it.
But of course, life isn’t quite that simple, and there are all kinds of factors which conspire to have your dog drift off course. When this happens, and it will, you need to be able to help you dog get back on track again. And that is where casting comes in.
So, the second aspect to this process we call blind retrieving, is to get your dog confident at casting blind and at increasing distances from you. And we do this using a series of drills.
These are like our initial casting lessons, but the dummies are set out before we get the dog involved and we build up the distances in stages.
Just because your dog knows his left, right, and back cues, and is nice and sharp on the stop whistle, does not mean that he is ready for handling on blinds. If you attempt to handle your dog on blinds at this early stage, you are setting him up to fail.
If you have got this far, you don’t want to spoil all your hard work now. Take the time to train your dog through this transitional stage.
Build up his confidence in lining out blind, using retrieve markers, long permanent blinds, and re-runs of your short, cold blinds as you introduce them.
Make his first cold blinds ridiculously short and easy. Build him up. Let him feel like the smartest dog in the world, and you and he will soon be a winning team.