In the first article in this mini-series we looked at the purpose of Permanent Blinds
And how to choose locations.
Today’s article is all about training.
We have three exercises to help you
- Establish your first permanent blind
- Lengthen your permanent blind
- Adding more permanent blinds
Each of the exercises is an extract from Passing Grade Three (available from the Gundog Club bookshop)
‘ESTABLISHING THE PERMANENT BLIND’
- Choose your location.
- Run a couple of marked retrieves to the chosen location.
- Extend the distance of the marked retrieves. Increase the distance by just a few yards at a time by moving further back from the PB location. Do not move the location of the retrieve! Send the dog to the exact same place each time. Work out to fifty yards. Take at least two sessions over this. Don’t increase distances too quickly or the dog may ‘drift’ or ‘curve’ as you lengthen the retrieves. These are still ‘marked retrieves’ make sure the dog sees them fall.
- Now for your first ‘blind’. Before you begin the next training session, place a dummy in your PB location. The dog must not see you do this.
- Bring out the dog and heel him to within twenty yards of the dummy.
- Sit the dog and ‘line’ him back exactly as you have been doing before. The only difference is that he did not see you place the dummy. You are starting very close to the retrieve and he will probably see it as soon as he sets off. This is OK.
You can see that the chances of success here are very high. It may seem like a ridiculously easy exercise, but it is an important experience for the dog.
What can go wrong?
[wp_ad_camp_1]If the dog is reluctant to go on his first attempt (and he might be), move closer and encourage him on his way, go with him if necessary.
In the unlikely event that the dog sets off in the wrong direction, recall him immediately. Then start again from the beginning of the exercise, throwing short marked retrieves to your chosen location before attempting short blinds again.
Pay particular attention to the dog’s alignment and focus. Check out The Outrun: Lining your dog back for more information.
Once the dog is successful over this short distance you will begin to send him out blind to the same location from further away. Each time you must place the dummy whilst the dog is unable to see or hear what you are doing, however inconvenient this may be.
‘LENGTHEN THE PERMANENT BLIND’
- Over several sessions gradually move the position you line the dog back from, further away from the dummy. Work your way back to 50 yards again, further if your location allows it.
- Now try and make the retrieves a little less obvious. If you have been using your cleanest sparkly dummies, substitute them for older grubbier ones that are less obvious. If there are leaves on the ground, you can begin to tuck the dummy into these to disguise it a little. At no time should the dog hesitate, be sure to go back a step if he does so.
Before you move on, make sure you can answer ‘yes’ to the following two questions
Q1. Does your dog run out confidently to the permanent blind location, on command, from a distance of at least fifty yards?
Q2. Has your dog had several sessions successfully retrieving blinds from your ‘permanent blind’ location?
The seeds of trust have now been sown. Your dog knows for a fact that there will be a dummy waiting there for him, even though he did not see it fall and cannot immediately see it lying on the ground.
The next step is to help him understand that this new command of running back without having seen anything fall, can apply in more than one location, by setting up some more permanent blinds.
If you are cunning and place your permanent blinds carefully, you may eventually be able to run both from the same starting point. If your training location does not permit this, it doesn’t matter.
‘MORE PERMANENT BLINDS’
- Choose a new distinctive permanent blind location, at least thirty yards from your first.
- Teach the new permanent blind thoroughly step-by-step just as you did in Exercise One until your dog runs it confidently every time.
- In each session you should now run each blind in turn.
- Teach a third permanent blind thoroughly in exactly the same way.
You will find that the dog catches on more quickly each time, and that you don’t need to spend quite so much time on each stage. Be careful though not to get too complacent and rush things.
Now you have three different permanent blind locations For several days, in each session, run each of the three blinds in turn and vary the order in which you do so.
Q1. Does your dog run out confidently to all three permanent blind locations, on command, from a distance of at least 50 yards?
Q2. Has your dog had several sessions successfully retrieving blinds from all three permanent blind locations in any order?
If you can answer yes to these questions, then you and your dog are doing really well. You now have a dog that understands that the word ‘back’ means run out away from the handler, even when he has not seen a dummy fall there.
What does it all mean?
Of course, this is just the beginning, and you need to be aware of the limitations of what your dog has now learnt. He understands this:
‘On a nice day, when there are no other dogs around, and nothing better to do, the word ‘back’ means run out to that oak tree over there, or to the gap in the hedge to the right, or to that small birch tree to the left’. If I do this I will get a dummy.
He has not yet learnt that ‘back’ means ‘if you run out and keep going in the direction I decide, there will be a dummy there, no matter what else you have seen happen recently, and no matter where we might be, or in which direction I send you’.
That takes a little longer.
But you have made an excellent start.
Expanding the concept
We now need to proof this back command a little – add some simple distractions, and help the dog to begin to understand that back means back in a lot of different circumstances.
We’ll have a look at that next time
If you enjoy my articles, you might like my new book: The Happy Puppy Handbook – a definitive guide to early puppy care and training.