Bird Dog & Retriever News

December / January 2004 issue Page 26

 December/January 2004 Now in our thirteenth year. www.Bdarn.com


Mastering The Blind
(Part Three)
By David Krassler

 Well, so far you have been focusing your spaniel on the two pieces of the puzzle that are required in constructing a blind retrieve: "lining and casting." This month we will start to put the two pieces of the puzzle together. Hopefully you have developed good attitude on the lining and casting drills. Your spaniel now is kicking up some dust when he is sent on the "back" command.
Before I begin this month's lesson, let's do a quick review of what our spaniels have learned. They now can perform the three-handed casting drill "cold," with 95% success. We expect the same in the lining drills during the "pattern blinds." They are also capable of running a selected line "cold" with the same success rate. It will be nearly impossible to get a consistent 100% success rate on all drills every day. There are too many environmental issues that can arise. If our spaniels are 90% successful in these exercises, then it is time to put things together and move forward.
Let's get right to the fun part of schooling: the blind retrieve! We are going to use the same area that you have previously used for the eight legged pattern blind. We want to have the pattern blind set up exactly as it was when you were introducing the dog to lining.
Set out your dummies ahead of time, because we are going to start this drill cold. Choose a line to run. Using the proper wind direction to assist your spaniel in being success
 ful, I would start this drill on a 100-yard line to the dummy pile.
Line up your spaniel, and send him for a retrieve from the dummy pile. Line him again and send him back to the same pile. When the dog is approximately halfway to the pile, stop him with your whistle. Naturally, he should immediately, turn and "hup," facing you. Set yourself in the prayer position. Count to three, and then cast him on with a hand signal and a verbal "back" command. We want the dog to understand from the outset that it will occasionally be stopped while taking an initial line. My recommendation is to stop the spaniel on one out of four casts.
Most spaniels will stop and take the "back" command without loosing stride. However, there are some that will just sit there refusing to cast back. In this case, simply move up as close as you need to your spaniel. Give another back cast. Often this reinforcement through proxim
 ity will be enough to encourage your student to go back. For some, you may need to throw a dummy to the pile to convince the dog to continue his line.
A word of caution. Be careful that you do not stop the dog too often while running pattern blinds. This will cause the spaniel to begin "popping." What is "popping?" This is when a spaniel will stop, turn to the handler, and look for direction as to which way to go. Dogs who "pop" do this without a whistle or verbal command. It is a highly undesirable habit, and is penalized in field events. "Popping" has two common causes. The first occurs when the animal is stopped too often on its initial line. The spaniel will start to anticipate the stop command, and beat you to the whistle! This also will cause them to loose their desire and attitude on taking and running the initial line.
The second cause of popping occurs when the spaniel is stopped and cast too often. The handler fails to give the dog enough independence to hunt his bird. This makes the spaniel stop and look for direction (or reaffirmation) from the handler while questing game. In either case, the dog has lost his independence, and will not hunt for the bird through its scent cone. This is highly undesirable. We want confident, intelligent, bold spaniels.

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Copyrights Bird Dog & Retriever News May 2004
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