| 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
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