Mar 23, 2012, 3:43 PM EDT
By Jerry Sather
The Labs Unlimited Kennel Team is back from a couple of great weeks of winter training in Texas. We did two weeks of dawn to dusk workouts at the Mark Edward’s Training facility in Bonham, Texas about an hour North of Dallas. The weather was fantastic with temps into the low 80s and ponds brimming full from 9 inches of much needed rain for the area a couple weeks before we arrived. The whole region of northern Texas has become a hotbed for both resident and “snow-birding” dog trainers like myself. Edward’s place is one of a number of first-class properties in the region offering retriever trainers and their dogs enough land and unique water features to provide critical training ground variety all winter long.
As usual, our trip South was with the intent to do a ton of water work – something that can’t be had in Minnesota at least four months out of the year. We worked on a lot of angle entry cheating water blinds and water marks. We worked on a lot of keyhole blinds. And we worked a lot on getting the dogs in and out of water on the way to the blind. Upcoming blogs will look at each one of those training scenarios and what they teach the dogs to do, and as importantly, not to do.
With Raider running Senior-level AKC hunt tests this summer he will be required to do double, marked retrieves on land and water and also be able to complete water and land blind retrieves. When the dog runs a blind retrieve, land or water, the judges want to see the handler “challenge” the blind.
As last week’s “In the Dog House” covered, theoretically the “perfect” retrieve would have the dog run an absolute straight line from the handler’s side to the bird uninfluenced by terrain, water or wind. However, that seldom happens. Dogs will almost always veer from the line at least slightly for one reason or another. In fact, on blind retrieves in a hunt test or field trial it’s good to handle the dog once or twice on the way to a bird as it proves to the judges the dog is trained and willing to take the commands. So when a dog veers slightly off line you hit the whistle; the dog sits and looks back at you for direction.
To “challenge” the blind means to give the dog direction that will put it again on the straightest possible line from where it is sitting to the spot of the bird. Again, the dog is to take that direction regardless of the obstacles that lay between it and the bird. Every move the handler and the dog make should show direct, straight-line progress to picking up the bird.
Many of the training scenarios we ran with Versus Country Raider and the other dogs in Texas were meant to instill and reinforce the dog’s understanding of the subtle handling commands and running (or swimming) a straight line to a downed bird regardless of what lies in the way.
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