Bird Dog & Retriever News

August / September 2003 issue Page 29

 Mastering the Blind: part 2

By David Krassler

Last month we reviewed
the "baseball" concept, or
as many know it, "three-handed casting." This month I will go through the technical procedure that I use for "lining" a dog.
As I mentioned last month, the lining drills may be taught at the same time you are teaching three-handed casting. However these drills must be introduced separately and conducted in a different location. Keep in mind that we are constructing a puzzle. For now, we are only crafting the pieces and are not quite ready to put any of the pieces together. Once the pieces are established, we will be able to join them and form a meaningful picture.
Proper lining is the initial stage in directing your spaniel to travel in the general direction of the downed bird. This procedure is used in "blind retrieve" scenarios ­ meaning the dog is asked to retrieve a bird that he did not see fall. Sometimes you will line the dog directly to the fall. In some instances you may decide to line your spaniel slightly off the fallen bird to allow your spaniel's nose to take advantage of the wind.
Oh yes, wind direction is very important! There are three key points to remember. First, spaniels sent in a crosswind will tend to fade with wind as they continue their line. Naturally, the longer the line, the more pronounced the drifting would be. Second, going into the wind often leads to short retrieves due to the presence of downwind scent. If a spaniel will ever come up short on a blind, it will probably happen when making a retrieve into the wind. Finally put the wind at your back and it will help to drive the spaniel deep on its line! Keep these wind factors in mind as you advance through the lining drills. Use the wind to your advantage and keep things simple for your spaniel in the beginning stages.
First, you must locate a field that is fairly flat with few hazards or distractions. I view the optimal size as at least two hundred yards wide and the same distance in length. Ideally you will be able to keep things set up and return to this area daily while you are teaching this drill. The cover should be very minimal in the beginning stage. We want our spaniel to succeed and gain confidence as he learns these new tasks. Gradually increase the cover height as the spaniel builds confidence. At my kennel, we typically will mow a field and let it grow in while we are teaching pattern blinds. The increase in cover is gradual, and the dog slowly learns to trust your directions.
Next, find the center of the field and mark it. I use a broom handle that has one end shaped into a point, pushing the pointed end into the ground. This will mark the starting point that all your lining pattern drills will begin from. Now with the help of some surveyors' flags, place four flags approximately 50 to 60 yards away from the center point, and space them 90% apart from each other. Initially, we do not want to make the lines too far away. We are creating a circle and dividing it into for equal parts or lines to teach your spaniel the basics of pattern blinds. This will help in teaching the spaniel to carry a straight line in all different wind directions.
This beginning stage of teaching a dog to line is crucial! This is where we will set the dog's attitude on taking a line and running a blind retrieve. Either the dog will have enthusiasm, confidence and desire upon taking the line for a blind, or you could cause resentfulness and an unenthusiastic attitude towards lining and the blind retrieve. Be patient and teach the dog to have confidence in its line and that there is a bird out there to be

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