Bird Dog & Retriever News

June / July 2003 issue Page 29

 Mastering the Blind Retrieve with Spaniels
By David Krassler

The Spaniel Hunting test games has entered its' fifteenth year. Boy it sure does seem like only yesterday that this sport was introduced. Through the years we have witnessed many changes as this game has gained in popularity. We are now starting to see more consistencies in the set up and qualifying on the various levels of AKC hunting tests for Spaniel.
Many of the new challenging concepts and environmental hazards that we are experiencing at the Master level for blind retrievers both on land and water, has made many realizing the all too important fact that to qualify at this level we must have a Spaniel that is trained to stop and handle during a blind retrieve scenario.
The blind retrieve occurs when a bird has fallen into an area that the dog has not seen the bird go down. The handler must direct the Spaniel to the fallen game by use of whistle and hand direction. The spaniel is going because he has the confidence in his handler that "there is a bird out there" trustingly following the handlers' casts to the proper direction of the fallen game. The handler must communicate a balanced attitude of confidence to the dog. Communicating the language that "I will get your nose down wind and you can do the rest, trust me"
There are many cases while we are hunting that a blind retrieve properly schooled will make the difference between dinner on the table or feeding the local predators through the winter. With today's modern society many of the avid small game hunter are requiring a gun dog that is capable of wearing many different hats. Not only must the spaniel be a good family companion. But also contend to an all around gun dog as well. Today's small game hunter wants one dog that can do it all. Thus waterfowling is becoming more and more of a demand on the Spaniel today. In the duck business the blind retrieve is used more often than in upland game. Mainly due to the type of cover that surrounds those special spots that hold the ducks. Naturally marking a difficult issue to say the least! Many times the scenario is that the Spaniel has not seen the location of a fallen duck and they must take a line for a blind retrieve.
The upland hunt can additionally requiring a blind retrieve as well. Issues such as sending your spaniel to the opposite bank of a river, or pond to retrieve a crippled bird that has gone down out of reach.
Teaching the blind retrieve takes several steps to accomplish. This forum we will teach in separate pieces like a puzzle each component schooled separately. Then finally all pieces will be constructed together to do a true blind retrieve. We must first develop good attitude and a strong desire on blinds. When we send our spaniel to search for a blind bird. They should leave our side in the same fashion as they would if we were sending them for a marked retrieve. This will be the most difficult thing to maintain through out this stage of training. Once we have developed proper attitude and desire. The spaniel will work very hard to "please" and take their cast with enthusiasm and intent.
Lining will be taught to get the spaniel to take a good initial line in the direction of the blind bird. Stopping is incorporated to stop the spaniel once they have drifted off the initial line. Finally casting will

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