If you have read my previous articles entitled “The T-Pattern” and “The Wagon Wheel” you should have a good understanding about the beginning process of getting your dog to understand blind retrieves. Both of these drills concentrated on the foundation toward making the dog take proper lines, understanding which retrieve that you are demanding it to make, and realizing that you have control of your dog no matter where it decides to go. Again, all of these drills are assuming that the dog is both control trained, and force fetched using the remote collar. Now it is time to create distance when making retrieves.
Using birds or something other than training dummies will help motivate dogs when making longer retrieves.
Memory blinds are piles of either birds or dummies that are put out consistently in different locations. Using something different such as dead birds or Dead Fowl Trainer dummies will help give your dog more desire to go get these objects. Also, having a variety of areas to work will allow your dog the chance to make multiple retrieves and build confidence in both himself and you as a handler. If done properly, you can get your dog consistently making retrieves of over 200 yards!
Begin by going to an area that has light terrain and gives you a chance to move back as you are sending your dog to a pile. Soccer fields or ball parks are a great choice for this first spot. Pick some sort of a landmark that will help the dog recognize the pile as you move back. Possibly down a fence line, toward a land mark like a field goal post, or even a chalked line will work. Set a goal before you start. Imagine you sending your dog from a certain point, all the way down the line or toward a landmark, and try to make it over 100 yards. From here you can begin the process.
Flagging your pile helps identify each time you go to a new location.
Begin Training With Short Retrieves
Start out like the T-Pattern and Wagon Wheel with short retrieves. I like walking the dog at heel down my potential line and stopping about 40 yards away from the ending pile spot. Whistle sit your dog and have it watch you walk down and put your dummies down. Make sure you get the dog’s attention when placing them on the ground. Often I will use a black and white flag to identify the pile. Remember, dogs see in black and white, while other colors are shades of gray. This flagging should also help you in the future when you go to other spots.
Walk back to your dog and position yourself at the heel position. Bring your hand down and line the dog sending it with the “Back” command. If it hesitates to go, give a collar correction as a reminder. This is where all your hard work on your two other drills will come into play. As the dog is going down toward the pile, take two steps back. Upon returning, reline the dog to the pile and again send it back and take two more steps back. If you started at 40 yards, depending on the amount of objects you began with, you can potentially end up at 50- to 60 yards from the pile of your initial session!
Have your dog sit and watch you go put the piles out initially.
The next time you go to this training area you can begin farther back from your original starting point. So if you began the first session at 40 yards, now move back to 50 yards. Again, go through the same procedure as before by allowing the dog to watch you walk down the line, and put the pile of dummies out. This is not only working memory, but also a whistle sit and steadiness. Be sure to periodically look over your shoulder to make sure the dog is not “creeping” with you. If so, have you whistle in your mouth and hand on collar transmitter to correct him with a whistle sit/collar combination.
This session should include the same format as the last one. Slowly back up as you are sending your dogs on retrieves so you can end up around 60- to 70 yards on your final retrieve. Make sure to include some remote collar correction for the “back” command so your dog understands that you are MAKING it go. These corrections I refer to as “reminders,” and will really set the tone when you get to longer distances.
Send your dog with the “Back” command and start moving back a few steps the first couple weeks.
As you keep going to this training area gradually move back to where you originally had set as a goal. If there is some confusion or refusals, you can always move closer to the pile to help the dog out. Understand the difference between the two, however, meaning if the dog is refusing you, do not be afraid to use the collar. If the dog seems confused, make it easier by decreasing the distance.
Include Whistle Stops
Imagining your dog is now successfully running over 150 yards from your starting point to the pile, now you can start to include whistle stops. Your dog should understand this from your work on the T-Pattern so this should be an easy command. Initially, stop your dog with the whistle no farther than you normally do on your pattern work, probably within 40- to 50 yards away. Then bring your hand up over your head slowly and send him with a “back” command. Do not allow him to take off until you have verbally given the command. You do not want the dog getting jumpy with your first movement. If the dog leaves before hearing the verbal command, whistle sit the dog and give a collar correction. This will settle things down and not just get reaction to slight movements.
Be sure to not get into a routine with the dog where you are constantly stopping him at the same spot and definitely not on every retrieve. The dog may end up “popping” and start stopping without hearing a whistle sit. Be prepared for this by having your hand up and remote collar transmitter in hand. Make sure to correct the dog and yell “back” if this happens. Also try stopping the dog in different locations and maybe two or three times during certain retrieves. This will make it difficult for the dog to pattern the drill.
You will be surprised at the distance you can accomplish with this drill after a few weeks
Again, do this drill in different locations. Once you have successfully mastered on a certain training area, try two or three others. Make each one slightly more difficult by adding distance or tougher terrain. Hills, cover, water and distance are all ways to challenge your dogs performance.
Please keep in mind that this is not something that is achieved in just one or two sessions. Getting a dog going the type of distance talked about is something that takes a great deal of repetition and patience. However with the combination of hard work and perseverance, you can us the memory blinds to get your dog making retrieves you never imagined next hunting season!
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Jason Dommeyer has a lifetime of hunting experience and 15 years experience as a dog trainer. He has turned many pets into expert hunting dogs at Cannon River Kennels (http://www.cannonriverkennels.com/) In addition to training hundreds of hunting companions, he has trained dogs for premier pheasant hunting lodges in South Dakota along with duck hunting lodges in Mississippi and Mexico. His experience also includes both hunting and guiding for upland and waterfowl game from Canada to South America. If you have any questions, Jason can be reached at 507-663-6143 or visit (http://www.cannonriverkennels.com/) He provides dog training tips twice a month.