Blind Retrieve Training

Pointing, retrieving, flushing, tracking, behavioral issues, puppy training, etc.

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Re: Blind Retrieve Training

Postby AverageGuy » Tue Jun 19, 2018 1:50 pm

Thanks MG. I read the article and then went to youtube and watched several videos. The Trainer needs more schooling at this point and I am thinking about where and how to get it.
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Re: Blind Retrieve Training

Postby Bruce Schwartz » Tue Jun 19, 2018 3:32 pm

The concepts of the swim-by are to get your dog comfortable treading water and a willingness to take casts at a distance but the teaching is done up close. Because dogs aren't really as comfortable in water as you'd think, some special techniques are necessary. The accompanying pressure is generally more than what most versatile dogs like but you can certainly modify the steps (and reduce the reps) and still get a favorable outcome.
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Re: Blind Retrieve Training

Postby AverageGuy » Tue Jun 19, 2018 3:45 pm

Thank you Bruce. I think you are correct about the pressure relative to this dog.
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Re: Blind Retrieve Training

Postby Bruce Schwartz » Tue Jun 19, 2018 7:53 pm

I'm not condemning pressure - it's the basis of ecollar work and the dogs need to learn about it and how to turn it off, etc. When rewards work use them; if you need the collar then use that. It's all about balance.

I know you know all that but am just saying I'm not against them.
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Re: Blind Retrieve Training

Postby Willie T » Tue Jun 19, 2018 8:14 pm

Nice work AG. Cricket and I have done some work in this arena too. I have much the same end goal for Cricket that you described for waterfowling with Spud. We did some work in a swim by pond like Crackered mentioned to clean things up, but only after we were already really close to where we wanted to be. I drew on Crickets love of birds heavily while working in the swim by pond as well as getting in the water with him at times rather than resort to a lot of pressure. A couple of other comments that may help Spud grasp the concept of busting through and out of cover and being able to communicate it to him, when it is desired. Train to use voice inflection to get him to drive deep. Start on land with increasingly longer sight blinds. As distance gets longer, deepen your voice and add a little volume. Spud will pick up on it. Now when you go to the water simplify. Put your bumper or bird beyond the timber you want Spud to drive through, like you set up earlier. Now set up your dog stand just inside the timber and use your voice inflection when you send him out of the timber to the blind. Keep balance. Send him for some in the timber without the voice inflection. Not too much in any given day. Back your way to the far bank till you have him driving deep through the cover when you use the voice inflection he has come to understand. ("BAAAACK" as opposed to "back" would describe how I use it). Good luck fine tuning it with Spud, whether you choose to incorporate any of what I use into your training or not.
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Edited to add: one other comment AG- I believe in factoring in, at minimum, an equal number of marks to blinds ratio into each day, where the dog is left to his own devices to root out the bird on his own. More Attention to be balance....
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Re: Blind Retrieve Training

Postby AverageGuy » Tue Jun 19, 2018 9:05 pm

Thank you Bruce and Thank You Willie T. It is appreciated.

The challenge with that flooded timber spot is the water is too deep for me to stand or for a dog platform, and a mile walk one way to get to it and I cannot leave gear there so have to carry in and out each time. Long way to drag even a 36lb kayak in this heat.

There is a good reason the pro retriever trainers build water layouts to facilitate their training...

I switch to using birds when we get into areas of higher pressure. I am going to ask around about a retriever club or pro and see if I can get on some water which will better facilitate what we are working on.

Let me ask any and all of you. If I sent Spud on a blind through cover as I described in our failed attempt, and he hung up in the cover halfway across, if I used a kayak to go out there and then send him on through it, would I be accomplishing anything good or building an unproductive reliance on me coming to his aid?
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Re: Blind Retrieve Training

Postby flitecontrol » Tue Jun 19, 2018 11:53 pm

AverageGuy wrote:Let me ask any and all of you. If I sent Spud on a blind through cover as I described in our failed attempt, and he hung up in the cover halfway across, if I used a kayak to go out there and then send him on through it, would I be accomplishing anything good or building an unproductive reliance on me coming to his aid?


I would think it depends on the dog. If he's independent but cooperative he will realize if he persists he gets the bird and learn to press on by himself the next time. From what little I know of your dog, I suspect he falls in that category.

An overly dependent dog may think "I need the boss to help me find the hard ones".

I had a young draht with a lot of drive and during his first waterfowl season we had a bird that was not hit well. It came down quite a distance away in some moderate cover in swimming depth water. It promptly swam/flapped out of sight. While the dog had marked it, as often happens with an inexperienced pup, the bird was a lot farther out than he thought. He began to cast back and forth where he assumed it had gone down, and after a brief search started to return when he didn't pick up scent. I knew it would take me a long time to slog out to where the duck went down, and asked my grandson to go out and get the dog started where the bird had hit the water. He went out, met the returning dog, and coaxed him to go to where the duck went down. They went a looong way, out of my sight, but eventually came back with the duck. My grandson told me that once they got to where the duck landed, the dog became energized and got well ahead of him before making visual contact and getting the bird. After that, the dog became a very determined duck retriever. I think the experience helped make him the great retriever he became.
I've had several really good dogs, but none were perfect. Neither am I, so keep that in mind!
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Re: Blind Retrieve Training

Postby Bruce Schwartz » Wed Jun 20, 2018 12:44 am

As Willie said. Distance erodes control so some trainers advise speaking softly for commands close in so that when the dog is a long ways away you can give a strong command and it'll have more meaning.

The dog needs to understand stoping on command on land and should be facing you directly so you'll have a better chance of getting a good cast. But water is different - you have to get the dog to tread water and be comfortable at it so he'll take a good cast. That's part of the swim-by.

All of this requires attention to little details so work on each piece separately and methodically and then chain them together for your long sends through timber or whatever. This all takes time. I don't think going out to the timber to help him using a kayak will do that much unless you're prepared to do it often enough for the dog to grasp the concept of what you want. Generally that takes a long time as well as moving to different areas. If the dog grasps the concepts of lining and casting you will be able to have the control you're wishing for.

Getting some advice from the retriever trainers in your area is a good idea. Not sure if you have an HRC group around but they would be a good resource.
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Re: Blind Retrieve Training

Postby AverageGuy » Wed Jun 20, 2018 7:16 am

FC and Bruce, Thanks for the responses. I am the weak link in the chain at the moment and thinking about what my next move should be.

The hang up in the flooded timber instance I shared violated some basic rules of dog training. It was new water, swimming depth for both the dog and I which completely hampered my ability to help the dog, a new more challenging longer distance and a very challenging new obstacle of sending the dog through cover in the line it was given, all in one. Of course it failed!

FC the dog did exactly what I trained him to do for Duck Search. He took the line he was sent to the flooded timber and began searching. He took the Backs I gave trying to push him on through but only a short distance both times before he turned back to the cover and resumed searching. Had I left him to his own devices he would have continued searching the cover which lead to more cover at the back of the large 20 acre pond. The only right thing I did on that was calling him in.

Bruce I was hoping to use the well trained Whoa command and associated whistle que to get where I want to be vs training a third whistle and sit command. I thought once we got to water it would not matter as to sit or stand. Spud will turn and look while swimming when I blow the Whoa whistle and when the suction is not too great we have had successes in him taking a redirection hand/voice signal. When the suction increases the wheels fall off and he will not tread water as well as the Labs in some swimby youtube videos I watched yesterday.

I need to get a plan together. Thanks for the comments Gentlemen.
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Re: Blind Retrieve Training

Postby Willie T » Wed Jun 20, 2018 7:58 am

Simplify and set him up to succeed is very often the answer with a confused dog. To help Spud push through the cover he needs to build the confidence to hold on to the line you cast him on. You may try this for a week or so to see if you make progress. Walk Spud at heel while you place the blind. Make sure he sees its exact location. Heel him back around the pond in a manner where he does not lose sight of the AOF. Now send him. Use the suction of the bird to help pull him through the cover. Adding factors to a blind complicates things and shows us where the holes in our training are. Water and distance amplify them. The more success Spud has, the more his confidence will grow in your ability to send him to the bird.
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Re: Blind Retrieve Training

Postby AverageGuy » Wed Jun 20, 2018 8:34 am

Excellent suggestion Willie T. I have done that with Spud in the past and need to return to it now with the increased challenge of going through cover in the line sent. Need to find the right water for it.

I worked this setup just now with two bumpers at each bucket and placing Spud on the pitchers mound facing me at home plate. The cover is 3-4 feet tall dense little bluestem CRP with roll and shallow ditch crossing to get to the right bucket. The buckets are set on white electric fence posts to make them more visible in the cover.

My thinking is to do some work on land in natural cover where Spud's preference left to his own devices is to go searching for something more interesting than a bumper. I do not know how formal programs approach it but I feel at some point I have to move from low cover to natural cover in order to accomplish anything of value while hunting. And I thought it would be an easier way to build compliance with my direction over his search preferences as to handling him while in cover.

It was not mistake free but a good short session. He missed the Bucket on the right on one send and went well past it, when I stopped him with the whoa, called him towards me, stopped him again, and then gave a right over for a successful retrieve. Felt like progress.

If I am not wearing you guys out too much. Does working a setup such as this make sense as well at this stage?

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Re: Blind Retrieve Training

Postby crackerd » Wed Jun 20, 2018 8:49 am

Bruce Schwartz wrote:As Willie said. Distance erodes control so some trainers advise speaking softly for commands close in so that when the dog is a long ways away you can give a strong command and it'll have more meaning.


Distance erodes control, Bruce, totally true - but with retrievers, the "strong command" (barking out "BAAAACCCKKK!!!" to the dog) will likely be more problematic than helpful in handling at a distance, especially if you want a dog to diverge from the line it's on to the blind. A strong verbal command 99 times of 100 results in a dog "digging deep" on its line rather than changing course, which is what handling usually entails.

As a rule, (field trial) retriever trainers use silent backs - no verbal command, just upraised arm at the angle you want the dog to take - on longer blinds. There's an exception to voice modulation called the "permission back" - meaning you want the dog to get out of the water (onto land) and then get back into the wataer without stopping on land to hunt or break momentum. Not a strong command, either, but more of an elongated gutteral Baaaaaaaaaaaaaack - no exclamation point inferred.

AverageGuy wrote:Let me ask any and all of you. If I sent Spud on a blind through cover as I described in our failed attempt, and he hung up in the cover halfway across, if I used a kayak to go out there and then send him on through it, would I be accomplishing anything good or building an unproductive reliance on me coming to his aid?


Average Guy, I don't know any retriever trainers - amateurs, that is - but myself who get in the water with their dogs on blinds to push the dog forward (figuratively push, though you can also gently "guide" the dog physically on occasion). You (or at least I) do this on your own two feet in getting to the dog instead of being propelled with a kayak. And why you're able to do this on your own two feet rather than using your arms and feet (i.e., swimming) is attributable to your comment -

AverageGuy wrote:There is a good reason the pro retriever trainers build water layouts to facilitate their training...


only I should clarify: It ain't often the pros who build "technical ponds," but their clients, the amateurs. Having access to a technical pond, which usually includes a swim-by pond on the side, is pure gold, and other amateurs such as myself pay a nice fat daily or seasonal training fee to use it. One of the golden aspects of a technical pond is its uniform depth - usually 4 1/2-5 feet deep, which enables the "run-behind-blind" I've described above.

Lastly, for what you're trying to accomplish, Bruce has a good recommendation of catching up to an HRC chapter/club. Their blinds aren't terribly technical, hardly ever exceed 100 yards, and also are usually run in conditions closer to what you would work with when waterfowling. Field trial blinds, on the other hand, are all show and artifice - but the handling is on a dime, and about teamwork, and that in itself is pretty riveting to behold.

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Re: Blind Retrieve Training

Postby Densa44 » Wed Jun 20, 2018 8:53 am

I use a version of Willy T's technique, to get a dog to the location I want, I use a mark, sometimes it takes a few (moving the mark back bit by bit) trys. When she finally gets deep enough to find the duck I try her on a blind to the same location. It has worked very well.

Good luck, keep at it, and if you think about these problems enough there is always a way!
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Re: Blind Retrieve Training

Postby Willie T » Wed Jun 20, 2018 9:37 am

Yes. Visuals are great for ingraining concepts. When you feel Spud has learned the concepts he will need to perform at the level you are after, then progress to simple blinds. Then progressively add factors and train through the difficulties along the way. There are no shortcuts here. Just keep putting in the work and building on the work that has been done. To expand on what Bruce said about learning individual tasks and then chaining them. I work this progression by breaking down the type of blind retrieve capability I am looking for into all the individual things the dog has to do to complete that level of blind on paper. Everything is broken down to its simpelest form and trained individually. Then one by one they are linked to gain the complexity I am looking for in a clear progression. Less is more here.
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Re: Blind Retrieve Training

Postby crackerd » Wed Jun 20, 2018 10:07 am

Willie T wrote:Yes. Visuals are great for ingraining concepts...


Yep, unless the visuals get too ingrained - and you get a dog with a dependency on them and won't go unless there's something white out there.

As could happen with Average Guy's martin house gourds in the photo above. Pile work with the pile of bumpers visible is often the last "flaunted" or full-frontal visual a retriever gets, though many swear they have dogs that can "see orange" for the blind stakes of that color that retriever trainers use to "mark the spot" where the blind's located.

Again, not against visuals just that they can become too much of a crutch. To give an idea of how you would "disguise" or low-key the visuals in Average Guy's photo, the martin house would be a bluebird house instead - still a bird house atop a pole that would give the dog a visual to aim for, but a less conspicuous visual so the dog would also be getting the concept of, say, swimming to the end of a channel or getting out of the water at an angle exit.

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