Water blinds can be a challenge. The brown dawgs have failed their share of hunt tests on water blinds.
A blind is where the dog is sent to retrieve a bumper or a duck but it has no idea where that item has been placed in the field. The dog must rely on its handler to direct it to the item using arm signals and whistles.
Blind retrieves on land are tough enough, but on water they can really be a challenge. When a dog is swimming, it does not naturally want to stop, turn around and be directed to swim in a different direction. It takes a lot of time and patience to teach a dog water blinds.
The most basic water blinds start at the edge of the pond and go straight across. It seems like it would be easy, but once you add in wind, current and other distractions like weeds and dead trees, decoys, or even birds a dog has already retrieved, it can be difficult for a dog when they start out with water blinds.
This is a drawing of some very basic water blinds that are typical of the kinds a dog beginning water blinds would be asked to complete.
As a dog’s training progresses, we add difficulty like angle entries. These entries can be tough for a dog to master. Their natural tendency is to want to square off to enter the water. For dogs running Senior Hunter level tests this is acceptable; however, for Master Hunter level tests they would be required to enter at an angle.
In fact they would be required to maintain as close to a straight line to a blind as possible. The handler can use as many handles as they need to keep the dog on-line but things like land points, cover and current work against this and again, it is not as easy as it sounds.
Last weekend our training group was working on angle entries to water blinds. These were difficult angle entries because they were tight to the edge of the pond and required the dog to go through some cover that stuck out as a point in the pond. A lot of dogs had trouble with this blind including some dogs that have their Master title.
I have marked a few of the various paths for this blind. The starting point for this blind was on a hill and the desired path was through some heavy cover on the point. This was also a long blind and handling a dog when they are 100 or more yards away can be very difficult. This is another reason to try to keep them as close to the desired line as possible. If a dog gets too far one side or another when they are way out there, it can be hard to get them back to the bumpers.
Freighter is still in the learning stage for these advanced blinds. He had a tough time understanding the initial line he was given. He kept flaring left around the edge of the pond, not by much but enough so that he would have missed the cover on the point in the pond. Going through that cover was the object of this blind so Freighter was called back to start over. He ended up being called back to start over three times.
Normally you do not want to recall often because the dog will think that is always the way it should work, but since this is a new and difficult concept for Freighter he was recalled but he was not corrected with the ecollar. Each time he was re-lined with the objective of teaching him what is expected of him.
A note about ecollar: We train using an ecollar. It is an excellent training tool for field work. When I say tool, I mean tool. Many people seem to be under the misconception that you strap an ecollar on a dog and zap away. That could not be further from the truth. Just like you would not take out a hammer and expect that the person using the hammer to know how to build a house if they have never been taught how, an ecollar is not useful without teaching the dog what is expected before it is ever used. This time Freighter was given the benefit of the doubt, but once he has learned this kind of entry and should he intentionally take a poor line, then he may earn a collar correction but with any training, it depends on the circumstances.
The third time was the time and Freighter took a better line to the blind.
Freighter missed the heaviest part of the cover, but you pick your battles and as long as he took some cover, that was OK on this day. Next time he will need to take on more.
You can never train every scenario that can be set-up at a hunt test so we train concepts. Angle entries are a concept that Freighter will definitely need for Master level tests. We will be training these periodically this summer.
Have a nice weekend!