Did you know that bowls are not just for salads? Sometimes we train retrievers in them. You read that correctly. Sometimes we train retrievers in a bowl. It is not the kind that you find in your kitchen, but rather the kind that you can find in a field.
At retriever hunt tests, judges will often use many different land features when they are setting up tests. For example, they may use hills, ditches and bowl-type areas in the field. Since many of the areas where we train are flat, these types of land features have always proved to be a challenge for our dogs, so when we get the change of it, we train in them.
What is a land bowl and how do we train retrievers in them?
A land bowl is a feature in a field where the land slopes down sharply and then there is a flat area and then it rises up again, like a bowl. Not all fields have this feature of course, but a couple places where we test have them so we need to train in them. When a dog is watching marks from a higher position and then has to run down a steep slope, it can throw off depth perception. Also down in the bowl, the wind can swirl around and mess the dog up. All those smells blowing around can draw the dog off the place where they saw the bird fall.
Last weekend we headed out to train. It was windy with the wind increasing as the day wore on. We figured it was a good day to train in the bowl. We set up a walk-up triple with a couple of land blinds. The triple and blinds were set up on the side and bottom of the bowl.
For a walk-up, the dog walks at heel next to their handler and the bird is launched in a surprise situation. There is no quacking to signal where the bird will be launched from so the dog must scan the area in front of him looking for the bird. Once the bird is in the air, the handler may blow a whistle to stop and sit the dog. Most handlers require their dogs to sit at this point because we want them to remain steady but it is OK if the dog remains standing. The main thing is for the dog to be steady. The other two birds are then launched, one after another. The dog must remember where all of the birds fell and retrieve them one by one.
In our set-up, mark #1 was the walk-up mark and launched first, then mark #2 was launched, then mark #3 was launched. Once all the marks were picked up, then Freighter ran two blinds as indicated.
How did Freighter do with this set-up?
Freighter needed his memory to be refreshed on heeling for a walk-up. He started out in front of hubby, which was not acceptable so they went back to the holding blind and did it again. Then Freighter over compensated and was too far behind. So back to the blind again. Hubby took his time a repeated the walking up portion several times before we launched the bird. Training is the time to work out these issues. Freighter was so excited to be back at the training grounds, it was a good time to nip his poor heeling in the bud.
Finally we were able to launch the birds. Freighter picked up mark #3 first.
Hubby had tried to have Freighter pick up the marks outside, outside, middle (3,1,2) but he was not having that. After Freighter picked up mark #3, hubby lined him up to mark #1. Freighter scooped around to pick up the middle mark #2. Again, training is a good time to work out this kind of stuff. At a test when a dog is set on a mark, you probably just want to let them get it and not try to change their mind.
Last but not least, Freighter got mark #1 which was the walk-up mark.
After Freighter picked up all of the marks, he ran the two blinds. Again he started at the top of the ridge and ran down hill. Sometimes this can throw a dog off and pull them off line. Freighter did a nice job on these two blinds. He ran the right hand blind first.
He needed one handle to this blind.
Freighter made short work of the left hand blind and lined that one.
Freighter was carrying a nice line to the blind so hubby just let him carry it rather than stopping him. Even if the dog is on line to the blind, sometimes you still want to stop them just for the training of stopping and redirecting them. But sometimes you let the dog carry which helps build confidence. Which you choose to do on any given day depends on what you want from that training set-up.
We were happy with our set-up, happy with how Freighter handled it, and now you know how we train retrievers in a bowl.