Vizsladogs, Ltd.

Teaching Blind Retrieves

by Dolores Blake

If you’re training in the field start by walking with your dog on lead out in the field. You drop a bumper, that the dog sees you drop, and you and the dog walk away. The dog usually tries to grab the bumper or looks back at it as you walk away, they think you're crazy for leaving a bumper behind. :) You start building distance so do not go too far at first. But at about 4 yards turn and tell the dog "back" while you give a hand signal in the direction of the bumper. As you continue to play this game you make the distance further and further. The dog will learn to trust that when you say "back" and you give him a line if he takes it he is going to find a bumper. Keep increasing the distance as the dog gets better at it. If the dog starts to fail at a distanced you've gone too far too soon. Go back to the distance where the dog is successful. When you and the dog have mastered this game switch to dead birds. Dead birds are much more exciting. Whenever I leave the field after my turn training I always drop a dead bird to send my dog "back" for. I have old-timers that are quite impressed with my dog's directed retrieves and it all comes from playing this game. The dog leans to go out straight in the direction of your command.

If you're not training in the field you can play this game in the park. I take several bumpers or kongs on a rope. I will throw and send the dog. While the dog is on the retrieve I throw another bumper in a different direction. When the dog comes in I take the bumper and send him "back" in the direction of the throw he didn't see. This game is great fun and doing it at night is even more fun because they have to use their nose completely to find the bumper. Get some bird sent if you like and sent up the bumper or the Kong to make it even more exciting. Next, when the dog has a good understanding of "back" I have him "hup" while I put a bumper to his left and a bumper to his right. Then I send him in one or the other direction for the retrieve. The goal here is for the handler to mover further and further back and to be able to send the dog on a blind retrieve in either the left or right direction. Again, build up distance as the dog gets better at the game. I promise you that if you play this game enough with your dogs they will trust that if you give them a line you know what you're talking about and they will fly in that direction. Mine do. :)

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