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Better Blind Retrieves

One trainer insists that straight lines are essential
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  • photo by Guy Spangenberg
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by Dave Carty

Jeff Jordan had just returned from a training session and was winding down over the phone.

"There's really not much difference at all between a blind retrieve performed in the field and one that's performed in a trial or hunt test," he said.

I pressed him for an explanation. Aren't there situations in the field when it is in the dog's best interest to go around a hazard rather than through it? Not often, Jordan said.

"Even when hunting, (straight lines on a blind) are still important," says Jordan. "If, for instance, a dog tries to run around a bank, it may lose the mark on the bird and never recover, because its point of reference keeps changing."

That claim may not get nods of agreement from everybody, but there is no arguing with Jordan's experience: He's a lifelong hunter, and, for the past dozen years, a full-time dog trainer and the owner of Intrepid Retrievers, a kennel located in Bennett, Colorado.

Taking straight lines is essential to blind retrieves, a part of a retriever's education that Jordan, a former zookeeper, doesn't take lightly. Before he's through, Jordan's charges will have had months of drills, each one building upon the last. But first things first.

"Any time you approach teaching blind retrieves, you have to start at the beginning," Jordan says, "and everything starts with force fetching. Force fetching teaches the dog how to shut off pressure... and once they've learned how to deal with pressure and shut it off (from an ear pinch or toe hitch), then we can expand the training to the collar and get more control at a distance."

The goal is to get the dog to master single and multiple blind retrieves at distances of up to 300 yards. But that kind of performance does not happen overnight.

"First comes force fetching, then we move to walking fetches, then to the ladder," Jordan says.

In the ladder drill, bumpers are placed in a line roughly 10 feet apart and within sight of the dog.

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