By Mike Stewart
One of the most exhilarating and rewarding aspects of developing a finished waterfowl retriever is training the dog to run blinds, that is to pick up birds the dog didn't see fall. Little else in the gundog world will equal the thrill of being directly involved with a retriever, one on one, as the dog boldly goes out to a fall area to locate an unseen bird under complete control, returning promptly to make a retrieve to hand. Successful blinds are a visible testament to anyone's training efforts.
Our goal is to develop a hunting companion that has the trust and confidence in his handler to go out enthusiastically for a retrieve without seeing anything fall, just because the line was set and the retrieve/release command was given. That's when all the hard work comes to fruition... the natural game-finding ability achieved through genetics, the dog's intelligence and the skills trained into the dog, combined with the dog's confidence in the handler that there is a retrieve to be made.
Successful blinds are mutual victories for both the dog and the handler, and the achievement will likely mark the pinnacle of the overall training experience.
Let's briefly look at the four fundamental skill sets necessary to run successful blinds.