A line is simply the dog's most direct route of travel to the bird. Holding a line implies that the dog will run a straight line to the fall regardless of influences and distractions. Primarily, lining skills are developed at Wildrose through sight, trailing memories. Initially, a barrier edge is used to provide support for the young dog to run straight. One may incorporate a fence, field road, ditch edge or wood line to encourage holding a straight line. As the young dog's lining confidence and skills improve, we eliminate the "crutch" of the straight edge and begin to incorporate various types of terrain. Permanent blinds involve the dogs' running to a familiar location where they have successfully found bumpers in training. Permanent blinds are confidence builders and serve as a transitional step to cold blinds. Cold blinds, as the name implies, are blinds that are run in new, unfamiliar locations. The locations may differ, but the sequences to line and release the dog are identical to previous exercises, so confidence is transferred.
The retriever must respond well to whistle commands and cast effectively in order for corrections to be made to the line if necessary. Dogs must reliably:
- Stop on the whistle promptly; a slow stop can put the dog further out of line.
- Recall quickly under all conditions.
- Hunt back toward the handler, slowly searching for a fallen bird. This is usually a different whistle signal than the recall whistle.
Casting requires the dog to drive deep and straight back on command, and to take right and left casts with accurate lines. The dog must be conditioned to take and hold straight lines given by hand signals until stopped or until bird scent is discovered. A dog that does not handle properly cannot be adjusted to the correct line to the fallen bird, a vital requirement to running successful blinds.