Story at a Glance
Mike Stewart's four blind retrieve fundamentals are:
The third necessary skill for effective blinds requires the dog to hunt the fall area thoroughly. This is where the nose counts. What we want are effective game finders trained to hunt cover, marsh or thickets on command after a whistle stop. The dog's drive on the line is interrupted in the general area of the fall. Wind direction must be considered. The "hunt" command causes the dog to devour the area in a methodical search for the bird. The dog should remain (or hold) in the area, land or water, throughout the hunt unless otherwise directed. The competent retriever should also possess the perseverance to handle diving, wounded waterfowl and the skill to track runners (injured birds making an escape) as often occurs.
Last but not least is the dog's confidence in his handler. Confidence enough to go out with enthusiasm and accuracy on the line without even seeing any indication that there is a bird to retrieve. Blinds require the dog to trust that there is a bird down and his hunting pal will help locate his reward, the retrieve. This level of confidence and trust is built slowly in training through daily success. "Make haste slowly" is always our rule. Never test the dog above his limits. The dog's confidence in himself and his handler is established through repetitive successes, not failures. Interdependence is the relationship between the dog and the handler that must be established to run blinds effectively in the field.
There is little else in dog training to equal the thrill of your retriever picking his first blind on the hunt. So often our retrievers do not see the birds go down. The dog's ability to handle blinds may mean the difference between whether or not the bird is recovered. The retriever's ability to pick those unseen, fallen birds remains a very important aspect of the dog's role as a game finder... to bring back the ones we can't get.