In a blind retrieve, the hunter, or handler, directs his dog to a downed bird by using vocal and body commands. The method is almost always used in hunting fowl and guides the dog to a target he did not see come to the ground -- a process called marking. Training blind retrieves takes patience and practice, but builds a rewarding symbiosis between you and your dog.
Blind retrieve training begins with basic, on-leash obedience training to sit, stay, heel or come when called. Once mastered, force fetched training teaches your dog to retrieve an object and hold it until you tell him to release it. Use the words "fetch," "hold" and "drop." These commands establish his job of retrieving the object and the importance of holding onto it until you are ready to take it. The drop command teaches him to not play tug-of-war.
T-pattern drills teach "lining," which is aiming your dog toward the object she must retrieve. Imagine the training area, such as a yard or field, as a baseball diamond. Stand on what would be the pitcher's mound and throw dummy objects to where each base, including home plate, would be, working with one base at a time. Bring your hand over your dog's nose and send her with the fetch command, toward one base at a time. Bring her back with the command "back." Gradually increase the distances to which you throw the objects.
Wagon wheel drills combine direction training with the discipline to ignore distractions. Throw a dummy 10 yards in front of you and have your dog retrieve as in a T-pattern drill. Then throw it again to the same spot, point to it and say "no." Repeat this three times, each time throwing a dummy to your right, rear and left, until four dummies surround you as in the T-pattern. Send her to different "bases," even though dummies sit at the others. This teachers her to zero in on only the desired trophy.
Memory drills teach your dog to retrieve a dummy long after you throw it. Have her sit by you as you throw a dummy and let her see, or mark, where it lands. But do not send her after it yet. Walk her away from where you threw the dummy and even face her in a different direction. Then line her and command her to fetch. Memory drills enhance her ability to home in on the proper spot and bring back the prize.
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