Time: 7.30 a.m.
Weather: Sunny with light breeze
Venue: The Duke’s Farm, Eston
The training set-up was for Novice/Open level dogs. As our trialling season still has a few months to go before it gets underway, I’m still breaking set-ups into manageable chunks so that the dogs can succeed. I do not want to be in the position where I’m having to go out to correct what seems to be bad behaviour or disobedience in case the dog is either not understanding what is expected of him or is confused by the terrain or the scenting conditions.
The first set up was a nominated double consisting of a long (50 metre) blind retrieve through long knee-high grass and a mark with both the thrower and the fall behind a thick screen of shrubs and small trees. The fall was on a track and clearly visible when the dog broke through the cover.
I worked on the blind first. Although the dummies were placed in relatively short grass, there was a barrier of longer grass which had to be negotiated before the dog could collect the blind. There was a slight slope down from the line to the blind and to the right a reed bed containing water. This would, because of the hot day, be very tempting for the dogs. I built up the line to the blind by increasing the distance in three stages. At each stage the dogs were driving straight out and returning straight back without a problem. The dogs observed the placement of the dummies, and I ran the most experienced dog first with the less experienced watching. At this stage I am not running cold blinds at all and will only do so two weeks before our first trial.
I have also been working on the dogs sit and stay off lead in a group with only the dog who is called coming to me. This usually works fine when we’re working obedience or just at home as a game, but out in the field with everyone jockeying for position it’s not that reliable. However, it’s great training for steadiness.
I build up the marked retrieve in the same way – building distance in three stages. For a beginner dog I would let the dog see either the thrower or the fall for the first stage and then move further back behind the barrier, but with the dogs I’m working with at the moment this is not necessary and all I’m doing is building confidence and trust.
The final product is putting the two retrieves together as a nominated double. I line up the dogs to face the marked retrieve, and when it is down and I’m happy that they’ve seen it and marked it well, I turn them towards the blind, and send them for that first.