Picture this… You’ve just walked up to watch test dog in the Amateur. This is the first time you have made it to the water blind in a major stake. The test dog is waiting in the holding blind while the judges make some final adjustments to the test. Panic and doubt are starting to set in. You say to yourself: “I’ve never done anything like this!” It’s daunting. You look out and all you see are places where things can go wrong. Stop right there! Doing a blind like this is just like eating an elephant. You just have to do it one bite at a time.
In this blog, I am going to show you how to analyze and breakdown a blind into small consumable chunks. I am also going to share with you my “Pre-snap Checklist for Blinds”.
First, you have done blinds this difficult before. This where you take a deep breathe and visualize what success and proper execution looks like. I am going to teach you how to dissect the blinds into thirds. Don’t try and process the whole blind at once! If you cut the blind up into manageable chunks, it’s not so intimidating. I am going show you a double water blind that I did in training. I am going to use this as an example, and I will walk you through the process of breaking down a blind.
The photos above show a double water blind. Blind #1 has about a seventy-five-yard entry. The line takes the left corner of a larger pond and angles out of the water and up a slight incline. Then it goes through a narrow keyhole. It is marked with an orange stake. The stake is pretty visible, however, the depth perception is a bit deceiving. Blind #2 is significantly longer and requires much more water commitment. This line crisscrosses the line to blind #1. There is a large point enroute that requires a re-entry into the water. After entering the second piece of water, the dog is asked to stay in the water along the left shore to the far end of the pond and drive out of the water about thirty-five to forty yards. This blind is also marked with an orange stake. There are some shadows cast by the large trees that make the marker challenging to see. Here are a couple of views of both blinds.
Let’s start out by analyzing blind #1. I like to breakdown blinds into thirds. Remember this! The first third of ALL water blinds, requires a commitment to get in the water. The first third of this blind is from the mat to about five yards into the water. Often you will lose sight of your dog just as they enter the water. This is typical of many long entries. My first third doesn’t end until I can see the dog in the water swimming.
The second third of the blind starts when I see the dog swimming. Here you will manage them across the corner of the pond and part way up the hill. You will want to pay close attention to the angle of the exit point on the opposite shore. If you fall asleep as they are getting out of the water and they square out of the water to the left, you can get yourself into trouble. If the dog climbs the hill to the left and you are slow on the whistle, you will need a larger right-handed cast. This cast will be extra difficult because you are casting back towards the pond.
The final third of the blind threads a needle through the large oak trees. The wind is slightly right to left and quartering away. To be downwind of the blind, you will need to be between the marker and the last tree on the left. The depth perception is a bit deceiving. You don’t want to miss this blind on the right and get deep and out of sight. Oh, did I mention that you must be aware of the location of the blind planter. This is the Red Zone. You will want to be extra aggressive with your whistles here. Your dog is going to know he is near the bird. The drag-back scent, the blind planter trail and the tight area between the trees all create challenges at the end of this blind. However, you’re going to be on ball and nail the ending.
Blind #2 is the real deal. Pay close attention to your dog’s water commitment and compliance level from the previous blind. This will give you insight into what you are likely to encounter on blind #2. The first third of this blind is like blind #1. You will be crossing the previous line at the initial water entry point. There may some attraction to the old blind. The first third of this blind doesn’t end until your dog is in the water and committed to swimming across.
The second part of this blind is the meat of the test. Part 2 entails the exit onto the point, crossing the point, re-entering the water, and showing up in the back piece of water. This third isn’t over until your dog is in the far water and willingly swimming across the pond. Do not take your focus off your dog! Many handlers will relax too early only to lose control in the few yards after re-entering the water. Make sure your dog has given up his desire to relate to the piece of land they just crossed. The re-entry has a blind spot just as they start to re-enter the water.
The final third of this blind is managing their route in the far water as well as up the hill to the bird. You will be surprised how long it takes them to swim across the back piece of water. You will likely underestimate the distance in this situation. You are just exiting the water and feeling pretty good about your blind. You can lose control here in a blink of an eye. I have seen many cases where a compliant dog in the water turns rouge after exiting the water. This is where you can go from “Cy Young” to “Sayonara”. Keep your focus and finish the blind.
I have included some videos of some of the dog’s running this double water blind. You will find them very interesting and educational. By using my rule of thirds, you will increase your success level on blinds on game day. Now you will be in the last series with a fighting chance to winning your first Amateur All-age stake. Have fun, It doesn’t get any better than this!
Now, let's talk about my updated "Pre-Snap Checklist for Blinds" from my Line Mechanics For Success digital course. This checklist will help you prepare and ensure you are ready to tackle any blind with confidence. Here are the key steps:
Know the predicted wind direction: Understanding the wind can help you make strategic decisions during the blind.
Have access to Google Earth photos of the site: Familiarize yourself with the terrain and layout before arriving at the location.
Orient yourself after arriving on the property: Determine the cardinal directions (N, S, E, W) to assist with your navigation.
Check the current wind direction: Confirm that the actual wind matches the predicted wind to make necessary adjustments.
Analyze the factors: Consider the terrain, wind, cover, water, and visibility to develop a strategic approach.
Review test instructions: Ensure you fully understand the test requirements and any specific rules or challenges.
Have a plan for exiting the blind and approaching the line: Visualize your dog's path from the blind to the line to ensure a smooth transition.
Be aware of your dog's attitude prior to getting to the line: Take note of your dog's mindset and adjust your handling accordingly.
Where do I want to be on the mat and what side do I want to heel on?
Assess changes in the test: Consider any changes in wind direction, visibility, or developing trails.
Visualize success and proper execution: Create a mental image of what a successful blind looks like for you and your dog, focusing on the precise handling and desired outcome.
Focus and don't allow yourself to be distracted: Stay mentally present during the entire blind, blocking out any external distractions or self-doubt.
Watch the test dog: Pay close attention to the judge's reactions and instructions to the test dog, as it can provide valuable insights for your own handling approach.
Study the return: you will learn more about key areas by closely observing the dog’s return path.
Have multiple references to the blind location: Don't solely rely on the intended marker; identify other landmarks or cues to ensure you have a clear picture of the blind's location
Ask yourself these questions:
How well you can see your dog?
How well they can see you?
How well they can hear you?
Develop a plan:
Break down the blind into thirds
Handle to objective points
Setup “with the wind casts” when tackling hazards
Consider how to approach the trouble zones ( out of sight or trouble hearing areas)
Where NOT to be: “DEATH ZONE”
Be flexible: have a backup plan (Plan B) in case things don't go as expected, allowing you to adapt and make quick adjustments during the blind.
Watch patterns develop: Observe how the blind unfolds for other handlers and their dogs and learn from their strategies and adjustments.
Pay close attention to seasoned handlers: Take note of the adjustments and decisions made by experienced handlers.
Re-evaluate the line if possible after watching dogs run
Remind yourself which way your dog turns: Keep in mind your dog's natural turning direction to anticipate the handling required at different points of the blind.
Identify the "Red Zone": Determine critical areas where things can go wrong
Psyche yourself up, not out: Maintain a passionate and positive attitude, building confidence in yourself and your dog. Embrace a "Never Give Up" mindset, even in the face of difficulties.
By following this comprehensive pre-snap checklist, you'll be equipped with the necessary knowledge, strategy, and mindset to tackle blinds with confidence and precision. Remember, breaking down the blind into manageable chunks and staying focused throughout the entire process will lead you to success. Trust your training, trust your instincts, and trust your bond with your dog. Now go out there and conquer those blinds!
In conclusion, tackling a challenging blind in a hunt test or field trial competition may initially seem daunting, but with the right approach and mindset, it becomes a manageable task. By breaking down the blind into smaller sections and staying focused throughout the process, you can navigate the complexities with confidence and precision. Remember to trust your training, rely on your instincts, and maintain a positive "Never Give Up" attitude. With patience, practice, and perseverance, you and your canine partner can excel in the world of retriever training and achieve success at all levels of competition. Embrace the journey, learn from each experience, and enjoy the thrill of working as a team to overcome challenges and reach your goals.
P.S. If you like how I analyzed this setup, as well as the videos provided, let me know in the comments below. Also, tell me what you'd like to see more of. I've got fun things cookin' down the road.