A Look into The Challenges of Transitioning From Hunt Tests To Field Trials
Part 2 “Blinds”
In part 1 of this series, I discussed the common challenges when transitioning from Hunt Tests to Field Trials regarding marking. Now we’ll cover blind retrieves. Like my first article, I’ve listed several common challenges you are likely to encounter when transitioning your Master Hunter to Qualifying level blinds. I then went into greater detail on a couple of them.
Many of the challenges we discussed in the Marking article are similar to the challenges you’ll encounter on Blinds. Here are my top five:
-Long water entries
-Distance erodes control
-More extreme factors
-Hitting the wall
Long Water Entries
Long water entries will challenge even the most advanced field trial dogs. Because most hunt tests run from near the water’s edge and incorporate their blinds with the marks, most hunt test dogs don’t get a lot of exposure to long water entries. Especially in the context of a cold blind. A cold blind is when you come up to line and simply run a blind without any diversions or marks in the field. The dog hasn’t retrieved anything yet and is cold. It may seem simple; however, it can be very intimidating when facing a long, complex water entry.
Distance Erodes Control
The challenge of longer distances is common with the marking segment. However, there are many additional pitfalls when it comes to running blinds. Many of them fall upon the handler themselves. Distance erodes control. When a dog thinks he is at his final destination, it’s very common for them to go into hunt mode and quit responding to the handler. I refer to that as going “self-employed.”
More Extreme Factors
The factors of wind, water, terrain and cover are magnified at common field trial lengths. Getting a dog to hold a line and cast into a firm crosswind was difficult thirty years ago and is still very challenging today.
Drag back scent as well as other artificial scent that complicate long retired marks, also complicate long blinds. Maintaining control when a dog encounters scent at a distance is a legitimate challenge. Both stopping mechanics and casting can quickly fall apart.
Hitting the Wall
A “yo-yo” or “ping-pong” is a term that refers to a dog that won’t cast back and over casts laterally. An extreme case of this can be referred to as “hitting the wall.” In this instance, no matter what you do, the dog will not cast back. Rearward momentum is your friend on these longer blinds. One thing that can help here is to consistently run your blinds to the end of the field you are in. Even if you must move up your starting line. If you can pattern your dog to going to the perceived end of the field, they will anticipate that as their destination. That perception will go a long way in encouraging rearward momentum.
Now that we’ve identified some of the challenges, I’d like to expand on a few and give you some tips to work on them.
Targeting Water from a Distance
When I want to emphasize targeting the water at a distance, I gradually back off the water. I will begin with entries 30 yards from the water. When I see good attitude, I move back in 15 yard increments. I like to make the entries uncomplicated and the blind fairly simple after the initial entry. I have even planted big, white bumpers, so they have a visible target as they approach and enter the water.
I like to do long entries with short swims to keep confidence high. The last thing that you want to do is a long angle entry with multiple factors after entering the water! At this level of training, do your hard water blinds from up close and make your longer entry blinds simple after getting in the water.
I tell my handlers to break their blinds down into thirds. The first third of every water blind is a commitment to get in the water.
Maintaining Control at Great Distances
Distance does erode control! The first thing that falls apart is stopping mechanics. Sit must mean sit. There are three non-negotiable items. They are “Go”, “Stop” and “Come.” Enforcing a sit whistle is essential to maintaining control at a distance. You can survive a cast refusal, but you can’t survive a dog that won’t stop on a whistle! One good way to work on this is to go back to pile work with the emphasis on sharp whistle sits near the back pile. I would start this at about the length of your original T or Double-T Drill. Then I would extend it out 200-250 yards. Make sure your dog is responsive to whistle refusal corrections prior to taking it to the field.
I hope this article series has been helpful for you. Please plan on joining me and guest speaker, Colby Williams as we dive further into these topics during our FREE Purina Masterclass! This webinar will take place June 15th at 8 pm Eastern. Seats are limited, Register Now!
Check back next week for Part 3 of this article series. I will provide some additional tips on transitioning your Master Hunter to the Qualifying Stake.
Thanks for your support and Happy training,
FREE Purina Masterclass!
From Master Hunter to Qualified All-Age
June 15, 2022. 8:00 PM Eastern
Only on Zoom!
Join me & Colby Williams (Topline Retrievers) as we take a deep dive into addressing the challenges of transitioning from hunt tests to competing in field trials.
Colby has a strong history of success in AKC Hunt Test, UKC Hunt Test as well as the Super Retriever Series. Topline Retrievers titled over 50 Master Hunters and achieved over 30 plates at the Master National. 6 of those dogs were inducted into the Master National Hall of Fame.
In 2018 Colby decided to transition into competing in field trials. It wasn’t long before Topline Retrievers was showing up with awards. In 2019 Colby had 4 very competitive Derby dogs that totaled over 100 points that season. A number of those dogs have gone on to getting Qualified All-Age and are now running Opens.
Colby and I will discuss the challenges he was faced with in the journey from hunt test to field trials. He shared with me a number of key points that will undoubtedly help you with your quest. You won’t want to miss this.