|Occasionally dogs will blink birds for reasons other than an accumulation of training errors. Lack of familiarity with the game to be retrieved can be a factor. We have participated in hunt tests in which chukar partridges were used. Several dogs that retrieved other species well blinked the chukars, perhaps because of unfamiliarity. We have had dogs that blinked doves on their first dove hunt. rudge, FC Oakhill Exponent, when sent from the boat on her first Canada goose, showed surprise when she got to the twelve-pound bird, but retrieved it flawlessly. |
Dogs (males, that is) will frequently blink a bird if sent to an area in which bitches (females, that is) in heat have been working. Testosterone takes over and bird interest disappears. We make a practice of periodic training with dogs on ground on which bitches in heat have been worked. You don't need to make ~ a steady practice of this, for fear of creating other difficulties. Our method employs the electronic dog training collar. When the dog puts his nose down to enjoy bitch scent, we say "No, Here!" accompanied by a nick with the collar. Then we move to the bird and command "Fetch," perhaps with an accompanying ear pinch or collar nick if he has been forced with the collar. Usually a few repetitions will serve to ensure your dog's retrieve, even though he encounters heat scent along the way.
In cases in which the training off bitch scent requires considerable pressure, you will likely find that your dog will refuse to breed. This is an issue that can usually be resolved with expert handling. Some dogs will only breed in a specific setting, such as the back yard. But this is preferable to having your dog yield; to the "call of the wild" when there are birds to be retrieved.
Probably the most common reason for bird blinking is "burnout." Dogs, just like people, have a breaking point, and it is our business as trainers to avoid passing that point. D. L. Walters once made the comment that it was his opinion that most amateurs train too much. There is much to be said for quit- ting before exhaustion begins to affect dog or trainer. Most pros, owing to their number of trainees, do not over-train. Short, to- the-point sessions with regular frequency are the answer, not long, belabored harangues.
Blinking, in general, can be treated by first removing the cause. Whether it is a result of overwork, confusing retriever training, or other mistakes, remove it. Add more bird work to your dog's training. Shot fliers and lots of work with birds he especially likes are good. Be sure to give your dog an abundance of the birds you are likely to encounter while hunting or in formal events. Of course, if you're invited to a sandhill crane hunt, you'll simply have to rely on luck.