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The Blind Retrieve

Teaching the blind retrieve will pay dividends. "The ultimate waterfowl dog will take hand signals," Bartz said. Waterfowl hunting, often with multiple shooters downing multiple birds, is a challenge for any retriever. But the good ones soon learn to mark falling birds and, add to that blind retrieves, and you’ve got an extremely valuable hunting companion on your hands. "I’ve seen my dog stand over a downed bird searching the sky for any other birds that might be dropping or wounded but sailing off," Bartz said.

Bartz believes blind retrieving is so important he has developed products to help ensure successful training.

"To speed the process, I use a black and white flag to point out the areas where the dummies are," he said. "It is important to do as much as you can to help the dog succeed. Dogs proceed in training by succeeding, not in failing." And, he said, those successes lead to confidence and a willing attitude to want to please.

The dummies his company, Flagman Products, produces are black and white, which makes them easy to see regardless of the background, plus they’re available with streamers attached which effectively doubles the visual effect, again helping the dog mark the dummies down and improving the chances of success.

His mainstay retrieving tool, in open country, is his 4-inch by 15-inch black and white dummy with a 15-inch streamer, he said. "I prefer the 4-inch diameter dummy because it conditions dogs to accept a bird of about that size. Ducks, pheasants, most birds other than geese are in the 4-inch range," he said.

He also makes a 4-inch by 6-inch dummy which he uses on pattern drills because they are easy for dogs to carry, particularly in brushy or heavy cover.

Remote Training Collars

"If you have a willing performer, by repetition you can create a willing worker," he said. And that, he said, is where remote training collars fit into the picture.

"So much of the off-leash control work is made possible by remote training collars," he said.

Such as blind-retrieve training, he said. You can dissect the retrieve and use the collar to reinforce the learning process step by step, from learning to stop, sit and look back for directions at the sound of a whistle to following hand signals.

"There are so many little things you can do with remote collars and launchers, like Innotek’s Command Series, that tie in nicely with dummy training," he said. "They’ve really changed the basic training and preparation of dogs. They make it so much easier for one guy to start these dogs and progress at a good rate."

Justifying the expense of a remote training system is easy, he said, if you look at the amount of time it will save in the training process, plus what you’ll save traveling to groups and clubs where assistance is available.

After his military career, Bartz worked his way up through the retriever field trial world, eventually becoming an eight-point licensed judge.

After purchasing his kennel, Lake Shady Kennels in Oronoco, Minnesota, he gave up judging, since you can’t earn money from a kennel while a judge, and switched his efforts to hunting test trials. In 1989, he left an insurance career behind to devote full time to the kennel. He credits his wife, Susan, who pitched in with long hours of hard work, with the success of the kennel and Flagman Products.

But it all, ultimately, comes down to the dog handler, Bartz said. "If you recognize the need to spend a little time each day with your dog, you won’t have much of a task when the season comes," he said. "A little bit each day gets you big results."

For more information on Lake Shady Kennels and Flagman Products ,call (507) 367-4782.

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