Pattern Blind/Cold Blind TRANSITION
Questions pop up fairly often about issues during this period. Lately I've seen and received enough to warrant some clarity on its central aspects. Since we're not all seasoned veteran trainers here it might be valuable to discuss this topic.
At a point when our dogs have enough basic skills we begin running what are commonly called “pattern blinds”; pre-identified, or visually marked destinations that are not marked falls. These exercises help the trainer to introduce some basic functions to a developing dog that will assist in running real blinds, AKA “cold blinds”. There is often some confusion about the differences between them, and how to transition from one to the other.
By including force to pile, AKA ‘FTP’, in our force fetch program we educate our dogs not only to go when sent, but to perform all the essentials of the fully-trained retrieve. “Go, fetch, come” are critically important, and the force fetch course sets this function up in a well-structured and efficient form including ‘finish’; the actual coming to heel to sit and deliver on command.
Once those essential functions are intact we begin to stretch the distance to the pile, and ad the elements of force en route, force from the front sit position/Back cast, etc. As all that develops together it continues to around 100 yards, and other piles can be identified in a ‘pattern’. That is customarily 3 piles 90 degrees apart in what is known as a 3-leg pattern, from which came the name “pattern blind”. They are not cold blinds because the dog is taught the destinations ahead of time.
The questions largely revolve around the transition from these known destinations (piles/pattern blinds) to real blinds – ‘cold blinds’. One such question commonly asked is when to begin this transition. When your dog will do the following – not just sometimes, not just pretty well, but with great reliability and confidence:
1. Obey fundamental obedience commands, such as heel, sit, here, and will turn right and left at the heel position.
2. Is competent and polished in all phases of force fetch, up to and including FTP.
3. Has been thoroughly educated to en route forcing.
During this same period of time most programs guide the trainer to be working on basic handling skills so the pattern blinds progress as handling skills develop. I recommend starting pattern blinds short, and gradually teach more of them in new places at only slightly longer distances as long as the dog is running them efficiently and with confidence. But, having patiently and thoroughly taught these essential functions, and having extended the length of your PBs to around 100 yards, all that should keep you from advancing to cold blinds is the completion of Land T work. Weather permitting, it would also be appropriate to have finished water force & swim-by.
The actual transition is a topic of its own.