I have put hours of work into my two spaniels, both of whom are 15 months old, and I still struggle when sending them back on blind retrieves into a headwind. After 20-30 metres they go into hunting mode and start quartering across the headwind from side to side. What is your advice?
Mark Whitehouse says: Hunting comes naturally to most spaniels and working the headwind is part of their natural instinct. For this reason it is difficult to face a dog into the wind and expect him to run in a straight line – it is simply going against what has been hardwired into their system.
When I start giving a young dog marked retrieves I will always start them with training runs into a headwind. When they drop short at the beginning with the headwind in their faces they will hold the ground better and scent the retrieve from a distance more quickly. This makes them start to fight their natural instinct and pull forward to the retrieve.
This exercise is very direct, so do not allow your dog too much hunting time, cutting left or right on the headwind. Instead, call him back and give him another marked retrieve, starting close and building the distance up as they get the message. Work methodically and stick at it.