Hi Dave! Great questions! It was great seeing you in August at the spaniel hunt tests, I hope you enjoyed our tests. Delta Junction is a beautiful place in August.
Sometimes down the shore blinds where the reeds are thick and the dogs can't see me. If I have no idea where they are, which is frustrating, all I can think to do is give them a verbal "back". Then I hope they pop up in view again. I have faked it more than once. Heck one test I even pretended to see Riot for several backs until I finally saw him again. He didn't overrun the blind, so we did it and passed the test. But darn it can be scary. Riot doesn't need eye contact, so I worry about him more. Lucy will peek because she's more into eye contact. I guess it's up to the dog.
Some Alaska dogs:
If you ever get a chance to watch Cindy Little with Bounce,
they usually do an excellent job of long treading in neutral on water blinds.
And Harold Strahle and Preacher are amazing with Preacher "peeking" on land blinds.
I think Preacher was winning all age field trials before 3 years old.
I am a big fan of prolonged treading water on each whistle stop in water.
With my pups I teach this even before swimby...I throw out 2 bumpers,
release the pup, let him swim halfway to a bumper, whistle stop,
then I yell "Good!" the instant pup turns and we have eye contact.
I then cast to the alternative bumper for success.
I do this 2 or 3 times each day, gradually increasing the duration of eye contact
before casting to an alternative bumper.
I like this because it focuses on prolonged treading water plus
the concept of after each whistle stop, eye contact and change directions.
If you watch Mike Lardy's Swimby in his Total Retriever Training DVD,
he also marks the water stop with "GOOD!" the instant pup stops,
turns, and makes eye contact.
We are lucky in Fairbanks that there are many locations where you can run
casting drills on land, then warm running water, then warm swimming water as the summer
progresses and the Tanana River water rises with hotter weather.