Stand Alonesby Dennis Voigt
How the Lonely Amateur Can Get Excellent Training for Marks Without Any Helpers
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This procedure means that the Amateur can never complain about not giving his dogs marks because he has no help. I, of course, realize that a dog must be exposed to multiple gunners (doubles, triples and quads) and there is little substitute for multiple gunners or multiple remote-control bird throwers. The experience of watching multiple throws, remembering their marks and dealing with their interaction is best addressed with the real thing. However, as I have often hinted in ONLINE, stand alones can be used to advance many marking skills. This article will describe the 2 major types of stand alones (roving stand alones and one-place stand alones or send backs) and how to do them.
General Procedure and How to Teach
A stand-alone mark is one in which the dog sits at the line, alone, while the trainer walks out into the field (stands alone) and throws a mark. The dog is ‘released’ with a ‘name’ while the trainer remains at the mark like a gunner/thrower. When the dog finds the bird he delivers to the trainer.
Stand alones can be taught to young dogs as soon as they are steady. This procedure is taught very quickly in one or two sessions, started in a simple, short cover location. Sit the dog and walk out about 20 yards. Give a sit whistle and throw a bumper slightly angled back, watching to be sure your dog remains steady. Most take responsibility at this distance and watch the bird down. Some dogs will continue to watch the fall but others will shift their focus to look at you. In either case, count 1-1000, 2-1000 and release your dog with his name and a slight angle-in cast motion (the literal cast for this retrieve.) When the dog fetches, simply call him, ‘here’, for the delivery. Young dogs who are going through the yard basics or transition work at this stage will find this procedure very familiar from many casting drills.
When this is cleanly done (often the first time!), increase distance between you and the dog. I have found this procedure, if introduced incrementally, is mastered readily at distances up to 50-100 yards in one or two sessions. Older dogs catch on very quickly.
Although this is the basic procedure, there are 2 fundamental types of stand alones: roving stand alones and one-place stand alones.
Roving Stand Alones
In the Roving Stand Alone, the dog is placed at a starting line as you walk out for your first mark. This may be from 50 to hundreds of yards. You throw the bird, release the dog, await the find, then call the dog to you. Then, you leave the dog at that spot and you move on to the next location and repeat the sequence. With a large field, you might throw 5-6 marks as you move around and end up back near the starting point. Every mark is different and the dog has a different starting point each time. This is the simplest and most basic type of stand alone.
One-Place Stand Alones or Send Backs
This procedure differs from the roving stand alones in that each retrieve made by your dog is from the same place (line) although each mark is different. This means that you must teach your dog to return to the original line after each retrieve. A very valuable aid here is the use of a white marker such as a jug or pail. Long-time ONLINE readers will know that I rarely advocate the use of white jugs in teaching blinds except perhaps in establishing some early drills. However, the use of the white marker here is most helpful and since you will still be doing lots of cold blind retrieves at other times, your dog will not become dependent on the marker.
The procedure is to locate the line and to place a white marker prominently. I do this with the dog watching. A simple marker is to take a white pail and invert it over a shrub at a height of 3-4 feet. A white jug (e.g., a plastic bleach bottle) on a pole also works well. When starting a dog, I might even emphasize the marker to the dog by banging it and saying watch. Sit your dog and walk out for the first mark. Throw it and after a pause release your dog. When the dog finds the bird, have him deliver to you while facing back to the white marker (which should be visible from your spot.) Line him up, take the bird and send him back to the marker with a "back." The dog should line to the pail but handle if you must to maintain a reasonable line. When he is close (+/- 2-3 yards) from the marker, stop him with a whistle. With an eye on your dog, walk to the next mark location as your dog sits there. Throw the next mark and repeat the procedure. This can be readily built into a triple or quad very reminiscent of 3-4 walking singles by 1 gunner.