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Training a Dog To a High Level On Your Own

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March 25, 2011

Training a Dog To a High Level On Your Own

By Chad Love

by Chad Love

Not long after my post on the importance of training partners  I received an e-mail from MBF reader Caleb Gaston, who wrote:
"As a novice dog trainer that often works alone, I relish the opportunities I have to work with others. I am able to learn from these trainers that know more about training dogs than I. But, I'm not very often able to train with a partner. My schedule is very weather dependent: if it's a nice day to train, I really should be working on my research on the lake instead of working with my dog. This weather dependency also prevents me from planning ahead to work with a partner.

When I can spare some time for the dog, it's often short notice and not conducive to including a partner. So my question is this: what tips can a more seasoned loner like yourself provide to the rest of us loners? For example: If you were a broke college student, how would you work on marks? Remote sit: walk away from dog, throw mark, send? Or walk away from dog, throw mark, walk back, then send? Throw mark with dog at heel?"
Caleb makes a great point, and it got me wondering how many of us, due to circumstances beyond our control (work, school, family, geography) do the majority of our training alone. I still think a training partner is the best tool you can have, but the reality for many of us (including me) is that we train alone or we don’t train at all. So, I'd like to do a little market research here and ask you, the readers: Would you like to see more content focused on solo training? Methods and techniques for solo training? Reviews of gear designed to help the partnerless trainer?

Fortunately, there are just as many ways and methods of training alone as there are for group or partner training. This is your blog, so by all means give me your feedback...

And to answer (sort of) Caleb's original question, I too, was once a broke college student (as opposed to the broke writer I am today) faced with the same dilemma: I had a young dog, no training partner and no equipment other than enthusiasm, a few bumpers, a whistle and a check cord.

Parsed down its fundamentals, that's all you really need to teach basic marks. And even though I now use bumper launchers and wingers, hand-thrown standalone marks are still an integral part of my training. I actually use both methods. Leaving your dog on the line, walking away, throwing the mark and then walking back is a great way to work on a dog's steadiness and marking memory, as are roving marks (sit dog, walk away, throw bumper from the gunner's position, send dog and then have dog retrieve to the gunner's position, then repeat a new mark from there).

Plus, if you ever want to run your dog in an AKC, NAHRA  or HRC  roving marks give you the added benefit of getting your dog used to seeing gunners in the field. The picture above shows my dog Tess waiting to be released on a long standalone mark where I walked back to the line to release her.

One of the best articles I've read on standalone marks and training alone (and one of the best online resources for retriever enthusiasts) is this series of articles on the Retrievers Online website. Written by Canadian trainer Dennis Voigt (who also just released a DVD highlighting his solo retriever training methods. Look for a review as soon as I can get my hands on one), these articles are a great resource for the solo trainer.

And here's another idea for you, Caleb. In addition to regular and roving standalones, Voigt also uses a variation where he sends the dog from the gunner's (thrower's) position, has the dog retrieve to that position like in a regular roving standalone, but then he lines the dog back to its original position. Of course, that requires that your dog be trained to handle, but it's just another example of how the creative solo trainer can effectively train a dog to a high level.

Comments (11)

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from folley2 wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

Since i train mostly alone i would definetly like to see more on methods and techniques. I'm constantly juggling between my 7 month old daughter and my 3 month old springer. So the time i spend training my pup is critical. we still have plenty of snow around my neck of the woods, so we are still trainging mostly inside. always looking for advice and tips, thats why i check out MBF everyday!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from johntalbott wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

I train by myself exclusively, not because I want to, but I've had a hard time meeting up with people who train. I'm also broke and in law school, so limited time and resources makes it difficult to regularly train. I've been working on blind retrieves with belle. My routine is to hide all 6 of my bumpers in the lake, tall grass, and brush while I keep her in the kennel in my jeep. then I get her out of the jeep, walk her on heel towards the area(s) from which I will send her, and she retrieves, then we repeat. Its tedious, but it works. Do you have any advice for creating hunt-like scenarios while training alone?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Beauregard wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

Thanks Chad. For this part: "but then he lines the dog back to its original position." Is there a bumper waiting for the dog at his original position or I am just sending him back to a spot? If it's the latter, it seems like a good opportunity to use the "place" command.

Caleb

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from JOHN ANDERSON wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

Hank made training pretty easy he picked up my bad habits,and I picked up a few of his.I firmly belive a dog is a mirror image of there owner.Ive a buddy thats dog whines to high heaven in the blind.I know where she picked it up.LOL.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jamesti wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

my dog seemed to have the instincts built in. easy to train and learned quick. he wines in the blind as well and get crabby when my shooting sucks. he just wants to get the bird! i hardly trained with anyone with him.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from duckranger wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

I would like to see more articles about training solo. Especially introduction to gunfire, blinds, training without having private land to use, creative uses of land available in a neighborhood, working with distractions. I enjoy all your posts. Thanks.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

Big problem if you do use good methods is the time it takes, and not being inconsistent, and giving in because it is your dog.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from dighunter wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

I know a lot of you guys are bird dog trainers, but I know that I would like some help learning to train hounds. I have never had anyone in my family train beagles or even hunt with them until I got started few years ago. Most of what I have learned about hunting, I have learned online and from field and stream.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from rolfsbud wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

I would love to hear more columns about training solo. I am training my first dog, with kind of a late start in life, and would consider myself a novice at best. I may not be as broke as the rest but my money doesn't stretch far and I often have to diligently consider an item before I buy it.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jollyman wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

I would like to see more on training alone too. Great idea .... heading now to check out that retriever website.... thx

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Coachcl wrote 3 years 5 days ago

I do most of my training alone. Works ok. Would love some help, but I also can't complain about my dogs. They hunt the way I want them too.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jesse.Cook7 wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

My wife and I have a 4 month old Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever and I want to teach it how to hunt. I want to do the training myself as opposed to sending her to a kennel that will shock the dog into submission. Are there any good books you recommend that I should ready in order to not only teach the basic obedience commands, but also quartering and water retrieving? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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from duckranger wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

I would like to see more articles about training solo. Especially introduction to gunfire, blinds, training without having private land to use, creative uses of land available in a neighborhood, working with distractions. I enjoy all your posts. Thanks.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from folley2 wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

Since i train mostly alone i would definetly like to see more on methods and techniques. I'm constantly juggling between my 7 month old daughter and my 3 month old springer. So the time i spend training my pup is critical. we still have plenty of snow around my neck of the woods, so we are still trainging mostly inside. always looking for advice and tips, thats why i check out MBF everyday!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from johntalbott wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

I train by myself exclusively, not because I want to, but I've had a hard time meeting up with people who train. I'm also broke and in law school, so limited time and resources makes it difficult to regularly train. I've been working on blind retrieves with belle. My routine is to hide all 6 of my bumpers in the lake, tall grass, and brush while I keep her in the kennel in my jeep. then I get her out of the jeep, walk her on heel towards the area(s) from which I will send her, and she retrieves, then we repeat. Its tedious, but it works. Do you have any advice for creating hunt-like scenarios while training alone?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Beauregard wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

Thanks Chad. For this part: "but then he lines the dog back to its original position." Is there a bumper waiting for the dog at his original position or I am just sending him back to a spot? If it's the latter, it seems like a good opportunity to use the "place" command.

Caleb

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from JOHN ANDERSON wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

Hank made training pretty easy he picked up my bad habits,and I picked up a few of his.I firmly belive a dog is a mirror image of there owner.Ive a buddy thats dog whines to high heaven in the blind.I know where she picked it up.LOL.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jamesti wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

my dog seemed to have the instincts built in. easy to train and learned quick. he wines in the blind as well and get crabby when my shooting sucks. he just wants to get the bird! i hardly trained with anyone with him.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

Big problem if you do use good methods is the time it takes, and not being inconsistent, and giving in because it is your dog.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from dighunter wrote 3 years 3 weeks ago

I know a lot of you guys are bird dog trainers, but I know that I would like some help learning to train hounds. I have never had anyone in my family train beagles or even hunt with them until I got started few years ago. Most of what I have learned about hunting, I have learned online and from field and stream.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from rolfsbud wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

I would love to hear more columns about training solo. I am training my first dog, with kind of a late start in life, and would consider myself a novice at best. I may not be as broke as the rest but my money doesn't stretch far and I often have to diligently consider an item before I buy it.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jollyman wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

I would like to see more on training alone too. Great idea .... heading now to check out that retriever website.... thx

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Coachcl wrote 3 years 5 days ago

I do most of my training alone. Works ok. Would love some help, but I also can't complain about my dogs. They hunt the way I want them too.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jesse.Cook7 wrote 2 years 41 weeks ago

My wife and I have a 4 month old Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever and I want to teach it how to hunt. I want to do the training myself as opposed to sending her to a kennel that will shock the dog into submission. Are there any good books you recommend that I should ready in order to not only teach the basic obedience commands, but also quartering and water retrieving? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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