The Value Of The Staggered Triple
While there are several configurations that you can set up with three gun stations in the field, the most valuable of them all is The Staggered Triple. It consists of a long mark in the center of the test, a middle distance mark on one side, and a shorter mark on the opposite side of the test.
The staggered triple serves to develop and maintain a long list of important skills and desired habits. It’s also an excellent tool for teaching early concepts. These include:
Developing communication and targeting skills, that aid your dog in looking for and finding a longer, less conspicuous gun station, between two shorter, more attractive gun stations.
Creating a habit of coming to line to look for a longer, less conspicuous gun station between two shorter, more attractive gun stations
Creating habits to lock onto a longer, less attractive gun station. This includes committing to watch the mark fully with its eyes, while giving it its full mental attention.
Creating a habit of being prepared to do the long center mark as a single first.
Developing your dog’s ability to do memory marks while maintaining marking accuracy and confidence.
Teaching the first concept... “Do not return to hunt a fall area, from which a bird has already been retrieved."
Of course, distances to the marks, how tight the marks are, factors on route to the marks and conditions in the fall areas will determine how difficult the marks and concepts will be. If your dog is just starting to mark with gunners in the field, distances should be very short, the marks should be wide open and factors on route to the marks should be absent or neutral. The fall area shouldn’t have any elements which might impede your dog’s progress to the mark, and have minimal cover, making it easy for your dog to spot the retrieve as it approaches the fall area.
As your dog gains more experience, as it finds guns stations more easily, as it shows that it can confidently and precisely mark the location of singles and memory retrieves, and as it’s handling skills develop and solidify, you can gradually increase the level of difficulty, by adding distance to the marks, tightening them up, beginning to work on concepts, and finally, adding factors for your dog to fight.
Attention should largely remain focused on doing the long center mark as a single first. However, the order of the retrieves can be altered to develop your dog’s understanding of the concept “Don’t return to hunt a previously retrieved mark.” You can do this by having your dog retrieve the outside middle distance mark as a single first. Then, do a double with the two remaining marks, retrieving the long bird last. If your dog decides to return to one of the previously retrieved marks while doing the long center mark, simply handle it out to the long center mark. Continuing to expose your dog to this conceptual training will help your dog recognize the trap, and prevent it from making the mistake.