Learning to Cast

| January 18, 2014 | 0 Comments
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Previously I have written about how I have been learning to show in the conformation ring and this week I would like to share with you another endeavor I have ventured upon with my dog. I have been participating in hunt training with my black lab Indy since he was four months old. I can admit I never pictured myself doing this but it is a lot of fun and Indy really enjoys it! My goal is to forge ahead towards Indy’s junior hunt title this spring.

A short summary of our training thus far has been learning and concreting Indy’s “Here, heel, sit” and from there we moved onto Indy’s retrieval of pigeons and eventually ducks. He loves to retrieve birds and he always wants to please. Our next steps comprised of Indy learning his “force hold” and then “force fetch”.

This week Indy and I made a big step forward in our hunt test training, we began to learn how to cast! I have been anticipating learning how to do this for a long time and have patiently waited till both Indy I were ready. If you are not familiar with casting it is essentially giving your dog directions using hand signals, voice commands, and whistle commands. A majority of the time, when casting, the dogs do not know where the birds are, this is called a blind retrieve, and so depend on the accuracy of the handler to correctly deliver them to the bird. Trust is an important aspect of casting, which is developed by working and practicing casting at a close range of several yards and then progressively moving the bumpers farther away. The dog must be able to trust the handler.

My trainer Matt Nolan and I began the process using bumpers and teaching Indy the word “back”. I began with Indy at a heel, sitting next to me. A pile of bumpers lay several yards in front of us. I would release him with a loud and clear “Back!” while simultaniously reaching my hand into the air in a way that could be comparable to an over zealous student raising their hand to answer a question. This was immediately followed with a quiet “fetch”. He sprinted in a straight line to the bumpers retrieving one and returning to a heel beside me. This is the very beginnings of casting. I only had Indy retrieve bumpers with the word and signal for “back” five times. He is still young so to keep it interesting and fun I keep the training sessions short, positive, and zealous.

Later in the day I set aside another 5-10 minutes to work on his “over” to the left and right. To work on this I had Indy sit right in front of me, facing towards me. With piles of bumpers several yards away to my left and right we began our little training exercise. I took a step to the left while simultaneously pushing my arm out, as if I were politely pointing, to the left accompanied with a firm whistle followed with the command “Over!”. It sounds like a lot written out but it’s really a simple motion! The hand signal helps to direct Indy’s attention in the direction he needs to move and look for the mark.The whistle right before the verbal command will become very important and Indy will come to associate it with the command to sit. Such as, If Indy is fifty yards out and he veers off his mark I blow the whistle loud and clear one time and he will know to stop where he is, sit, and look at me, waiting for direction. Again, when he is out of ear shot he will know which direction to go. I practiced his “over” for both directions just a few times so he had success, keeping it short and sweet.

In any given training session I do not tend to work with Indy for more than 10 to 15 minutes and I always make a good effort to be a cheerleader when Indy does something right, making it even more fun for him! It is never constructive to drill your dog repetitively for long periods of time. Keeping your sessions constructive and short with any kind of training makes it more fun for both you and your dog. If you’re interested in learning more about hunt tests, attaining hunt titles, and training you can check it out on the AKC here. If you want to learn more about attaining hunt titles click here.

Category : Blog, Hunt Training

Misha Abbenhouse

About the Author ()

Being surrounded by the Great Northwest for the entirety of my life I have come to really enjoy the outdoors, loving the rain almost as much as the fleeting sunshine and all the activities that come along with it. I've always loved animals especially those of the equine and canine variety. My intense interest in dogs led me to start writing about the adventures that Indy, my black lab, and I shared. Aside from animals, I love to read and write and college really fostered this love and I now find myself being able to couple my two great loves of writing and dogs.

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