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Casting - Introducion to Directional Signals
You will have first introduced casting during your work on the kennel command and again later when you were finishing up you early work force fetch. So this isn’t new for your dog. However, we want to teach a more formal casting response and add whistle sit and e-collar corrections for cast refusals. Don’t spend too long on this drill; a couple of days or a week is plenty. Your dog will get casting practice the rest of his life. He doesn’t need to be perfect before moving on. Make sure he knows the casts and will accept correction/force for refusals and you are ready to move on.
During this drill you will work on four basic casts: left and right over, and left and right back. The sequence of steps is as follows:
- 1. Do left and right over separately
2. Retrieve on over from a pile
3. Alternate casting over with two piles out
4. Do left and right back cast
5. Put out all three piles and alternate casting through each of the four casts
Left and Right Over Casts
Work on each cast individually. Start by casting to a visible, thrown bumper.
Place your dog on a sit-stay. He should be wearing his e-collar and a choke chain with a 15-foot line attached to the live ring of the choke chain. Step off about six feet in front and turn to face him. With your right hand, toss one bumper to land 10 feet off your dog’s left shoulder.
Blow the sit whistle and when he is looking at you, cast with your right hand, command “fetch/over” and begin tapping. Your dog’s movement to retrieve should stop the taping. When you are convinced he understands the cast intermittently force in route on “fetch” tap “fetch.” Praise for a good retrieve; repeat your command and tap until he picks up the bumper if your dog should deviate or quit on the way to the bumper.
After each retrieve, move forward to receive the bumper. Stand so that when your dog returns to sit in front for delivery he will be sitting on the spot from which you first cast him. Encourage a straight sit in front, but do not initially correct for a less-than-perfect sit. As your dog gains experience on casting you can increase your requirements for a straight sit. Work to get four or five good retrieves on the right-hand cast.
To teach the left over, reverse the directions. With your dog in the remote sit position, toss the bumper and cast with your left hand.
For the first two sessions on casting, command, “fetch, over.” After the first two sessions, your dog should have made the association between “fetch” and “over” and you can drop the fetch command.
During this drill, hold your dog accountable for stay and for good attention on the whistle sit command. Now and later in the field, he cannot take a cast he does not see. If your dog breaks to retrieve before you send him, do not allow him to retrieve, whistle “sit” and tap, tap tap until he sits.
Often one sessions is sufficient exposure to formal casting to move to the next step, but be sure your dog will look at you on the whistle sit, will wait for a cast before attempting to retrieving and will cast both left and right smoothly before moving on.
Casting to a Pile
Place your dog on a sit-stay. Place four bumpers about 10 feet off his left shoulder. Stand about six feet in front as before and toss one bumper to the pile. Pause, whistle sit and when he is looking at you cast command “over” and begin tapping. After he retrieves walk forward and receive the bumper. After praising him, flip the bumper behind you. Leave him on a stay and step back. Now, cast command and tap, directing him to the pile for another retrieve.
The second and subsequent casts of this set present an important difference to your dog. You are directing him to retrieve without the excitement of the throw. You will tap on every casts to the pile in this first set. Occasionally, a dog will balk at retrieving without seeing the throw. If your dog hesitates or stops in route command “fetch” and tap until he picks up. Your cast and the “over” is a command and not a release to retrieve if he feels like it.
Some dogs will try to shop back and forth, picking up each bumper in turn, delaying the retrieve. To eliminate this, command and tap on fetch as he nears the pile. Do not allow him the option of duty free shopping. He can shop if he insists but there is an e-collar tax to do so. He will soon tire of this game and choose one bumper when he gets to the pile.
After your dog has retrieved all the bumpers from the right/over pile, replace the pile, this time off his right shoulder and work on the left-hand cast. Again, for the first cast to the left, identify or “mark” the pile by throwing a bumper to it. Force on all casts as you work through the left over pile.
Work one or two sessions as needed so that your dog will retrieve all the bumpers in these small piles without you marking the pile for every retrieve.
Two Piles, Alternate Casting
Put out both over piles at the same time, with four bumpers in each pile. Place your dog on a sit-stay between the piles and facing you. Begin just as before, by throwing and casting to the right-hand pile. Now, instead of tossing the retrieved bumper behind you, return it to the pile it came from and cast to the opposite pile. Instead of retrieving all the bumpers from one side before changing casts, you will alternate casting right and left. This is an important difference. Work through until your dog has made five retrieves from each pile.
This step presents two changes for your dog. Until now, you have always thrown and cast the same direction. Here you are casting away from the thrown bumper. In addition, this is the first time he has had a choice of directions. If your dog tries to retrieve from the wrong pile, whistle sit and cast again. Accept this as an error and not disobedience. However, the newness of the situation does not negate your dog’s responsibility to retrieve; if he refuses to retrieve when cast, get on the button and tap, tap, tap, until he retrieves from the correct pile.
One or two sessions are usually enough to accustom your dog to alternate casting with two piles out. However, before moving on to the next step, make sure your dog is looking at you on the whistle sit, waiting for your command to retrieve, casting in the direction you choose, and that he picks up as soon as he gets to the pile.
Left and Right Back Cast
Place your dog in front on a sit-stay but angle the dog to your right. He will not be facing you directly but facing your five o’clock position. Toss a bumper with your right hand past his left side to land 10 feet behind him at twelve o’clock. Cast right-hand back, command back and begin tapping. As soon as he moves toward the bumper stop the tapping. Praise for retrieving. Have him do four or five right back casts.
Replace the pile and have him do the left back cast. Sit the dog in front and angle him to the left. This time he should be facing your seven o’clock position. With your left hand, toss the bumper past his right side to land at the twelve o’clock position. Cast with your left hand command back and begin tapping. Once he is turned and headed to retrieve stop tapping.
By offsetting the dog to the side you plan to cast, you are making it easier for the dog to turn the correct way. At this point he doesn’t know to turn left and right back in response to command, so do not worry about correcting for turning the wrong way. Instead, whistle sit and recast.
When he can cast “back” turning both right and left, begin to force intermittently in route on your casts. Begin to place the dog straighter every session from now on. Eventually you will sit him facing you directly and cast for either left or right back.
If you worked on casting on the kennel command none of this is new and your dog should breeze through this work.
Casting to Three Piles
Now that your dog can do all positions, left and right over, and left and right back, put all three piles out at once. Alternate casting through each of the four casts. After each retrieve, return each bumper to the pile it came from. In the beginning, follow each over with the opposite back cast. This way you are casting your dog away from the temptation of returning to the pile he has just retrieved from. When he has more experience casting with all three piles out, teach the inside cast; that is, follow the left over with a left back, the right over with the right back.
Using Indirect Pressure in Casting Drills
Until now we have used the e-collar to apply “direct” pressure: a whistle sit and nick for failure to sit, and here-nick-here for failure to come when called. We can also use the e-collar to apply “indirect” pressure by correcting or forcing on one command to improve performance on another.
To correct for cast refusal using indirect pressure, whistle sit your dog. If needed, call in to reposition, whistle sit, tap, tap, tap, tap, on sit, and whistle sit again. Then recast.
This works on three levels to improve casting response. First, the dog is unsuccessful in his choice of response. Dogs will eventually eliminate behavior that does not bring reward. Second, the e-collar tap on sit is an unpleasant result of the inappropriate response. Dogs will eventually eliminate behavior that results in discomfort. Finally, dogs generalize information; improvement in the dog’s performance on the sit command carries over to other commands.
This indirect pressure on whistle sit along with force on the command for proper response will be the two main methods we will use to correct for cast refusals throughout the dog’s training in the field. The requirement that your dog sit on the nick is not new and should pose no problems for him. But, be diligent here. Some dogs will try to jump to retrieve in response to the nick or run in on the nick. For you to correct with the e-collar now and later in the field, your dog must sit on the nick. For any inappropriate response, step in and use the line to guide the proper response, ending the tap, tap, tap when your dog obeys the sit whistle.
by Pat Nolan