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Teaching your dog to cast is basically teaching him direction by signal. You can use voice commands, hand signals, whistles, or gestures to communicate to your dog which direction you would like him to cast. Sending your dog into one direction or another is imperative if you are teaching your dog to hunt or work. Search dogs are often cast for work. If your dog is a retriever, a search dog, a hunter, or a working dog he will need to understand casting. A hunting dog will need to know which direction his prey is in. It is also imperative for a hunting dog to know in which direction he needs to go to remain safe. You do not want to teach your dog to run somewhere and scare off potential prey or potentially be injured. Military dogs also learn to cast. Casting becomes necessary outside of day-to-day domestic life and more important in hunting and working dogs.
There are four basic casts when you are teaching your dog this skill. The left-hand cast, the right-hand cast, the back or over cast, and the recall cast are all commands you will need to teach your dog if you would like to train casting. Some trainers and owners also teach their dog to move left or right and some trainers may also teach a left back and a right back cast. No matter the position you teach your dog, be sure to be consistent and use the same signals time and time again. Casting basically takes your dog away from your control and into a direction where you would like him to go. Casting him back into your direction requires another recall command or signal to your dog.
To train your dog to cast, you should have plenty of treats and some toys to toss in a direction you would like your dog to go. If you plan to use a clicker or a whistle for signals, have this handy as well. To start off on the right foot, have your dog harnessed or collared and leashed. Casting takes time and patience, but more than anything training your dog to cast will be extremely repetitive training. Be prepared to train in several sessions over the course of several weeks.
The Platform Casting Method
Come from the platform
Set three platforms in front of you. These can be raised platforms if your dog is a hunting dog and will need to recognize hunting platforms. These platforms could also be three objects you train your dog to use for a start and go position. Your dog should understand staying on platforms during casting is not the ultimate goal. Once your dog gets on any platform, call him back with a ‘here’ or ‘come’ command. Be sure to offer him a treat in a verbal phrase before bringing him back to you.
Left or right casting
Standing in the middle of two platforms, ask your dog to heel, bringing him by your side. Give your dog a left or right casting signal with a consistent blow of your whistle, if you are whistle training, and pointing in the direction you would like your dog to go with your left or your right hand respectively.
If your dog does not follow your hand signals or whistle signals, if you were using a whistle, toss a treat onto the platform in the direction you wish him to go. Repeat your hand signal, pointing to the platform and wait for your dog to get the treat.
Return to heel
As soon as your dog touches the platform and gets the treat, use the heel command with the expectation your dog will return to your side. Once he is at your side, offer him a treat.
Repeat the steps for each direction, standing in between the platforms.
Practice these commands a few times a day for several days until your dog understands casting by using platforms and hand signals.
Be sure to offer your dog consistent rewards every time he is on a platform and when he heels back to your side.
The Fun Cast Method
Start on a leash
Put your dog on a short and tight leash sitting in front of you.
Praise and excitement
Give your dog lots of verbal praise and excitement before you get started, so she's excited to learn.
Left and right
With a tight leash and a reward in one of your hands, show your dog a signal for a right cast. To do this, use the reward, which should either be a treat or a fun and exciting toy for your dog to retrieve, in the hand of the direction you wish your dog to cast.
Use a ‘watch me’ command or hold the treat up to your nose to get your dog's attention.
Toss the treat or toy in the direction you wish your dog to go. Be sure to use the same arm to get your dog to go in that direction. For instance, if you would like your dog to go to your right, cast of the treat or the toy out to your right. Simultaneously, loosen your dog's leash for the distance you would like her to go.
Communicate the particular direction with the hand signal and the treat or toys. Toss them in the direction you would like your dog to go. Practice this several times a day in short training sessions for about two weeks.
Practice hand signals
Practice using treats and then toys and then only hand signals as your dog’s abilities grow. Your dog should be able to cast left and right using only hand signals. Your hand signal for each direction will be your arm and hand straight out in the direction you would like the dog to go. Be sure to use the same arm and hand for the direction. For instance, if you would like your dog to cast right, use your right arm and hand stretched out in that direction.
Because dogs who typically cast are working dogs, your dog is going to need to know how to cast off-leash. After about three to four weeks of consistent training, you should be able to take your dog off leash have him sit in front of you and cast left or right using a hand motion going in that direction expecting him cast in the direction you wish.
Recalling your dog once he has been cast is an important task to keep your dog focused on the task at hand and make sure he returns to you safely. A recall can be as simple as calling his name, a particular whistle, or a hand motion. To train a recall, be sure to be consistent, using the same signal each time. Remember, for a recall, your dog may not always be within your sight to view and signal. When your dog is recalled successfully and comes back to you when you call him, offer him a bigger reward than you did with the casting training, so he understands the importance of the recall.
The Increasing Knowledge Method
Once your dog has left and right casting down, teach him to cast over back left and over back right.
As with a left or right cast, keep your dog on a short and tight leash, only loosening it when you are ready for your dog to cast.
When you are ready to cast, position yourself off center from your dog in the direction you wish your dog to go, either your left side or your right side before you cast him back.
Toy or treat
Using a toy or treat to entice your dog, raise your arm up over your head to teach your dog to go over left or right. You will use your right hand if you would like your dog to go over and back to your right and you will use your left hand if you would like your dog to go over and back to your left.
Toss treats or toy
Toss the treat or toy in front of you, using the correct hand for the direction you would like your dog to go. As you toss the treats, raise your hand over your head so your dog can begin to recognize the hand signal that goes with the command.
Repeat these steps using your left and your right hand while tossing a toy or retreats to entice your dog to move over back to your left and over back to your right. This motion should send the dog in front of you while staying on your left or right side.
Practice these steps several times a day in short training sessions for several weeks. When your dog is ready, begin to mix hand signals.
Written by Amy Caldwell
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 10/10/2017, edited: 01/08/2021