Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs
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Handling - Three Handed Casting
In hunting retriever tests and field trials, handling skills enable retrievers to take direction when they did not see the bird fall. But handling skills are not just for competition dogs.
They'll make your retriever a much more effective hunting dog as well.
Dogs Are Left or Right-Handed
The ability to control which way the dog turns when given a "Back" cast is of great value when you need to handle the dog away from an influence that causes it to veer off the correct line. Casting the dog "Back" by turning it toward a diversion invites the beginning dog to succumb to the temptation of the diversion. On the other hand, casting the dog "Back" away from a diversion essentially tells the dog "NO Leave that alone," and greatly increases your control at a distance.
Training the dog to take both left and right-hand "Back" casts is complicated by the dog's natural tendency to be left or right-handed. Because of this tendency, your dog will prefer to turn one way-toward its stronger side. This preference will interfere when you want it to turn toward its weak side away from a diversion.
In your puppy training you determined whether your dog had a tendency to turn right or left, and you gave it early lessons on turning both ways before it developed a habit of turning in only one direction. You have also taught your dog to take both left- and right-hand casts into a dog crate and into the water. Now, all that early groundwork will payoff as you advance your dog's handling skills.
Teaching Left and Right-Hand "Back"
If your dog does not already know both left- and right-hand "Back" casts, or if it needs a refresher, begin by placing a pile of dog training bumpers 15 feet behind the dog. At first, practice having the dog turn toward its weak side. Stand about six feet in front of the dog, and have the dog sit slightly angled toward the direction you want it to turn. Cast the dog "Back" as you take a step in that direction. For example, if the dog is to turn to its left, raise your right arm straight up and give the cast as you step to the right.
With everything stacked in favor of success, the dog should turn in the correct direction. As the dog becomes proficient at turning to its weak side, sit it squarely in front of you rather than at an angle, and stop taking a step to the side when you give the cast.
Once the dog is turning well to its weak side, repeat the procedure but have the dog turn "Back" to its strong side. Then alternate between the dog's strong and weak sides.
A common handling error is to step toward the dog when casting "Back." Don't start this habit. The dog cannot see your motion toward it from a distance.
If the dog refuses to cast back, move it closer to the pile of bumpers. Then use stimulation and give the command "Back!"
Do not correct a beginning dog for turning the wrong way, because it may think it is being corrected for going rather than for turning in the wrong direction. If this happens, it will become confused and will not want to go back at all. Instead, if the beginning dog turns the wrong way, let it complete the retrieve, and then make it easier for the dog. Angle its position again to ensure that it will turn correctly with the next repetition. Remember to cast it several times toward its weak side for every cast you give toward its strong side.
It's not difficult to teach the dog to cast left or right on the command "Over," especially if you started "Over" for hot dog treats when it was a pup. Also, you should have taught the dog to turn off stimulation by taking your "Over" cast into a crate and into the water.
Refresh the dog's memory of "Over" by having it sit between two piles of bumpers about 60 feet apart. Throw a bumper to one pile. If the dog isn't focused on you, command "Look." As soon as the dog looks at you, cast it "Over" in the direction of your throw. After the dog is casting well to the pile where you just threw the bumper, start throwing to one pile and casting the dog to the other.
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