Besides the actual hunting with a spaniel – which when it flows is an experience that’s hard to beat – I really enjoy working on casting. I think I enjoy it so much because it’s possible to vary that training indefinitely. It’s just one’s own imagination that puts an end to the options.
It is also a great thing to do with your dog – no matter what you plan to be doing together. older show cocker Totte is the one of my dogs that I have trained the least casting with so I can do a lot of fun basic exercises with him when I want to teach him something new. He gets to use his brain, gets a bit challenged and has to put in some effort, not just lounge around. And we have a lot of fun together!
For Tassla, I put together quite challenging exercises – exercises where she has to remember where I placed the dummies since I let time pass before sending her to retrieve. The challenges might also have to do with the terrain, different kinds of distractions and then of course longer distances. Right now, we’re struggling a bit with her stop whistle that’s not quite working on a distance.
Quling, who you might recall loves to run really, really fast, has become really skilled at dealing with marked retrieves at long distances. I’m as always working on him doing what I want, and not what he thinks that I want 😉 The world-famous exercise the Clock with placed out bowls is great for that. I try to add “distraction bowls” very early in the training, so that it doesn’t become a big thing when they show up. If I’m working on push backs, I’ll first place a bowl on one side and then another bowl on the other side, which he should ignore. They’re just teaser bowls. When he treats them like they don’t exist, I once in a while begin to direct him to them and suddenly the bowls become a more difficult distraction. Quling, being the world’s most curious and optimistic dog, actually struggles a bit with that task 😉 It’s fun to gradually make the exercise more and more challenging, and then really try to get him distracted so that he needs to try harder and harder. I usually pretend to put treats in the teaser bowl first, before putting treats in the correct bowl and sending him there. When he is good at that, I’ll change the order and first place treats in the correct bowl and then pretend to put treats in the teaser bowl. A great way to make the exercise more challenging.
But most of the time it’s actually the stop whistle that’s the biggest challenge for my students when I give classes in casting. All my students had a quite easy path regarding the casting – and almost all of them struggled with the stop whistle in different ways …
I just have to share a little movie clip on how great my students were in a class I had a while ago! Some were brand new to casting before the course, but we took it step by step and naturally the fact that they were all skilled trainers helped 🙂 Initially, there’s quite a lot to keep track of. You need to take it step by step if the dog is to learn to look where I am pointing, not to run out just because I’m pointing but wait for my cue, etc.
When learning he stop whistle, the biggest challenge for many seems to be that the dog should be able to sit at a distance. A GREAT many have dogs that believe that the stop whistle means that they should sit in front of the trainer’s feet. 😉 And the dog isn’t really stopping at the whistle, but because the trainer uses his or her whole body with a hand in the air as the cue. But I want the dog to first and foremost react to the whistle. There aren’t many real situations where the dog is looking at you before you’ve whistled the stop – and then it doesn’t matter really matter how much you’re waving. I think the platform training is very helpful here. But I also like to think that many paths can lead you to the goal and so I always give advice on as many different ways I can come to think of when it comes to working on stopping at a distance. Our dogs generally get a lot of reinforcement near us and perhaps we forgot to include working at a distance from us in the puppy’s foundation training. Then this will be more of a challenge than it would have needed to be.
Here are some links to videos and posts about the training:
Tips on ways to get the dog to be able to work at a distance:
About how to use a platform:
Other ways to work on the stop whistle: