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Grady Istre – FIELD DOGS

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Wednesday, August 21, 2019
Analysis of a blind retrieve casting
Wednesday, October 2, 2019
Believe what you see

Casting drill
Teaching your hunting dog to take directional hand signals is a huge asset while hunting game. They save time, add to the game bag, and besides, there’s nothing to beat the thrill of hunting over a well-trained dog. A handling dog is a responsive dog, and when you can direct your dog to a dead bird he hasn’t seen shot, the whole day just seems to go more smoothly. So, I really recommend taking the time to teach dogs hand signals. “Back” and “over” are the basics, but often it seems that the perfect cast to a downed bird is the “angle back.” So, I do teach all my dogs to go to the right and left using a 45-degree back signal.


But, before you embark on teaching the angle back casts, it important that certain basics are solid. The commands of “heel,” “sit,” “fetch,” and “come” should be taught first. Your dog should also have been forced on “back,” take left and right “overs,” and be able to perform a 40-yard known blind. This foundation of learning is important because teaching the angled back is more advanced and requires a secure foundation. Otherwise, as in any new lesson, you may get side effects due to confusion and need to go back and refresh your dog with the commands and drills he has already learned.

As always, it’s best to teach your dog anything new in a controlled environment where he feels comfortable. This can be in your yard, or any known place with some space and few distractions. I teach my dogs beginning drill work in a fenced pasture where they are comfortable and feel secure. They are accustomed to the place and it’s now a learning environment for them.

Before teaching your dog to take angled “backs” you will need to have him taking straight backs first. And, he must turn to go to the straight back, turning properly, both left and right. To start, have your dog sit in a facing position in front of you with the bumper pile directly behind him. Throw a bumper into the pile and work on the straight “back” first. The goal is to have your dog turn both ways, according to which arm you raise. If at first the dog doesn’t see the difference, you can take a tiny step toward your arm to explain to the dog that you want him to turn in that direction.

Once you’ve mastered the turning and going to the bumper pile, you can add the angled backs. The goal is for the dog is to understand the four major “backs.” They are: straight back to the left, straight back to the right, angle back to the left, and angle back to the right. To maintain having the dog turning properly, you will want to keep that going by doing a set of straight backs often during the dog’s learning process.

Here are the expected mistakes and how to deal with them: When you send the dog for a straight back and he turns incorrectly, say “no” immediately and bring him back to the facing position and recast him. The second mistake is when your dog turns in the proper direction but goes for the wrong bumper. In this situation, wait a bit until the dog is halfway to the bumper before giving him a “no” command and bringing him back to the facing position to recast him. These two scenarios clearly define the mistake your dog has made. You should not stop him in the same location for both mistakes or you may confuse the hell out of him. By stopping him immediately, he will quickly see that he turned in the wrong direction. By stopping him halfway to the bumper, he will see that he went for the wrong bumper.

There you have it, fellow trainers. Something to work on; and something to solidify your communication with your dog. With a little help from the three P’s: “patience, persistence, and prayer,” you’ll have your dog handling in no time. You’ll also have a new tool: the beautiful angle back cast.

If you need additional help or pointers in teaching this drill to your dog, I have a video on my Facebook page Reibar Kennels, which should better explain the process.

Have fun training!

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Grady’s column’s generally appear in WON every other week and he can be reached at

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