Casting and lining are about choosing the direction in which you want your dog to travel.
They are the ‘steering’ component of directional control
The difference between them lies in the location of your dog when the cue is given.
Where is your dog?
There are two potential starting points for a retrieve, depending on whether your dog is next to, or remote from, you.
You can cue the retrieve with the dog at your side, which we refer to as ‘lining’
Or you can cue the retrieve with the dog at a position remote from yours. We call this ‘casting’
Let’s look at ‘lining’ first
With the dog at heel it is possible to line him up quite accurately in any direction.[wp_ad_camp_1]This is very helpful for long distance blind retrieves, as what seems like a small variation in direction at close quarters, can be greatly magnified over distance.
Lining is also very important when marking, as it enables us to select which of a number of potential retrieves we want the dog to collect first.
Lining over long distances has become something of an art form in the USA where Field Trial dogs are expected to carry out extreme long distance retrieves, often with several water entry and exits, throughout which the dog must remain true to the line along which he has been sent.
This practice is sometimes scorned in the UK where we place more value on gamefinding and steadiness, than on marking and lining.
However, few experienced UK gundog handlers would dispute the frustration of a dog that veers off course within a few yards of being sent, or the value of a dog that will hold a line over considerable distances, and through distractions and challenges.
Lining simply gives you more choice, and more control, and is an efficient way to send a dog to a specific area.
Lining over obstacles, especially water, avoids that embarrassing situation where your dog runs up and down the bank of a stream looking for a easy entry, or all the way around the edge of a pond, whilst a wounded bird escapes across a field on the other side.
Accurate lining enables us to get our dogs swiftly and efficiently into an area of fall, and is therefore a useful skill.
Its foundations are laid by setting clear standards of position and cues on the simplest of retrieves and then gradually building up the level of difficulty
With the dog remote from you, your ability to direct him is somewhat cruder, yet still very useful.
You can send him Back (directly away from you) or Left, or to the Right.
It is possible to refine this somewhat, and in the US it is common practice to teach top level retrievers ‘angle-backs’ by varying the height to which the directing outstretched arm is raised.
At its most basic level any working gundog needs to understand these three directional cues. And they are a lot of fun to teach.
The Fourth Cast
In fact, there are not three, but four distinct ‘casts’ that every retriever must respond to. There will be times when you need to bring the dog towards you rather than away or to the left and right.
Your recall whistle is therefore your ‘fourth cast’ and arguably the most important cast of all.
Of course, in order for you to give your dog a directional cue when he is half-way across a field, he does need to be looking at you. And this is where the stop whistle comes in.
Stop whistle responsiveness is a key factor in casting training, and needs to progress alongside it. You can find information on stop whistle training here: Introduction to the stop whistle
If you enjoy my articles, you might like my new book: The Happy Puppy Handbook – a definitive guide to early puppy care and training.