Reflections About Force In Transition vs.
September 16, 2006
I couldn't train this morning and was sitting around thinking about the transition my pup Daisy is
going through. One thing for sure, I could not be more pleased with her attitude and progress. That
being said, there are some steps in her training that dictate making “adjustments” before moving on
even though Daisy is a manic trainer and loves the game.
The basic instinct to “go after something” is activated by motion, odor and/or sound. In other words,
retrieving uses the senses – sight, olfactory and/or auditory. For the trainer that properly taps into
these traits, a dog will develop desire and style (if it is genetically there to begin with). However,
style comes easier for some dogs than others.
In addition, Labs are expected to not only retrieve marks.............but to run blinds. Marks readily lend
themselves to at least one of the senses linked to the “go get it” trigger. Successful trainers understand
the order of appealing to the senses to maximize the ability of a young dog to mark and retrieve - sight
first and nose second. When teaching blinds, the trainer utilizes another sequence called transition.
The goal is to achieve a stylish “go get it” attitude without the readily obvious motivators of sight, smell
and (or) hearing. One of the critical tools in the process of transition involves the use of force.
Now given that a young dog has been taught and loves to use his eyes, nose and ears as motivators,
what makes the smart dog feel like he would want to “go get anything” when not stimulated by these
sight, olfactory or auditory senses? There is nothing to see, no odor and no sounds. My feeling is that
the repetition of “going as sent” eventually builds an "anticipation of stimulation" by at least one of the
senses. Basically, there is a tangible reward for going and the dog learns the “go to something” focus.
The dog wants to. Therefore, in transition the balance of sending vs. going must stay on the side of
“making sense” to the dog (pun intended). Positive anticipation is the key.
Bluntly, stated the dog must have a motivation other than JUST force to make it through transition. The
young dog must embrace anticipation…..........which means “I know if I go it will lead to the promise
of triggering my exciting instincts.” Building anticipation must be the focus and maintaining a positive
attitude is absolute. Too much “you gotta go” and not nearly enough “I wanna go” will build a barrier
of negative anticipation. The dreadful alternative is that “dead bird/back” triggers the anticipation of
something unpleasant and inhibits the wonderful stimulation of finding a "fun object".
The important point to make is each dog is unique in how it deals with transition. It depends a lot on
how the dog learns things and especially upon the depth of its instinctive triggers. Working with lining
drills, walk out blinds, bird boy blinds, sight blinds, and pattern blinds....a trainer must read when to
make the subtle move to cold blinds. It depends entirely on recognizing when the pup has made the
A thirsty dog will not look good when "sent to the water bucket" if the ONLY thing occupying his mind
is negative anticipation. During transition, force must be properly applied so as to not stifle the growth
of positive anticipation. Style when running blinds is all about exciting, positive expectations.