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The Yin & Yang of Retriever Training

Ancient Chinese philosophy, yin and yang, "dark-light", "negative-positive" is a conceptualization of dualism, describing how obviously opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.

An example in the retriever world is the Yin & Yang of the Go & Stop. When starting Double T after establishing the back pile, my program forces on back to that pile. The next step is stopping to that same pile. In the beginning, the conflict between the two is a necessary challenge. In the long run, I believe that they actually complement each other. Getting a dog to listen for an anticipated sit whistle without popping produces a reliable stopper at a distance or in other challenging hearing conditions. I’m not talking about slowing a dog down. I’m referring to a dog that is receptive to information and willing to accept guidance.

The idea of indirect training is an accepted practice. Indirect training or pressure is when you direct your attention to one aspect of training with the intention of carrying over to another behavior. An example of this might be when a dog is unwilling to cast in a certain direction and the handler corrects the dog on “sit” or “here”.

In this example, you’re applying pressure to enforce an opposite task with the likely benefit of getting the dog to yield on the previous cast refusal. All throughout basics, a trainer is working on conflicting lessons that end up strengthening the overall dog’s foundation.

I have found over the years that addressing a dog’s line mechanics can strengthen the dog’s focus and motivation to perform. One might think that reinforcing a dog’s sitting or heeling mechanics would dampen the dog’s enthusiasm to retrieve. I have found the opposite to be more true. This is just one example of how contrary forces actually complement each other in dog training. The Yin and Yang.


Featured Upcoming Event!

Seminar | Ray Voigt and Pat Burns: Managing & Advancing Marking

Join Ray & Pat for a 3.5 day seminar as they coach handlers on getting their dogs to be both disciplined and relaxed in their marking. Maintaining this delicate balance is critical to be successful in today's all-age stakes, and Pat and Ray will share the techniques they've used to build numerous Field Champions and Amateur Field Champions.

December 16-19

Boston, GA

Handling spots are full, but auditing spots are available.

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