"There is a simple formula for dog training: Timing plus Motivation plus Consistency equals Trained Response. When under the spell of extreme excitability, the conditioned response now overrides." (The issues are often not being focused, unresponsive and/or out of control) The italicized is an excerpt from an article published by Butch Goodwin in collaboration with Pete Eromenok of GooseBusters Retrievers.

The primary point of  contention was keeping a dog calm and low key while training does NOT prepare them for functioning well in the highly excited atmosphere of testing or hunting.

It seemed to suggest embracing excitement and learning how to make it a positive experience. For example, if early on pups discover that 1) being excited is normal fun and 2) good things (rewards) often follow, then excitement can be utilized to promote and support skill development.  

Therefore, two recent topics seemed extremely related yet from different perspectives. There was a concept discussed on a training forum about turning a young bird dog (retriever) loose in the uplands to discover how to instinctively deal with wild birds and scent. Done early this awakens genetics and produces positive, lasting effects. It seems a very young pup can learn many things very quickly when excited and in drive (which also explains why waiting for maturity to kick in before teaching complex skills is often a sound approach).

On the other hand, the actions of making the young retriever NOT do something in this discovery and awakening mode is rarely in the picture. The pup discovers, is rewarded and enjoys the repetitions. If done wisely, corrections do not become a major player in this "birdy" intro.   

In the other settings, it is not long before that same pup requires “channeling” to develop his
retrieving skills.  Formal training begins with building on the complexities of control, focus and responsiveness. These factors are gradually developed (or not). And now the excitement  and animation
are more “structured” (presenting a great deal of latitude from trainer to trainer). Clearly the pup is not left to their own devices to explore retriever skills development.

What happened to the fact that effective discovery and learning occurs during the exciting freedom of hunting? The idea that “a pup can learn things very quickly if excited and in drive" when
taught by the behaviors of healthy, wild birds is often ignored.  Control, responsiveness and focus, "birdiness" and retrieving are a challenge to balance when excitement is suppressed and/or removed from the equation......often. However, the fact is a young dog is easier to train when in "drive" once they are taught in a manner that channels their energy.  Excitement is an effective catalyst for motivation. The key is to channel energy by "capping" excitement and capitalizing on learned behaviors to shape drive.

When analyzing the idea of training in drive, the initial assumption that drive and excitement were similar led to blurring the distinctions. The process of contrasting and comparing aided in describing the differences and similarities. Once this was done the terms drive and excitement

could be applied more correctly as they relate to retriever training.  

These seem to be the best (related to training a retriever) definitions. Excitement is the “state of being emotionally aroused and worked up”. When a retriever is excited, the behavior is often very well demonstrated and varies considerably depending on individuals.  

However, the fact is a young dog is easier to train after arousal (becoming excited) once they are taught in a manner that channels the energy.  The excitement process produces an effective catalyst for motivation. The key is to channel the energy by "capping" excitement. The end result is to use the internally stored energy to focus, teach and transform it into useful behaviors.   

The definition of drive in a retriever is more complex. Drive is the force that activates canine genetic impulses. Basic drive is the fundamental force that is vital to the survival of an organism. Such drives motivate goal directed activity related to hunger, thirst, sex and physical activity. It is a need and basic compelling urge closely related to motivation. An extension of this is called drive goals. Drive goals are directed behaviors satisfied by learned techniques and/or "satisfiers"  In terms of psychology, it is often described as learned behaviors with an appetite.

In conclusion, using excitement and drive in concert so they complement each other requires understanding they are not the same. The link below discusses the basic concepts of “capping" excitement and "harnessing" drive.


The following photos represent training situations where a young retriever, Pounce", was functioning well in "high drive". It is an everyday theme in Hillmann's training program which
is fundamentally based on "The Game".
 

Pounce's "Drive" Slideshow

You Tube video Link:​https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BQp75mIiqw&feature=emb_logo

The following YouTube videos demonstrate the concept of having an excited dog begin a training session. A retriever functions best when conditioned to work when excited. 
                                                      
"Train Like You Play!"

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YouTube video link:​https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTjDscCADgA&feature=emb_logo

You Tube Video Link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WV4RnIkBSwY&feature=emb_logo

Excitement is "Cool"

Epilogue: For several years the expression "Don't feed the beast!" had been my rationale to follow when training. Do whatever it takes to contain the dog in a "calm and cool" state so that focus, control and responsiveness were possible.


It was ironic to find out that "feeding the beast" can be more effective. Teaching "the beast" skills by channeling  energy and high excitement into productive, conditioned responses allows instincts to promote skill development. There are no conflicts to
sort out. The "beast" thrives and their trainer becomes  a "happy camper".