The Higgins Method
From an inexperienced pup to a learned Higgins Gundog
Pup learns about pack dynamics, testing temperaments, claiming of space, etc.
(Link: “The Walk” video)
Intro to Field
Natural predatory instinct (predator/prey) develops. Pup learns to hunt, bump & chase, catches a few birds. Intro to gun. This is also where the dog learns to hunt with the handler. He learns that the handler is a valuable pack member possessing important skills. Soon, success will require that he cooperates and stays “connected” to the handler.
The Handler learns the three cues (change of direction, change of speed during the walk & stopping) used to control the dogs direction, speed and distance in the field. Dogs instinctively know these body movements (cues). No verbal commands, whistles or hand signals are necessary.
Intro to the Magic Brushpile
The Magic Brushpile is not a scenting drill. We don’t want to use scent here. The Magic Brushpile simulates a hunt where the handler has complete control of the situation. This control includes, when birds fly, if they’re shot or not, where they land, etc. The purpose of the Magic Brushpile is to show the dog that we are important and possess a skill he does not (we can consistently catch the prey). When he is steady, we bring the kill back to him and share it. He learns that cooperation leads to success.
Dogs don’t see the MBP as a training drill. They see it as a hunt. Pups learn from the birds. If you’re pushy, birds leave. If you’re steady and you wait for the shooter, defer (see Synergy blog), you’ll be successful and get a bird in your mouth. Pups are encouraged to try all their options. No pressure, no commands. Pups learn steady to flush, shot, kill, stop to flush, honoring and, for pointing dogs, steady while shooter goes out front. Once the pup understands that steadiness leads to success and that the handler possesses skills he does not (the ability to consistently catch the prey), a warning growl is added. The growl is instinctually understood by dogs to mean “I don’t like what your doing”. The growl is useful if a bird flushes and the dog moves toward it. I’m reminding him that chasing is pointless.
This is where the handler learns to manage the dog in the field under realistic hunting conditions using the three body movement cues. The goal is to keep the dog “connected” to the handler and or shooter. If a dog consistently “unhooks” and is uncooperative (the fault of breeding) a “here” command, taught with a checkcord and reinforced with an e-collar may be necessary.
For the pup, steadiness (success) learned at the MBP is associated to the hunting field. “Stop to Flush w/Payoff” (see vocabulary) reinforces previous understanding that being steady leads to success. Pup (pointing dogs) learns to be steady on scented birds using Higgins Remote Releasers then loose birds. Learns to manage moving birds & handle for the shooter.
Pups natural retrieve is nurtured or “trained retrieve” is addressed.