The Higgins Method
From an inexperienced pup to a learned Higgins Gundog
The Defer Walk & Claiming Space
Pup learns about pack dynamics, testing temperaments, claiming of space, etc.
(Link: “The Walk” video)
Intro to Field, the Gun & the “Here” Cue
Natural predatory instinct (predator/prey) develops. Pup learns to hunt, bump & chase and is allowed to catches a few birds. The gun is carefully introduced and associated to the bird. This is also where the dog learns to hunt with the handler. He learns that the handler is valuable and possesses important skills. The “here” cue, using the checkcord is also introduced at this stage. Soon, success will require that he cooperates and stays in touch with the handler.
Link: Intro to the Field Video: https://vimeo.com/56924329
Link: The “Here” Command: https://vimeo.com/96553441
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.
Link: Handler Requirements Video https://vimeo.com/104148324
Hunting 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” and “It All Boils Down To Trust” Blogs), you’ll be successful and get a bird in your mouth. This is where the dogs learn that the shooter/handler is trustworthy. 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 cautionary growl is added. The growl is instinctually understood by dogs to mean “I don’t like what you’re doing”. The growl is useful if a bird flushes and the dog moves toward it. I’m reminding him that chasing is pointless. Remember, dogs don’t instinctively tell each other what TO do (obedience), they instinctively tell each other what NOT to do.
Link: Hunting the Magic Brushpile Video https://youtu.be/8vDfeE1405c
Back to the Field
For the pup, steadiness (success) learned at the MBP is associated to the hunting field. It’s time to add scent back into the scenario. 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.
We purposely excluded scent in the Magic Brushpile training. Scent is often unpredictable in addition to being very exciting and distracting when trying to steady a dog. There is no reason to include scent in the Brushpile work because the dogs already learned all about scent and birds in the preceding step (Intro to Field).
This step is also 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), the “here” cue, learned with a checkcord in the earlier “Intro to Field” section, is reinforced with the e-collar creating a “here” command.
Retrieve & the Flush/Stop Cue
Pups natural retrieve is nurtured or “trained retrieve” is addressed. In addition, this is where we include the Flush/Stop cue for the pointing dogs.