It All Boils Down To Trust

The Higgins Method is unique among dog training methods. Our foundation is based on trust not obedience. Trust is innate in all social (pack) animals. It is a survival mechanism that has served the species well. It is what makes all cooperative endeavors possible.

In a mutually beneficial dog/owner relationship, trust is the glue that holds everything together. This means you as the owner and handler, have a responsibility. The only way you can make a gundog trustworthy is to show him success, then step out of the way and trust him.  The surest way to make him untrustworthy is to distrust him. 

When it comes to teaching a dog to be steady, obedience training is limited in it’s potential. It can create no more than a temporary, physical steadiness. It never taps into the dogs true nature and potential. Think of it this way, obedience training nurtures an untrusting relationship. You say “whoa” and threaten to electrocute him because you don’t trust him to be steady. He, in turn, is unsteady because he does not trust you to help him be successful. By nurturing trust on the other hand, you create much more than physical steadiness, you create a mental steadiness. With mental steadiness comes focus, drive and intensity; the evolution of the cunning nature of the predator.

For those academics out there, and you know who you are, here is the Higgins Method as seen in its mathematical equation.

Mental Steadiness=   ___Trust____


Steadiness must be seen from the dog’s perspective. After all, only he is in control of the outcome. You can control his cooperation, you can make him respect you but you cannot make him trust you. Trust happens when he voluntarily chooses to gives you these things. He will show you steadiness when he finds you trustworthy.

True steadiness from the dogs perspective, is not based in operant conditioning or obedience. It is simply a voluntary decision to trust. 
Brad Higgins

New Member Section Coming Soon

We’re in the process of adding a Member Section to the website. It will include training videos and a members only forum where I will be available to answer questions and discuss training. All of the new videos will be of actual training including starting and training young pups, as well as videos showing how I fix clients and their dogs with problems. Read more…

Higgins Gundogs & The Higgins Method

I’ve been going to a few of the gundog training forums to answer questions about our method of training. It’s obvious most don’t understand the differences in our dogs and our training. Here is a copy of a recent post I submitted. It’s in response to questions about field trials and obedience training. Read more…

Hawking With Higgins Gundogs

Here is a short video of some of our training/hunting today. Griffonpoint Bellibone does a nice job of finding and pointing chukar and is steady under Bene, our female Harris’ Hawk.

An important part of the Higgins method of training includes the use of hawks and falcons. Especially useful in helping gun-shy dogs build hunting desire and focus before the reintroduction of the gun. The use of the hawk also reinforces steadiness, honoring and hunting cooperation. Falconry is an excellent way to enrich your hunting dog’s experiences.

This was filmed at our new hunting/training venue located in the high desert of Yerington, Nevada, in the Northeast Mason Valley.


Gamekeeping, Pheasant Restoration

Here is a link to our Gamekeeping video.

Raising your puppy

Yes, they are six months old now!  Your puppy might be feeling its oats and even be starting to feel the naughtiness of adolescence encouraging them to act in ways their former baby sweetness did not.

If this is the case we will give you some tips for handling these behaviors which can include: counter surfing, nipping, biting while playing rough, playing rough, rushing through doors, molesting windows and doors , knocking people down when going up or down stairs, making inappropriate noise while crated, etc.

If your puppy is exhibiting any of these behaviors you are not alone, most puppies go through this stage and it is a matter of management (not necessarily getting them tired) to get them through it.

The first thing we recommend is that you look at this video and do it:  The Higgins training method is not only for gundogs, it is a dog behavior philosophy based on how dogs think, not how humans wish they would think.

If you have any questions about the leash, we can send you one. Other leashes will not work. It needs to be a simple, plastic lead with a noose. Fancier collars will not be the right weight or stiffness.

This Walk is the place where you earn your puppy’s trust and show them that you can claim space from them. They are hardwired as pack predators to understand this and after the ‘hissy fit’ on this leash, they will be calm and happy. In fact, they will be more calm and will have learned to manage their own energy through this exercise which is half of the battle with puppy energy.

Once they understand the Walk, you will also be able to claim space in the home. When we have a puppy who is noisy in the crate, we simply put them into the crate, open door to the crate and claim the room. Their job is now to stay in the crate. Suddenly their energy is focused on staying in the crate so they stop letting their energy exit as noise and fretting. They become calm and take a nap. 

Whenever you have to break your puppy’s focus to change their behavior, use a noise that sounds like a growl—’Ach!’. This noise is more effective than english as it is a noise that they understand from infancy from their mother. Whenever your puppy is thinking bad thoughts (like counter surfing) use this noise while reinforcing it by inserting your body between them and the counter, backing them up to their dog bed or crate or out of the room they are in. After they have made the association between your ‘Ach’ and you claiming space, you will be able to claim space from a distance. (example: you are at your computer when you hear the wastepaper basket rustle, you give a loud ‘Ach’ and the puppy walks away from the rubbish.) Basically, ‘Ach’ means ‘stop whatever it is you’re doing!’. It replaces all of the obedience words that you have been trying to teach but give up on because it is too much work and the dog doesn’t listen anyhow. ‘Ach’ means: stop jumping on my mother-in-law, stop running through the door when I open it, stop begging, stop chewing on the coffee table, stop eating the Christmas roast, stop chewing on me, stop nipping a the children, stop playing rough, stop running away from me, etc.

Of course, ‘Ach’ won’t mean anything until you have shown them that you can claim space. This is where the Walk is essential, it is the foundation for your elevation in the household. If you don’t do this, you are another pack member who can be molested and ignored until you show them that you can accelerate and claim space. This is not about obedience, this is simply about earning trust. None of the dogs in my house know a single obedience command yet they leave the staircase when I or my children place a foot on it, they stay in contact while I’m in the field with them, they don’t jump on guests or counter surf. 

Also, it is important to manage their space by not allowing them to have the run of the house until they have earned their freedom. This means that if we are actively playing with, giving attention to or am generally aware of a young pup, s/he is loose in the room we are in. As soon as we need to focus on my kids or do some chores where we will lose track of them, we put them someplace where they are managed so they cannot go chew on the curtains or execute some clever scheme to trip us in the middle of the night somewhere out of sight. we use an ex-pen in our living room for our young Griffons.

Once they have consistently shown that they know the boundaries, they have more and more time loose in the house. At the moment, only our seven and four year old girls have the run of the house when we are not home. Ithaca and Tidbit are only a year old and just beginning to get more freedom in the house. There is nothing wrong with crating them for an hour if you need some space. Especially if you have given them plenty of exercise.

Flowchart: The Higgins Method

Here is the link to the flowchart of the Higgins Method.

Higgins Method Flowchart



VIDEO: Ithaca, From 8 Week Old Pup to SWSF


Here is a recent video of one of our young pups. She has not been introduced to an e-collar or any kind of stand or “whoa” command. She has been trained by the birds and she knows she needs me to be successful (getting the bird in her mouth). Get pushy and the reward leaves. Wait (defer to the shooter), ask me to go out front, and I’ll kill the bird and share it with you.

You’ll see some interesting dog thinkin’ here. This pup chases a bird, gives up, comes back and asks for a do-over. We see this a lot in the beginning, when dogs are learning they need us.

Brad Higgins

Higgins Gundogs

VIDEO: Glen, Learning to Hunt

This is a recent video of our new pup from Scotland. It begins when he was 12 weeks old and covers a four week time frame. He is now 16 weeks old and has had a lot of fun learning to hunt and manage his birds. No obedience, commands or pressure. We have the gun introduced and are now shooting birds over him. He loves quail and partridge and has become a bold, confident hunter. He even retrieved his first pheasant this week. I shot it over him but didn’t kill it cleanly. He found it far out in heavy cover and brought it back alive.

He is now ready to begin learning about steadiness. We’ll start with the Magic Brushpile.

NOW AVAILABLE: Private Phone/Video Consultations With Brad Higgins

I get a lot of phone calls and emails from gundog owners all over the country. For many, our clinics and seminars are too far away for them to attend. For these clients, I have now begun offering private phone consultations. It’s been working well and owners can really  get a good understanding of my unique method. We put together a very clear program for owners and their dogs that includes clear “learning milestones”. It’s fun to watch your dog learn right before your eyes using no pressure, obedience or repetition.

With private consultations, we now have the ability to address specific learning issues that owners might be having with their dogs. With all the video recorders available now including smartphones, it’s easy to post videos of learning sessions. I’ve had owners send me videos of specific problems they might be having with their dogs. In return, if they like, I  can send clients videos of our dog work where we addressed their specific issue.

If you would like more information, please give us a call at (916) 717-5597 or email.