Higgins Gundogs: Gorgeous George

George and his owner Kevin have been here for six days of training and rehab work. This video was taken on day four. George’s past training had been with a conventional gun dog trainer. He is a nice 2 year old Llewellin Setter but when he got here he was gun-shy, bird-shy, didn’t hunt and had never pointed.

After working with him the first day, I figured out his issue was that when it came to birds, he was all visual. He had never used his nose. Basically, he had a tool in the toolbox that he had never used. He had never pointed because it was never necessary. When it came to birds, George thought the greatest reward was in the chase. I showed him that the real reward for a predator like him was more than just a chase, it was hunting, scenting (using his nose), flushing and catching the prey. All of a sudden, with this new strategy, there was a reason to point. It is the pause before the pounce. After a couple of additional sessions of good flying birds that could not be caught, and a session on the “Magic Brushpile”, George trusted me and asked for help. In this video, he hunted, scented birds, pointed and deferred to me, asking me to go out front to flush and kill the bird for him. Once the bird was down, I rewarded him by asking him to join me in the retrieve.

George is a talented dog. All he really needed was a new strategy for success and the freedom to learn.

The Higgins Method, “Back to the Field”

Here is a dog that recently finished the “Magic Brushpile” phase of my training. Here she is at the next phase of the Higgins Method Flowchart, “Back to the Field”. This is where we put the scent association back into the newly developed strategy. We begin this phase of training by checkcording the dog into the scent cone and controlling her movement through the scent, flush, shot, fall scenario. Soon, when she is trustworthy to be steady on scent, we turn her loose and hunt her while she drags the cord. As you can see in this video, that’s where we’re at with this dog. I pick the checkcord up just before the flush so I can show her again that steadiness after the flush, leads to success (the bird in her mouth). A few more birds and we’ll have steady to flush, shot and fall.

It’s all about building trust through free will. I don’t use obedience to train dogs and make them steady. My goal is to help them learn what it takes to be successful. They will then choose to be steady with all their style, intensity and drive intact because they know steadiness works

Higgins Gundogs, Fixing Problems: Blinking Birds

Here are some updated videos showing  “before” and “after” rehabilitation work.

9/9/15. Here is a 2 year old GSP a client brought in today. A breeder/trainer gave the dog to my client. This video was filmed during our first session. As you’ll see in the video, the dog was nervous and unhappy in the field, wouldn’t hunt and was blinking or avoiding birds. I was asked if I could get the dog happy, hunting and loving birds. With the Higgins Method, I had it done the next day. It took 3 sessions to isolate the problem and fix it. The results are shown in the following video “Higgins Gundogs, Fixing Problems: Blinking Birds (After)”

I will have a video up soon showing the entire process step by step. Thanks for watching.



9/10/15. Before viewing this video, please watch “Higgins Gundogs, Fixing Problems: Blinking Birds (Before).

Here is that 2 year old GSP the client brought in yesterday. This video was filmed during our third session. Now a happy, bold, confident dog that even has a natural retrieve. Can’t argue with success (although some will try) : )








New Forum Category: Fixing Problems and Rehabilitation

A good portion of my business involves helping dogs that are unhappy, nervous or afraid due primarily to mistakes made in obedience based training. My job is to create or rebuild the trusting relationship between all parties involved, the owner, the dog and the bird. This new category will chronicle how I get these dogs happy again and loving what they do.

Here is the first post. It has to do with a young dog that is afraid of flushing birds.




Brad Higgins Discusses Steadiness & Trust

Here is a short video recorded during one of our recent training sessions.

Sophia,HGD Manages a Covey

Here is Sophia, handled by Martha, managing a covey of partridge. These were challenging conditions with virtually no wind, warm temperatures and spooky birds that wanted to run, not fly. They did an outstanding job staying in touch and pressuring the covey just enough to get them to stop, but not so much as to cause them to flush. Sophia managed those birds for another 1000 yards or so before they stopped on a far ridge, and held for the gun.

Magic Brushpile Launcher Rental Program

Since I put up the most recent “Magic Brushpile” video, ( https://youtu.be/8vDfeE1405c ) there has been a lot of interest in what I call the “bang machine” (Zinger launcher). I know, they’re expensive. With electronics, about $600.  That’s why I’ve started a bang machine rental program.

If this is something you might be interested in, or you’d like more information, please let me know.






Partridge Gone Wild

Here is a short video of some of our training partridge. These birds are about as close to wild as you can get.

Good dog work depends on good, wild acting birds. No dog will ever come close to catching one of these. I often invite them to try.



Nurture the Natural Rtrieve

I’m working on a new training video. It will show how I get a beautiful retrieve without pressure or obedience. Here is a short clip that will be a part of the new, upcoming video. Please excuse the wind noise. I will edit that out when the video is complete.

Here is the text that accompanies this clip.

Here is a video showing one of the phases of our natural retrieve training. Because I don’t use obedience in this, I need to work with the dog’s instinctive responses. Instead of a “fetch”, command, I need to encourage him to “share the kill”. In the beginning, I do this by bringing him in, taking the bird but then petting him up and sharing it with him. I also encourage him to walk and carry the bird. Pretty soon he no longer sees me as the one that wants to steal his kill. Instead, he offers to share it with me.

The Higgins Method and the Magic Brushpile

Here is a new “Magic Brushpile” video. Please feel free to comment. I also added new video links within the flowchart.


Here is the text that accompanies the video.


In order to help understand this “Magic Brushpile” video, please follow the link below. It will take you to the flowchart of the Higgins Method. http://higginsgundogs.com/about-us/our-method/method-flowchart/

The Higgins Method of gun dog training is unique. Unlike obedience based training methods, my method is based on building trust and cooperation. In this video, you’ll watch a young dog learn and begin to understand in one session, a new hunting strategy. Steady to flush, shot and fall. 

Keep in mind, what I did with the dog in the “Magic Brushpile” video can take a few sessions. In the video I ran through it quickly so people could see the power of the Brushpile. Don’t be concerned if, with some dogs, it takes 10 or more sessions. There is no hurry.

I have been getting a lot of feedback about the MBP video. I’ve included here, answers to some of the questions people have as they put the “Magic Brushpile” training into practice.

Use the right length check cord, 15 feet. Watch my MBP video again. There I demonstrate the correct use of the check cord. Practice manipulating the check cord. Hook it to your training buddy (a human), and work him or her on the MBP. It’s fun and you both might learn something. This is important. Your job as handler is to control the slack or lack of slack in the check cord with good timing. The check cord is our tool of communication.

When I’m working a dog on the MBP, to help clients understand, I break it up into four goals. First I want to see the dog, while on the check cord, stop himself instead of me using the check cord to stop him. Once he demonstrates that to me three or four times, with many dogs, we’re done for the day. The second goal is for the dog to stop himself after I drop the check cord. I bring him up to about where he has been stopping himself, and gently drop the cord, within a couple of steps, he should stop himself. I will then step on the check cord just before I launch the bird (I don’t want him breaking or moving toward the bird). I now want him to demonstrate this to me three or four times. The third goal is for the dog to stop and defer while the shooter walks out front. This is done with the handler back to managing the check cord again. You need to be there if he needs help (I don’t want him breaking or moving toward the bird). Once he demonstrates that he will stop himself and defer while the shooter walks to front, (remember, at this point, the handler is holding the check cord), I want him to show me a couple more times. Now we’re ready for the final goal. I start him with the check cord and when I get near to the area where he has been stopping, I drop the check cord. If he understands, he will stop on his own and defer while the shooter walks to front, the bird is launched, the gun goes off, the bird hits the ground and the shooter brings the bird and gives it to the dog. Shooters remember, you need to be walking two or three paces behind and to the side 30 to 50 feet of the handler. On the walkup, I don’t want you in the dogs peripheral vision. I want his focus on the MBP.

So it’s:

(1) shooter out front while handler check cords the dog toward the MBP.

(2) Shooter out front, handler drops check cord just before dog stops (then steps on the cord just before bird is launched).

(3) Shooter now behind and to the side while handler check cords the dog toward the MBP. If the dog understands, it should “defer” to the shooter (trusting, asking for help).

(4) Handler starts the dog toward the MPB and drops the cord. Dog should stop, defer to the shooter and remain steady through SWSF and the return of the bird.

Watch my “Magic Brushpile” video 10 more times. There is a ton of information there. Something really important is how I manipulate the check cord. Handlers need to be in touch with the dog. The check cord is our connection. Talk to them with it.

Keep the questions coming.