Trust VS Obedience

I was over at one of the “other” training forums recently and answered a question posted by one of their members. I’m sure I’ll get a lot of feedback from the haters there. lol

Here is the question that was posted.: “When should we allow the dog to learn to correct itself, versus us correcting him?”

 

My response: Read more…


Member’s Section Update

The Member’s section is moving forward but obviously not as quickly as I had hoped. Putting it all together has proved to be a bit more complex than I had considered. My web guys have been great. This is a unique project requiring a substantial amount of work and testing. In addition, we had the whole Facebook issue (they shut me down) requiring moving and redirecting my current web content. Enough whining.

When finished, this Members section will be unique to the dog training world. All the videos will be of actual dogs during training. They will be categorized and tagged, and will follow my method step by step. Current and new training videos will be included as well as custom videos for specific members. In addition, I have videos available showing me rehabilitating client dogs. As many of you know, much of my business involves rehabilitating and repairing dogs trained with other methods. Some of these issues include flagging, blinking, gun shyness, handling issues, retrieve problems, etc. These videos will be valuable in showing you how to get back in your dog’s head and building that trust based relationship required for a well balanced, happy dog.

In the meantime, I’m offering a discount on private phone consultations. Also, if any current, registered users have questions or would like to see specific training videos, please let me know. I can post links to various training videos from the upcoming members section. Keep in mind, the Forum section, here on the website, is always available for specific questions and comments too. I even included a subscriber “Timeline” there just like Facebook where you can keep in touch with friends and talk about any subject you like.

Hang in there, we’ll get er’ done.

 

Higgins


Please Introduce Yourself, Leave a Comment

Hello all. The website hit a new high last month with total sessions surpassing 1,000! (as per Google Analytics: A session is defined as a group of interactions or “hits” one user takes within a given time frame on a website). Thanks to all.

I have a favor to ask.  Click on the title of this blog (Please Introduce Yourself, Leave a Comment). Below, at the bottom, there is a comment tab. If you’d like, leave me a comment about yourself and what your interests are. It’s all free and it would help me in providing additional useful information in my videos, blog and forum. When you subscribe, you will also have full access to the Forum section where you can ask questions, leave comments, and keep in touch with other like minded people. In addition, you will be able to choose if you would like to be notified (by email) whenever a new blog entry is posted.

Thanks for your interest in Higgins Gundogs and the Higgins Method.

Brad Higgins
Higgins Gundogs
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Higgins Gundogs hunting etiquette

Dogs: Stay in touch and handle well. Always honor another dog’s point, be steady when necessary and manage the birds for the gun.
Handlers: Be silent in the hunt. Allow the dog the freedom to do his work. Nurture the natural retrieve.

Join the Forum discussion on this post


Wingshooting, It’s not a Game

We have a ladies hunt and wingshooting day coming up soon.

I’ll be explaining and demonstrating the differences between wingshooting and the shooting games including skeet, trap, sporting clays, etc.

Wingshooting is unique and requires different timing and procedure because real birds don’t simulate the flight of clay targets. With real birds, you can’t see one fly first, you don’t know where your feet (stance) will be, you have no hold point or break point, etc. In addition, the flight of targets is opposite of that of real birds. Clays start out fast, slow down and drop. Birds do the opposite, they start slow, accelerate and rise.

The method I advise and practice for wingshooting is similar to the Churchill or Instinctive style of shooting.

Higgins Gundogs Rules to Successful Wingshooting

After the flush:
1: As the bird flies, focus on his leading edge (usually his head)

2: Square your shoulders to the bird and keep them squared (follow the bird with your upper body)

3: With your shoulders already squared to it and following the bird, mount the gun in front of the bird

4: When the gun touches your cheek, pull the trigger (the gun touches your shoulder and cheek at the same time)

One of my favorite Churchill quotes: ”In practice the shooter should not be conscious of his muzzle, the rib or sight. His eye, or rather his attention, should be fully occupied with the bird, and, if he holds his gun properly, he will hit whatever he is looking at.”

Brad Higgins
HigginsGundogs
___________________________
Higgins Gundogs hunting etiquette
Dogs: Stay in touch and handle well. Always honor another dog’s point, be steady when necessary and manage the birds for the gun.
Handlers: Be silent in the hunt. Allow the dog the freedom to do his work. Nurture the natural retrieve.


Certifies Higgins Gundogs & Higgins Gundog Handlers

Here is a link to a list of our certified Higgins Gundogs (HGD) and handlers (HGDH).

http://higginsgundogs.com/services/higgins-gundog-team-titles/

I understand there are some impostors out there. I just found out that a guide at a well known hunt club has been telling his clients that he and his dog were certified with Higgins Gundogs. In his case, it is untrue.

All Higgins Gundogs (HGD) and Higgins Gundog Handlers (HGDH) have been personally trained and certified by me using one-on-one sessions or through video and phone consultations.  Those that know me understand that I have the highest of expectations for our dogs and handlers. If you have reason to question someone’s comment claiming to have a Higgins Gundog title, please let me know.

Thanks,

Brad Higgins
Higgins Gundogs
___________________________
Higgins Gundogs hunting etiquette

Dogs: Stay in touch and handle well. Always honor another dog’s point, be steady when necessary and manage the birds for the gun.

Handlers: Be silent in the hunt. Allow the dog the freedom to do his work. Nurture the natural retrieve.


Don’t Punish the Dog for Your Mistakes

Often, trainers make mistakes and teach the dogs specific, unwanted associations without even knowing it. Then, when the dog acts upon these learned associations, he is punished by the trainer. Here is an example.

A dog is always told “fetch” immediately after the gun goes off and the bird falls. The trainer has unknowingly built an association between the gun going off and the release command. Now when the gun goes off, the dog anticipates and begins leaving early (before the release command is given). Due to his lack of understanding, the trainer shocks the dog for being unsteady. This lack of understanding of the canine mind is one of the reasons there are so few steady dogs. It is also why so many hunting dogs have what I call “training handprints” including gun sensitivity, lack of style, blinking birds, shortened range, flagging, etc.

Dogs don’t naturally understand human concepts like obedience and repetition. Instead, being predators, they learn quickly to build association based on success. I tell my clients that consistency builds associations that lead to anticipation. It’s important to build the associations needed to help the dogs achieve success. It’s equally important to be careful and not build unwanted associations. Basically, be consistent with the ones you want and inconsistent with those you don’t.

Instead of punishing the dog for doing what makes sense to him, these trainers need to stop building associations that are unwanted. In this case, the answer is to become inconsistent with the release command. Meaning sometimes you tell him fetch immediately, sometimes wait a few seconds before releasing him and sometimes, even leaving him where he is and going for the retrieve yourself. Soon, when the gun goes off, he no longer associates it with an immediate release. Instead, when the gun goes off, he remains steady and looks at the trainer to see if or when he can go. He chooses to wait for the “fetch” command because it is the only association that is consistent in the retrieve scenario.  He knows that if he hears that word, he always gets to go.

Forget obedience and punishment. Instead, start building trust. What a concept.

Brad Higgins

HigginsGundogs

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Higgins Gundogs hunting etiquette-
 Dogs:    Stay in touch and handle well. Always honor another dog’s point, be steady when necessary and manage the birds for the gun.
Handlers:    Be silent in the hunt. Allow the dog the freedom to do his work. Nurture the natural retrieve.

 


VIDEO: 6 Month Old Bird Dog

Here is a young dog we recently trained. He is steady to wing, shot and fall. He also stops to flush and has a natural retrieve.

People often ask how we can get such a young dog (6 months old) understanding this level of steadiness and still maintain his natural drive, intensity and focus. The reason is, I don’t use any pressure or obedience in his steadiness training and bird work. My method is success based. He knows that If he cooperates, I’ll help him get the bird in his mouth.

 

Brad Higgins


Retrieving From the Dogs Perspective

In conventional gundog training, force fetch or retrieve training is usually taught early, along with other obedience commands. People often ask why I instead, add a natural retrieve as the last step in training.

Retrieve, in my method, is done last, after a dog understands that steadiness leads to success and that we can help (the building of trust). In a dogs mind, retrieving, as an obedience command, is unnatural. The fact that you’re going to force the dog to bring his reward to you so you can steal it from him makes you by definition, “untrustworthy” in his eyes. That’s why it takes pressure and lots of repetition. Early retrieve work, before building trust, can lead to problems including a lack of desire due to adding unnecessary stress. In my method, because we add the retrieve AFTER building trust, the dogs see it not as an obedience command, but as naturally sharing the kill.

Brad Higgins


Proofing a Steady Dog

Higgins Gundogs are trained and managed to a high level. They must be able to adapt to new and unusual situations and control their excitement level. We want to see all their style and intensity, but they must choose to remain steady. Here, we’re proofing a seasoned dog. This is Greg Belanger, HGDH and his dog HGD Harry. This was filmed a while ago during one of our training hunts. While Harry is managing a moving pheasant, we release a young, untrained pup. The pup goes out and bumps and chases Harry’s bird. What is Harry’s response? He doesn’t break, he manages his energy. He is steady to flush, shot and kill. He is able to do this because he has learned to trust us. He knows, with our help, he will get his bird.


Steadiness = Managing Your Dog’s Energy

This is an excerpt from a recent post on my blog. He was commenting on a recent video I posted,

He wrote in part:

 
I noticed the woman flushing was almost creeping in on tiptoes when in front of her dog. Others take a much more positive or aggressive approach. Do you have an opinion on whether there is a best way to approach and flush a pointed bird?

 

 
My answer:

 
To answer your question, whenever we are working with a dog and especially when we go in front of a dog on point, our focus is in managing the dog’s energy or excitement. Flushing the bird is secondary. This gets a little deep but stick with me. Unlike obedience or “whoa” trainers, my goal is to help the dog control himself so he doesn’t break and flush or chase the bird. A “whoa” trainer’s goal is different. He has no interest in helping the dog be successful (getting the bird in his mouth), he wants the dog to be obedient to the “whoa” command. In training, he wants the dogs energy or excitement level to surpass it’s ability to be steady so he can enforce obedience with an e-collar shock.

 
If I am good at managing the dogs level of energy, he doesn’t break and doesn’t require the use of an e-collar. The same energy or excitement that gives you a stylish, intense point, is the same energy that, when left uncontrolled, will rise beyond the dogs ability to remain still, causing the dog to break or chase.

 
Ok, now back to your question. Martha and Katy (the shooter), being good Higgins Gundog Handlers, were effectively managing Sophia’s energy. They felt she was pretty excited (being new to coveys of chukar) and they were helping her control herself. Remember, it’s always a balancing act. We want the dogs to display all the style and intensity they possess. Equally important is we don’t want to push the dog over the top and cause them to break.

 
What we do here is dog training at another level. It all boils down to building a relationship with your dog based on mutual trust. This is the nature of the dog.

 
Brad Higgins
Higgins Gundogs