Free Will & Instinct

I often have spirited conversations with trainers about the fundamental differences between my method and their obedience based training. In general, we disagree about what naturally motivates a dog and how dogs, through free will, can learn to manage their energy (excitement) in a positive way. Here is an example. If an untrained dog can be running through a field and in a split second, slam on point and remain motionless, he is showing us that he certainly has the ability to manage himself (control his energy level). With my method, my goal is to get him to choose to use the same management skills when a bird flushes, a gun goes off or a bird falls. It has to do with instinct and learning to control emotion. I’m not against some obedience training. It’s just that I want to give a dog the opportunity to show me who he is and what his strong points and weaknesses are before I start replacing any of his natural instinct with obedience.

If we agree that “pointing” is an instinct (a way of behaving, thinking, or feeling that is not learned), then we must also agree that the act of pointing elicits a change in emotion, (instincts i.e.; emotion, feeling). Our argument, obedience vs free will, hinges on how we, as trainers, choose to deal with this emotional transition.

A dog’s natural instinct is to point, then pounce in order to catch the prey. For our purposes, I believe we would all agree that instead of the pounce, we want the dog to remain steady until told to flush the bird (as in our flush/stop cue) or, as is practiced in the US, remain steady while the shooter or handler flushes and shoots the bird.

With obedience training, we sometimes see problems including blinking, flagging, lack of style, reduced desire, etc. All of these problems can be boiled down to a reaction caused by the transition from one emotion to another. As an example, when the dog smells a bird and points, his instinctual emotions are desire, anticipation, etc. Now a problem occurs. The way he sees it, here you come to pressure him to stay, while you steal his point. As soon as he is given a command to remain steady, the emotional transition occurs. Now his emotions switch to intimidation, anxiety, frustration, and sometimes fear (blinking).

Instead of punishing the dog for his natural pounce response (instinct) and then dealing with his transition to the associated negative emotions, (intimidation, fear, anxiety, frustration), what if we simply showed the dog how to be successful? If we allowed him the free will to learn that pouncing, after the point, simply doesn’t work? In doing this, we will have traded all those negative emotions for positive ones (trust, desire, anticipation, happiness). These positive emotions allow a dog to show us all his natural talent, drive and focus.

Here is an example. In the video below, a young Viszla teaches himself that being steady and asking the shooter to go out front, leads to success (a bird in his mouth). Notice when he recognizes a birdy place (the Magic Brushpile). His emotions are cautious, confident and cunning. He knows from experience, that he cannot be successful in getting the bird himself. He stops and with a glance, he asks the shooter for help. He then remains steady while the shooter walks by, flushes, shoots, and returns with the bird. Because the dog used his free will to make successful decisions, there were no negative emotional transitions necessary. He stays happy and stylish. There were a number of positive emotional transitions occurring, all of which add to his style and confidence. So, we had cautious, confident and cunning transition to cooperation and trust (when he asked the shooter for help), then anticipation after the bird was shot. All these positive emotions help to create not only a stylish, physically steady dog in a short amount of time, but one that reaches a new level, the “mentally steady” dog.

Before watching the video, please read the comments there. They will be helpful in understanding how we use the “Magic Brushpile”.

Brad Higgins


Will Honors Glen

Here is a photo taken yesterday while Katie and I were out working the dogs. I often use one of the seasoned dogs to help me train the new pups. In this photo, Glen found a small covey of partridge. Will came around the bush, saw Glen and honored. A bird was shot and the two of them got to share it.

Will is a new pup we received from Des O’neile of Northern Ireland. His Glencuan dogs are exceptionally talented. At this stage, everything Will does in natural, no training involved. All I have done is given him time in the field with birds to hone his natural hunting instincts (predator/prey), shown him how to be successful then, set up natural scenarios for him to practice. He has seen Glen on point before and has run in, flushed the birds and tried to catch them unsuccessfully. His new strategy for success is to honor the pointing dog. He’s learning that steadiness pays off.

Will Honor 2


Shooting Partridge Over Will

Here is our newest pup Will. Special thanks to Des O’Neile, Glencuan Pointers in Northern Ireland.

Will is gaining hunting experience and has been introduced to the gun. Soon, we will begin his steadiness training with the “Magic Brushpile”.

 

 


Trust, the Foundation of the Higgins Method

Hello All,

We have been getting a lot of new guests and registered users recently. Thanks to all. I thought I would put up one of our training videos that really helps define the differences in my method.

BEFORE WATCHING THIS VIDEO, PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW. It will take you to the flowchart of my method. It’s important to understand the different steps in my method. While you’re there, read about the Brushpile and how it is used. This is unique stuff and is probably different from anything you have seen. This is training from the dog’s perspective.

http://higginsgundogs.com/about-us/our-method/method-flowchart/

People often ask how I get dogs demonstrating steadiness and cooperation in just a couple of sessions without the use of obedience, verbal commands, hand signals, e-collars or pressure. In addition, no “stop”, “whoa” or “stand” command has been taught. The answer is the Magic Brushpile. Here the dogs learn that steadiness leads to success (a bird in his mouth). When working a dog on the Magic Brushpile, I have complete control of the dogs success or lack thereof. I also have the ability to time things perfectly to build the necessary associations that lead to a “mentally steady” dog.

This video shows a dog working the “Magic Brushpile”. His goal, as is the goal of all hunting dogs, is to get a bird in his mouth. He knows the Brushpile is a birdy spot. We showed him with a check cord, that if he is careful and steady, the shooter will go out, kill him a bird and share it with him. He was then released to do whatever he liked. He ran to the birdy place a time or two with no success. This video shows what he chose to do next. He became stealthy and cunning and at the 49 second mark, he asks for the shooters help. We call this a “defer”. This is the “magic” in the Magic Brushpile. This is trust defined.

http://vimeo.com/103092929

 

 

 


Force Fetch or Natural Retrieve

Recently I was asked if I force fetch dogs. Here is my response.

 

Hello ****,

No, I don’t need force fetch. That would work against the foundation of my method. My training is based on what naturally motives the dogs, trust and success. It’s why dogs, wolves, lions, social predators in general, form hunting groups or packs. I didn’t make this stuff up, it’s just the nature of the beasts. I don’t fight the truth, I accept it and work within their rules.

There are two very important things to remember here. One is that for dogs, all learning is based on association. It’s how the predator mind is wired. The other thing to remember is that dog’s see the retrieve as chasing birds. That’s why I only teach if after a dog is steady. Even then, in the beginning, he is not allowed every retrieve. Some, I go out and get while he remains steady. I then bring it back to him and share it. I don’t want him associating the retrieve (chase) with the drop of the bird. When the bird hits the ground, I want him to wonder if it might be his turn. Basically, the only consistent association to retrieving (chasing the bird) he has left, is the word “fetch”. When I say that, he knows he always gets to go.

Here is a link to an article I wrote a while ago. It describes how I help dogs learn to choose to retrieve.

http://higginsgundogs.com/2014/retrieve-to-control-the-predator-simply-control-the-prey/

Hope this helps.
Brad Higgins

http://www.HigginsGundogs.com

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.


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.