Pointer Pup Learning to Flush on Cue

The pups are 4 months old now. All are doing well. Here is Biscuit practicing the “flush” cue (I use the word “alright”). We’re also working on her “stop to flush”. I always use good flying birds that the pups can’t catch. Her chases are getting shorter and shorter. Soon, she will stop chasing all together. She will learn that the best way to consistently get a bird in her mouth is to stop chasing and instead, be steady at the flush. Being steady to flush is always rewarded. Either by me offering a bird or her being allowed the retrieve on command. Chase = lose, Steady = win. Pretty simple choice

 

 


Pup & Partridge

Here is one of the young pups learning about Partridge. You can see how important good flushing/flying birds are. They give the young dogs a reason to adopt an ambush (stalking and pointing) strategy.

The birds will train the dogs if you let them.


The Puppies are Growing Fast

The pups are 3 1/2 months old now. All looking good and enjoying their bird work.

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VIDEO: Presenting the Bird to the Guns

I made a deal with the dogs. I’ll let you do what you have always wanted to do, flush the bird. But, in return, you can only do it when I ask you to.

I use a verbal “all right” cue. Once the dog is in the birdy area and points the bird, “All right” does not mean flush the bird. It simply means do what you think is right to stop the bird (if it’s running), manage it, and prepare it for the flush. I can’t expect the dog to do an aggressive flush until it has established where the target is. The goal is stylish, thoughtful bird management, an aggressive flush followed by an instant stop to flush.


Packleader Leash, Transitioning to the Flat Collar

Here is a copy of an e-mail I sent a client recently. He had a question about my “Packleader Leash” including how to transition to a regular collar.  His e-mail began with how to get his dog to stop pulling or lunging forward on the leash.

These are typical issues when dogs are learning that the space out front has been claimed by you. The answer is to have good timing and do the jerk on the leash before the dog gets out front. Watch the Packleader Leash video a few more times. Lots of information there.

The walk transition to a flat collar is easy and you should be able to get it done in a couple of sessions. First, let’s not call it “heeling”. That is a term obedience trainers use. As you probably guessed, I’ve become a bit touchy about some of their methods and tools including the aggressive use of shock collars, ear pinching, toe hitches, whoa barrels, etc. In order to clearly separate my method from all that aggressive obedience based training, I find that a different vocabulary has been useful and necessary. I use “walking at my side”. Does not sound a lot different but it describes the foundation of my method, trust and cooperation. Remember, he’s at my side because I claimed the space out front, not because I commanded him to heel. With my method, in his mind, he is making a choice, not being commanded and made to comply. If you think like a dog, it becomes quite simple. Dogs don’t tell each other what to do. They tell each other what to stop doing. The manipulation of choice and free will are important. More on that later.

Anyway, back to your question. The secret to transitioning to a flat collar starts with the walk with the nose wrap. I’m not sure what you’re using, but I’ll describe the transition with my Packleader Leash. When he settles and is walking well, stop and remove just the nose wrap portion of the leash. the Packleader leash is now just around his neck. Keep the leash up high on his neck, right behind his ears. Now, as you begin walking, if he pulls or tries to get ahead of you, be sure to do the quick “jerk/release” before he gets out front (watch the “Walk” video again, the timing is the same). The leash must stay up behind his ears and if he gets out front, it will slide down his neck and be useless. This is important, as you transition from the nose wrap, you may have to jerk more aggressively This is normal in the beginning for some dogs. You may even need to jerk/release a few times in quick succession. Remember, it’s jerk, loose, jerk, loose, jerk loose. There should never be pressure on the leash. If he leans on the leash or you feel pressure, jerk/release. With some dogs, in the beginning, I need to use both hands on the leash to get the jerk/release done. A good way to understand it is to jerk/release just a bit harder than he pulled on you. Again, be sure it’s very quick (snappy), then loose. The final transition is from the Packleader Leash without the nose wrap to the regular flat collar. Same rules apply.

So the transition goes from the Packleader Leash with the nose wrap, to the Packleader leash without the nose wrap to the regular flat collar. It can all be done within just a couple of sessions.

 

Higgins


A Pointing Strategy

Here is Jax, a nice young Lab pointing his bird this weekend. Reagan is the shooter.
When it comes to dogs (like Labs) that have been bred to flush birds, I like to give them the freedom to choose their strategy, to work with their strengths. If a flushing dog demonstrates a talent for pointing, and the type of hunting he’ll be doing is conducive to it, I say let him point.


Choosing To Be Steady

Just finished up three days of training with Gracie, a three year old Spinoni. She did very well and learned that being steady, instead of flushing and chasing birds, is the way to go. While she was here, she also learned “stop to flush” and to “honor” a dog on point. She will be back next month for a few day to practice her new strategy for success.


Higgins Gundogs Training/Research Center

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Our new building should be completed by May. Looking Forward to it.


Higgins Gundog Puppies Have Arrived!

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As many of you know, over the last few years I have been building a unique pointer breeding program. From falconry dogs forged on the Moors of northern Scotland to beautiful and talented individuals from the leading kennels in Italy and Denmark, I have been importing those dogs that have the right balance between natural talent, drive, biddability and cooperation. Read more…


Drive vs Biddability

Here in part, is a recent question from the forum:

http://higginsgundogs.com/forum/higgins-gundogs-group1/members-only-questions-answers-forum6/drive-vs-biddability-thread137/

“I have been reading and educating myself on your method and read your comments on an older post about biddability and I thought I would ask you to comment here on a separate chain.
I wanted though to ask you to elaborate more on how your method can manage energy levels (drive) in favor of biddability. Also, whether through your method you can “permanently” or rather “consistently” shift the equation in favor of biddability while managing (but not diminishing) the drive.”

My answer:

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As you know, my method is unique. Unlike other methods that replace biddability with obedience (basically taking away free will), my method takes advantage of natural pack dynamics. It all boils down to trust. This bond that holds packs together, creates synergy. Synergy is defined as: “the combined power of a group of things when they are working together that is greater than the total power achieved by each working separately”.

All predator groups rely on trust to function effectively. This is why we are always building and maintaining trust in our relationship with our dogs. Biddability comes from trust. Therefore, the more we focus on the trust factor, the more biddable or trusting the dogs become.

I often talk about balance. The balance between biddability and drive. This starts with breeding. We want a dog with lots of drive, but controlled drive. A dog that chooses to stay connected to the handler. As an example, most field trial dogs are bred for drive. As a result, some can be out of balance, bred for high drive at the expense of biddability. There is also the other end of the spectrum, dogs bred for the show ring. Some have been bred for cooperation at the expense of bird drive. A truly biddable dog with good bird drive resides somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.

Regardless of a dogs natural balance, we can have a significant effect on his overall level of cooperation. We do this by helping him learn that a successful strategy for success (getting the bird in his mouth), requires that he manage and control his energy. If you think about it, he already shows us he possesses this ability. What is a point other than a control of energy?

The bottom line is, we can achieve a good balance when we handle well and help control the level of excitement. I want all the style and intensity he naturally possesses without encouraging unnecessary excitement that might cause him to flush or chase the bird. Think of it like this. A scale of one to ten. One is his level of excitement when asleep. Ten is his level of excitement when he blows out and chases a bird. At this level (10), the excitement has become unmanageable and he chases to burn the energy. How about before he reaches this level, we handle him in the field in such a way that his level does not rise above say, an eight. We help him learn to manage his level when on point so that when the bird flushes, his level goes up but stays within a manageable level. All his natural style and intensity but without the chase.

Enforced obedience or pressure in the field (hand signals, whistles, “whoa” commands, quartering commands, etc.), can often increase a dog’s energy level, making him less manageable. When I want a dog to become more manageable (biddable) in the field, I do it by removing pressure, not increasing it. For instance, if a dog on point gets pushy on his birds as I approach, I don’t add pressure with a “whoa” command or e-collar, I remove pressure by stopping, turning around and walking away. He learns that if he gets pushy, the hunt stops. When he manages himself and steadies up, I’ll return and the hunt will continue.

When we ask our dogs to include us in their hunt, we must remember that this is their dance. As group predators, they were born with all the necessary information to learn to be successful. We need to have respect and remember, our goal is not to make them a tool in our hunt. Our goal is being invited to join them in theirs.

The video below shows a young dog asking for help (deferring). Using her own free will, she is learning that she needs my help to be successful. Please read the text that accompanies the video.

Higgins


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