Martha and Sophia, Higgins Gundog and Handler

Here is a recent video of HGDH Martha Zimet and her dog HGD Sophia. They both recently received their Higgins Gundog certifications. Martha stopped by for a few days earlier this month to handle Sophia in some new and challenging hunting scenarios. Birds are the real trainers and nothing better than covies of chukar to season a dog.

Here is an important comment taken from the video: Higgins Gundogs are more than physically steady, they are mentally steady. When a dog reaches this level, it’s important to understand that a different type of handling is required. Quiet, calm and unhurried. You’re not enforcing obedience, you’re simply helping the dog by managing the excitement level of the hunt.



Chukar Training Hunt 7/18/14

This is a video I shot last week during one of our chukar training hunts.

Once the dogs understand that steadiness leads to success and they begin to trust in our ability to help them, it’s time to “season” them. I set up different, realistic hunts to help them gain experience and confidence for the real world. Gundogs trained in the Higgins method are more than just physically steady. They are taken to a higher level. They are mentally steady as well.


The Flush/Stop Command

Here is a recent video of Glenn learning the Flush/Stop Command. This is something we like to use in our unique sport we call “Classic Hunting”.

Allowing the dog the freedom to flush his birds on command actually makes a dog more steady. He knows that if he waits, he is going to be allowed to flush his bird (pause before the pounce). His anticipation really shows in his increased level of staunchness and intensity. This is also a great tool I like to use to reinforce our trust relationship.

Retrieve: To Control the Predator Simply Control the Prey

I’ve had some questions lately about how I train a dog to retrieve. Here is an overview of how a dog sees it and how I get in his brain.

I don’t use obedience, don’t need it. I simply nurture their natural instinct to chase and catch prey. My method is based on the natural order of things. When it comes to predators, they are controlled by the prey. Let me say that again. The prey is controlling and managing the hunt. Not the dog and certainly not the owner.  As an example, if the birds are spooky and run or fly off when you enter the field (late season pheasants sound familiar?), they have controlled the hunt.  The prey is ultimately in control of the dogs success. It makes sense then, that when it comes to retrieving, if I can control the prey (the object being retrieved), I control the predator.

Some dogs naturally love retrieving and will bring it back as many times as you will throw it. Others do it well once they’re shown how it works. Remember, the thing you throw ( a bird, a bumper, a dummy), from your dogs point of view, is prey. You’ll find that most dogs will run out to the object you throw. That’s instinctively chasing prey. For those that don’t naturally bring it back, I need to show them how the game works. Bringing it back (sharing the prey) is not a natural response. I need to create a reward for sharing. Here’s what I do. I tie a string to the object then throw it out, hanging on to the end of the string. When they go to it, I will say fetch and pull the object back to me. Once I get it in my hand, I praise the dog and offer it back to him. As soon as he understand how this works, I will take off the string. Now I throw the object out and say fetch. When the dog leaves for the retrieve, I walk away in the opposite direction. No pressure, no competition for the object, no self centered interest. He now realizes I’m not going to take his prize and in fact, he needs to find a way to keep me engaged. He learns that if he chooses to share it with me, I will make it fly away so he can chase, and catch it again (predator/prey). It does not take long before the dog brings it to me and asks me to throw it again.

Something else I find very effective is to work on the other side of the trust equation. I have a helper hold the dog while I throw the object out. Now, with the dog restrained, I walk out to the object, pick it up, stand still and say fetch. The helper releases the dog who then comes to ME for the retrieve. When he arrives, I share it with him just as he shared it with me earlier. For those dogs with a history of obedience training, this can be a mind bending experience.

Everything I do is based on building and maintaining trust. Whenever possible, I want a dog using his free will and choosing to include me in his success.

Martha Zimet & Sophia, The Newest Higgins Gundog Team

Zimet, Martha Photo

Congratulations to Martha Zimet and Sophia. They both recently earned their Higgins Gundog titles. Martha for demonstrating great handling skills as well as her ability to see things from her dogs point of view. And Sophia for her cooperation and willingness to work together with her human pack member toward a common goal (getting a bird in her mouth).

Here is a link to more information about Higgins Gundog Team Titles

Keep up the good work Martha and Sophia, nice job.


Brad Higgins

Higgins Gundogs

Perspective, Seeing The World Through Your Dog’s Eyes

Perspective is defined as: An attitude or standpoint, how one sees or thinks of something. A point of view.

Why is it that we, as humans, must control and manipulate everything to fit into our own perspective? Read more…

Teaching a Dog to Walk With Me

Here is a copy of a recent post I submitted in a Gundog training forum. The owner was having trouble teaching a young pup to “heel”.


I do things a little different. I approach training from the dogs point of view. What I’ve learned from the dogs over the years is that they don’t spend a lot of time telling each other what TO do. When it’s important, their natural instinct is to tell each other what NOT to do. Don’t come near my bone, Stay away from my bed, Get out of my yard, etc. They don’t tell each other to sit, stay, come, heel, roll over, play dead, shake, etc.

What the dogs know is group dynamics. The most important aspect of this, the way they decide where they fit in the flexible canine social structure, is by the claiming of space and things. I teach a dog to walk with me by simply claiming the space out front. He chooses to walk with me because it’s the only option I left for him to choose. He sees it as “free will”. In his mind, if he chooses to do it, he feels more confident and in control. This is the cornerstone of the Higgins Method, building mutual trust. He walks with me because I showed him that when I ask, the space out front belongs to me. Strange, but it is really that simple.

Here is a video of a young dog that had no leash training. I have her happily understanding and walking with me in about 10 minutes.

There are many ways to make dogs do things. I find that if I can discover the way that makes the most sense to them, using their natural instincts, we’re both happier.

Brad Higgins
Higgins Gundogs



Hunt Training

I’m in the process of categorizing some of our training videos for the upcoming member section. Here is one that shows a young dog just finishing up the magic brushpile work and is now back in the field. I’ve also included here, a link to the flowchart so you can see just where she is in her training.

Please feel free to post any questions or comments.

Back to the Field, Video #2 from Higgins Gundogs on Vimeo.

Training Hunt With Mambo, a Higgins Gundog

I was going through some older video for the upcoming  members section of the website when I came across this. Some of you will remember Mambo. He always enjoyed helping other dogs “get it right”. Mambo is no longer with us but he will always be a Higgins Gundog.


Brad Higgins

Higgins Gundogs 


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