I’ve been going to a few of the gundog training forums to answer questions about our method of training. It’s obvious most don’t understand the differences in our dogs and our training. Here is a copy of a recent post I submitted. It’s in response to questions about field trials and obedience training. Read more…
Here is a short video of some of our training/hunting today. Griffonpoint Bellibone does a nice job of finding and pointing chukar and is steady under Bene, our female Harris’ Hawk.
An important part of the Higgins method of training includes the use of hawks and falcons. Especially useful in helping gun-shy dogs build hunting desire and focus before the reintroduction of the gun. The use of the hawk also reinforces steadiness, honoring and hunting cooperation. Falconry is an excellent way to enrich your hunting dog’s experiences.
This was filmed at our new hunting/training venue located in the high desert of Yerington, Nevada, in the Northeast Mason Valley.
Here is a link to our Gamekeeping video.
Yes, they are six months old now! Your puppy might be feeling its oats and even be starting to feel the naughtiness of adolescence encouraging them to act in ways their former baby sweetness did not.
If this is the case we will give you some tips for handling these behaviors which can include: counter surfing, nipping, biting while playing rough, playing rough, rushing through doors, molesting windows and doors , knocking people down when going up or down stairs, making inappropriate noise while crated, etc.
If your puppy is exhibiting any of these behaviors you are not alone, most puppies go through this stage and it is a matter of management (not necessarily getting them tired) to get them through it.
The first thing we recommend is that you look at this video and do it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3FEQcCY1E0 The Higgins training method is not only for gundogs, it is a dog behavior philosophy based on how dogs think, not how humans wish they would think.
If you have any questions about the leash, we can send you one. Other leashes will not work. It needs to be a simple, plastic lead with a noose. Fancier collars will not be the right weight or stiffness.
This Walk is the place where you earn your puppy’s trust and show them that you can claim space from them. They are hardwired as pack predators to understand this and after the ‘hissy fit’ on this leash, they will be calm and happy. In fact, they will be more calm and will have learned to manage their own energy through this exercise which is half of the battle with puppy energy.
Once they understand the Walk, you will also be able to claim space in the home. When we have a puppy who is noisy in the crate, we simply put them into the crate, open door to the crate and claim the room. Their job is now to stay in the crate. Suddenly their energy is focused on staying in the crate so they stop letting their energy exit as noise and fretting. They become calm and take a nap.
Whenever you have to break your puppy’s focus to change their behavior, use a noise that sounds like a growl—’Ach!’. This noise is more effective than english as it is a noise that they understand from infancy from their mother. Whenever your puppy is thinking bad thoughts (like counter surfing) use this noise while reinforcing it by inserting your body between them and the counter, backing them up to their dog bed or crate or out of the room they are in. After they have made the association between your ‘Ach’ and you claiming space, you will be able to claim space from a distance. (example: you are at your computer when you hear the wastepaper basket rustle, you give a loud ‘Ach’ and the puppy walks away from the rubbish.) Basically, ‘Ach’ means ‘stop whatever it is you’re doing!’. It replaces all of the obedience words that you have been trying to teach but give up on because it is too much work and the dog doesn’t listen anyhow. ‘Ach’ means: stop jumping on my mother-in-law, stop running through the door when I open it, stop begging, stop chewing on the coffee table, stop eating the Christmas roast, stop chewing on me, stop nipping a the children, stop playing rough, stop running away from me, etc.
Of course, ‘Ach’ won’t mean anything until you have shown them that you can claim space. This is where the Walk is essential, it is the foundation for your elevation in the household. If you don’t do this, you are another pack member who can be molested and ignored until you show them that you can accelerate and claim space. This is not about obedience, this is simply about earning trust. None of the dogs in my house know a single obedience command yet they leave the staircase when I or my children place a foot on it, they stay in contact while I’m in the field with them, they don’t jump on guests or counter surf.
Also, it is important to manage their space by not allowing them to have the run of the house until they have earned their freedom. This means that if we are actively playing with, giving attention to or am generally aware of a young pup, s/he is loose in the room we are in. As soon as we need to focus on my kids or do some chores where we will lose track of them, we put them someplace where they are managed so they cannot go chew on the curtains or execute some clever scheme to trip us in the middle of the night somewhere out of sight. we use an ex-pen in our living room for our young Griffons.
Once they have consistently shown that they know the boundaries, they have more and more time loose in the house. At the moment, only our seven and four year old girls have the run of the house when we are not home. Ithaca and Tidbit are only a year old and just beginning to get more freedom in the house. There is nothing wrong with crating them for an hour if you need some space. Especially if you have given them plenty of exercise.
Here is the link to the flowchart of the Higgins Method.
Here is a recent video of one of our young pups. She has not been introduced to an e-collar or any kind of stand or “whoa” command. She has been trained by the birds and she knows she needs me to be successful (getting the bird in her mouth). Get pushy and the reward leaves. Wait (defer to the shooter), ask me to go out front, and I’ll kill the bird and share it with you.
You’ll see some interesting dog thinkin’ here. This pup chases a bird, gives up, comes back and asks for a do-over. We see this a lot in the beginning, when dogs are learning they need us.
This is a recent video of our new pup from Scotland. It begins when he was 12 weeks old and covers a four week time frame. He is now 16 weeks old and has had a lot of fun learning to hunt and manage his birds. No obedience, commands or pressure. We have the gun introduced and are now shooting birds over him. He loves quail and partridge and has become a bold, confident hunter. He even retrieved his first pheasant this week. I shot it over him but didn’t kill it cleanly. He found it far out in heavy cover and brought it back alive.
He is now ready to begin learning about steadiness. We’ll start with the Magic Brushpile.
All of my “training” is based on helping the dog understand my role. My goal is to have him understand and accept that I possess a power that he does not. I can consistently catch the prey. I want him to include me as an available tool that can help him be successful in his problem solving. This is an important concept when trying to understand how dogs think. They don’t see ‘‘hunting” the same way trainers do. First, the reason they hunt, their motivation, is to catch the prey (success is a bird in their mouth). A conventional trainers goal is different. He wants to shoot birds over a stylish, good looking dog. One that is steady while maintaining all his natural drive, intensity and focus. The best way to bring these two different goals together, is to step into the dog’s world.
Dogs possess exceptional cognitive powers. Unlike behaviorism, which focuses only on observable behaviors (conventional obedience based dog training), cognition is concerned with the dogs mental state. This is why obedience, although in some cases necessary, is a dead end. It shuts down the mind and stops the natural learning process. To state it clearly, learning takes place in the mind not in behavior.
We’ll use hunting a pheasant as an example. This will be from the dog’s perspective. Part of the cognitive powers he possesses includes problem solving. To be more specific, I like to refer to it as dynamic problem solving. He sees bird hunting the way we see a chess match. Problem solving based on ever changing events. This is what he will naturally use to hunt and hopefully, get this bird in his mouth.
You release him to hunt. The first problem has been presented. “I need to find the bird”. Past experience tells him to use his nose, read the wind, hunt objectives, etc. He smells bird scent. Next problem, “analyze the situation”. What is it, how far away is it, is it moving, etc. He doesn’t want to flush the bird so to deal with this potential problem, he points. Now what? He knows that if he goes in, it will flush and he will be unsuccessful. The best way to fix this problem is to choose an option he knows works. He will “defer to the shooter” and let him go out front to catch (shoot) the bird.
There it is. He has used his cognitive powers to understand that if he remains steady, allows the shooter to go out front and catch the bird, he will be successful and get the bird in his mouth.
More coming up in the next blog about retrieving and how the dog sees it.
I get a lot of phone calls and emails from gundog owners all over the country. For many, our clinics and seminars are too far away for them to attend. For these clients, I have now begun offering private phone consultations. It’s been working well and owners can really get a good understanding of my unique method. We put together a very clear program for owners and their dogs that includes clear “learning milestones”. It’s fun to watch your dog learn right before your eyes using no pressure, obedience or repetition.
With private consultations, we now have the ability to address specific learning issues that owners might be having with their dogs. With all the video recorders available now including smartphones, it’s easy to post videos of learning sessions. I’ve had owners send me videos of specific problems they might be having with their dogs. In return, if they like, I can send clients videos of our dog work where we addressed their specific issue.
If you would like more information, please give us a call at (916) 717-5597 or email.
I’m going to try recording a few podcasts. These will be, for the most part, general thoughts regarding the Higgins Method. Let me know what you think. I would appreciate your input on how I might change or improve on them. I’m always looking at new ways to help people understand my method.