Hunting, It’s Not What YOU Think

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 dog’s think. They don’t see ‘‘hunting” the same way you 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 not through obedience, but rather, to step into the dog’s world and see things from his perspective.

Dogs learn by association. To state it clearly, learning takes place in the mind not in behavior. It involves the formation of mental representations of the elements of a task and the discovery of how these elements are related.

We’ll use hunting a pheasant as an example. This will be from the dog’s perspective. The primary part of a dogs predator/prey instinct 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 use to hunt and hopefully, get this bird in his mouth.

Once he has been released 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. Now he smells a bird. Next problem, “analyze the situation”. What is it, is it still, is it running, 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, a strategy that he knows works. He will “defer to the shooter”, remaining steady while the shooter goes out front to shoot the bird.

There it is. He has used the power of associative learning to understand that instead of pursuing the bird, 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. (Hint: Retrieving is chasing birds).

Beginning the Steadiness Process

This is Deva, our new 4 month old Pointer pup. This is her first steadiness session on the checkcord (basically the beginning of her Magic Brushpile work, ) and the beginning of her steadiness training. Before this, as per the flowchart, she learned how to hunt and find birds, she handles well in the field, likes the gun and has a nice “here” command on the checkcord.

The most important thing to watch here is the checkcord work. Once she finds a bird and decelerates, (gets careful and stealthy), I don’t want to have the checkcord tight. Watch the checkcords shadow. A loose checkcord means she is choosing to be careful. If I have to constantly restrain her, she isn’t learning anything.

You’ll see here, we are introducing the Flush/Stop cue. She is allowed to flush the birds but only on my verbal “alright”. If some prefer that the shooter flushes the birds, just keep her there while the shooter goes in and flushes.

At this stage, the shooter does the retrieve. Dogs see retrieving as chasing birds. I don’t want to confuse her here. Retrieving comes last in the training process, after steadiness. You’ll notice in the video, she does not realize the shooter is going to do the retrieve, bringing her bird back and giving it to her. 3 birds later, she understood the teamwork and stood, solid as a rock.

The collar she is wearing is a GPS collar. No e-collars, commands or hand signals are used.

Hope you enjoy it. I’ll put up more videos soon.

Handler Training: Be the Dog

Here is a video showing how I train handlers. Because I create human and dog hunting teams, it’s important that each member understand their role and responsibilities. Once the dog understands how to be successful with our unique hunting strategy, it’s time to train the owner/handlers.

Special thanks to Katy Stuehm of Griffonpoint kennel, the breeder of Cabi, Reagan Olivares, shooter supreme, Griffinpoint Cabi and of course Joe Drew for giving me the opportunity to do my magic.

Andie Mann Returns

Andie Mann came out this week for a couple of days of training. I worked with Andie in the past but had not seen her for three years. She brought her three dogs, Jameson, Julie and Rayne. All the dogs did well. They remembered their past training and made me proud.


A New Strategy For Success, The Flush/Stop Cue

This is Griffonpoint W’ Moose learning the Flush/Stop cue. What we want here is an aggressive flush followed by an immediate stop-to- flush. This is a great psychological exercise that leads to a whole new level of trust, cooperation and steadiness.

Basically, I make a deal with the dogs. I’ll let you do what you’ve always wanted to do, flush the birds, but in return, you can only do it if, and when I ask. They all take the deal.

They’re so much better at this stuff than we are.


Perfect Tom

We are sorry to hear of the recent passing of one of our original Higgins Gundogs. HGD Tom and his owner Andie Mann were always a pleasure to work with and made me proud. They were a great team and will always be remembered with a smile. Keep up the good work Andie and give Jameson a pat for me.

Here is a video from 2013 that include some scenes of Andie handling Perfect Tom.  It doesn’t get any better than this.


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.



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.