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.

Higgins


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.

 


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.


Handling In Birdy Places, Chasing

We had a recent question in the forum about handling a dog in the field that wants to break at shot or fall. Keep in mind, breaking at shot or fall is normal and required for dogs that we train to the level of “steady to wing”. The dog in question has been trained in my method to another level, “steady to wing, shot and fall”. She is to remain steady through the shot and/or fall of the bird. Here, in part, is the question and my response.

http://higginsgundogs.com/forum/higgins-gundogs-group1/members-only-questions-answers-forum6/transition-from-hunting-pen-raised-birds-vs-wild-birds-thread132/

 

****** has been good at staying steady to wing but if the bird isn’t shot she will sometimes break and want to chase the bird. At this point I usually have my shotgun in my hands, not my ecollar transmitter, to stop or recall her when this happens. When she was young she learned (due to my lack of handling experience) that she can sometimes chase and capture pen raised birds so she now has a propensity to want to chase them if I’m not closely watching her. What should I do to improve this situation?

 

Hello *****,
This is why it’s important to have the ecollar clipped to your vest for easy, quick timing. This is not a dog problem, it’s a handler problem. After I pull the trigger, my hand is back on the transmitter quickly, just in case. So quick in fact that, after taking the shot, I’ve had to ask, did I hit it? After pulling the trigger my eyes were back on the dog before the shot reached the bird. That, is timing (faster than speeding bullet…lol).
Remember, the ecollar recall is only used with those dogs that insist on trying to chase the bird. It is the only “command” used in my method. The dogs are very familiar with, and clearly understand the recall because it has been used in many different sitations including around the house, at the park, in the yard, etc.
If they have been handled well, clearly understand the rules, have been shown with the checkcord how to be successful but still attempt a chasing strategy, the ecollar recall is required. In practice, once they are clearly committed to the chase (three or four paces in), we give them a “here” command. If they heard it and clearly chose to ignore it, we tap the ecollar. From the dog’s perspective, it has nothing to do with birds, the flush, the scent or even the chase. It is simply the well understood recall. Soon, they backchain and associate it (chasing will be unsuccessful) all the way back to entering the birdy area. Basically, they begin to understand the new strategy for success. “If I don’t chase it, I’ll get it in my mouth”.

Higgins


Happy Thanksgiving

Had a great Thanksgiving here at the Higgins Sporting Estate in Yerington Nevada. Started the day off with a morning quail hunt behind some outstanding bird dogs.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.

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The Higgins Method: Handling in Birdy Places

Here is a link to a recent handling video.

In the Higgins Method, I don’t use verbal commands (“whoa”) or hand signals to manage or direct the dogs. Instead, management is primarily by body movement and timing, the same way dogs communicate with each other naturally.

My method is based on cooperation and trust. Instead of using conventional obedience drills, I allow the dogs the free will to make choices that lead to success (a bird in their mouth). Soon, they choose steadiness as the most successful strategy.


Sophia,HGD Manages a Covey

Here is Sophia, handled by Martha, managing a covey of partridge. These were challenging conditions with virtually no wind, warm temperatures and spooky birds that wanted to run, not fly. They did an outstanding job staying in touch and pressuring the covey just enough to get them to stop, but not so much as to cause them to flush. Sophia managed those birds for another 1000 yards or so before they stopped on a far ridge, and held for the gun.


Partridge Gone Wild

Here is a short video of some of our training partridge. These birds are about as close to wild as you can get.

Good dog work depends on good, wild acting birds. No dog will ever come close to catching one of these. I often invite them to try.