Lisa Durand of Glacier Griffons stopped by for a couple of days of training. Her dog Lies, is a one year old Griffon imported from Holland. Lies had had no prior bird work. All of her prior bird experience had been just bumping and chasing.
Dog naturally learn by association. Some examples would be, scent is a bird, scent moves downwind, gunfire precedes the fall of the bird, etc. I started by introducing her to birds and the field. I let her learn about bird scent and how it moves downwind. Because she was so visually oriented, I set up situations where, if she was to find the bird, she would have to use and begin trusting her nose. We then introduced the gun and shot a couple of birds for her. Next step was to show her a new hunting strategy that includes the shooter.
In order to bring out and maintain all of her natural drive and intensity, I need to keep her focused on the prey. That’s why, on my cue, I let the dogs flush the birds. The deal is, I’ll allow you to flush your bird but in return, you must never chase. She is learning that in order to be successful, the aggressive flush must always be followed by an immediate “stop to flush”.
In this video, she is shown that, steadiness, not chasing, produces the reward (a bird in her mouth). You can see she is beginning to put it all together. In another 4 or 5 birds, she will be running free in the field and will understand and demonstrate steady to scent, flush shot and fall.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
George and his owner Kevin have been here for six days of training and rehab work. This video was taken on day four. George’s past training had been with a conventional gun dog trainer. He is a nice 2 year old Llewellin Setter but when he got here he was gun-shy, bird-shy, didn’t hunt and had never pointed.
After working with him the first day, I figured out his issue was that when it came to birds, he was all visual. He had never used his nose. Basically, he had a tool in the toolbox that he had never used. He had never pointed because it was never necessary. When it came to birds, George thought the greatest reward was in the chase. I showed him that the real reward for a predator like him was more than just a chase, it was hunting, scenting (using his nose), flushing and catching the prey. All of a sudden, with this new strategy, there was a reason to point. It is the pause before the pounce. After a couple of additional sessions of good flying birds that could not be caught, and a session on the “Magic Brushpile”, George trusted me and asked for help. In this video, he hunted, scented birds, pointed and deferred to me, asking me to go out front to flush and kill the bird for him. Once the bird was down, I rewarded him by asking him to join me in the retrieve.
George is a talented dog. All he really needed was a new strategy for success and the freedom to learn.
Here is Glencuan Will and Saddel Glenn working a covey of partridge today. In the first clip, Will manages the birds and points the covey. He moves a foot and, if you look closely, you can see the birds run off in front of him. The birds are teaching him to be steady. The second and third clips are of Glenn pointing singles.
Here is Ruger’s first experience learning to manage a running chukar. His job here, as with all running birds, is to manage the bird with just enough pressure to get it to stop, but not so much as to make it flush. If you look closely, you can see the bird running in front of the dog. You can also hear me helping him control his energy. He listens and responds to my timing and the tone of my voice. I don’t use any type of “whoa” training in my program so if Ruger decided to break and try to catch or chase the bird, he is free to do so, and he knows it. He did a great job. He managed the bird carefully and chose to stop at the perfect time (he was not stopped by the dragging check cord). The bird stopped running and held for the shooter. Ruger was then steady to wing and shot. A great example of trust and free will. He knows I’m there to help him make successful decisions. Once the bird was shot, he was released to retrieve (successfully get the bird in his mouth).
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Higgins Gundogs provides gundog and owner training, using quiet, low pressure techniques based on dog psychology. We offer guide service in Lincoln, CA, as well as seminars, online video training, and of course our renown Higgins Remote Releaser. Our goal is to give you the tools, knowledge and confidence to train and handle your hunting dog yourself. Thanks for visiting us.