Our training and award program has been developed for the purpose of encouraging and promoting the unique Higgins Method of dog/handler training. Training and experience for all awards follows the Higgins Method as shown in the “Higgins Method Flowchart”. Keep in mind, this is not a test for the dogs. Instead, the focus is on the relationship and communication between the dog and their respective handler. Handlers have a responsibility and are judged based on their handling abilities. The handlers’ and dogs’ scores are given equal weight. For the purposes of the awards, I have divided the training into three specific certifications. The entry level is “Canine Partnership”. Followed by “Novice Gundog” and finally, “Higgins Gundog”.
Canine Partnership Certification (HCP)
This certification is for all dogs including companion dogs that may or may not go on to be trained as gundogs. The skills shown are necessary to create a cooperative relationship between all dogs/owners. Skills required for the handlers and dogs include:
The Defer Walk (Packleader Walk)
The Defer Walk is the first step to claiming space. Claiming space is the skill that will allow you to shape all of the behaviors that you want and don’t want around the house and in the field. After owners master this skill with their pups, we will use what both have learned to apply it in every day situations such as being calm in a certain spot in the house, jumping up to get attention, tuning you out, etc. (Defer Walk Video 1)
Checkcord work gives you the skills to have a physical connection with your pup when you need to show him something new or to do something that requires more than a cookie and a happy voice to accomplish.
A reliable recall is necessary to keep your pup safe. (Recall/Here Video 1)
Off Leash Handling
You do not need whistles and hand signals to keep your pup connected to you in the field, at the park or in the yard. Handling with natural body movement is how we direct him when off leash. In this clinic, you will learn how to work with your pup off leash, and how to maintain a connection. (Off Leash Handling Video 1)
Throughout the clinic, we will emphasize that the goal is to build trust and nurture a cooperative relationship. In obedience based training methods, cooperation is replaced with obedience.
Energy Management will also be emphasized throughout the clinic. Beginning with the Defer Walk and through all other exercises, we will continue to discuss and observe how your ability to manage your pup’s energy affects all of his behaviors.
During all hands on exercises, we will be working on your timing. Your success with your pup depends upon your dedication to reading your pup and responding with good timing and judgement.
The primary way dogs learn is not through obedience and repetition, but through the building of associations. You’ll understand how to help your dog build useful associations (come when called, etc), and how to avoid creating unwanted ones (counter surfing, etc).
For those that plan on hunting with their canine partner, we include an introduction to prey (birds). You will observe your dog building the necessary hunting associations including, scent=bird, scent moves downwind, air scent vs ground scent, etc.
Novice Gundog Partnership Certification (HNGP)
This certification is for those that wish to evaluate a dogs’ potential in the field and on birds. All dogs and handlers must have earned their Canine Partnership Certification as a prerequisite for this next level. The skills required and demonstrated include:
- Bird Introduction
- Gunfire Association
- Scenting Ability
- Bird Interaction
Higgins Gundog Certification (HGD)
The Higgins Gundog Partnership Certification is for those dogs and handlers that have demonstrated the above skills and wish to go on to earn their Higgins Gundog Certification (HGD). All dogs and handlers must have earned their Canine Partnership Certification and their Novice Gundog Partnership Certification as prerequisites for this next level. Unlike conventionally trained dogs, a dog that has earned this title, chooses to cooperate and understands that he needs the handler (shooter) in order to be successful. He demonstrates the highest levels of trust in the handler and, using his own free will, manages his birds with care and thoughtfulness. He consistently displays all of his natural drive, focus, intensity and steadiness while hunting and managing his birds. All dogs have been extensively tested under real hunting conditions and have earned the coveted title of Higgins Gundogs (HGD). Additional skills and abilities required to reach this level of excellence include:
- Bird Management (stalking, pointing, setting, etc.)
- “Flush/Stop” Cue (Flush/Stop Video 1)
- Stop to Flush
- Steady to Flush
- Working with Bracemate ( Working with Bracemate Video 1)
- Natural Retrieve