The Higgins Method

Unlike other methods of training that are based on obedience, repetition and pressure, we encourage cooperation through success. Dogs we train teach themselves to be steady. It’s natural, it’s how their brain is wired. They are born with the ability to do it.

Don’t get me wrong, dogs aren’t cooperative merely for the sake of others. Predators don’t think that way.  They will simply do what it takes to be successful. If it takes being part of the pack or working with me to get the bird, so be it. They will cooperate and give me everything they have, every time.

Using our method based on dog psychology, we are able to get the dogs to show us their understanding of stop to flush, steady to wing, steady to shot, steady to kill and  honoring a dog on point with no pressure (no verbal commands or electric collar). We are able to do this because we show them success first.  We don’t start with obedience or yard work . We start with birds. The birds teach the dogs. If the dog gets pushy, the bird leaves and the dog looses. With our method,  the dogs learn what works (being steady) and they are given the opportunity to learn what does not (flushing or chasing birds).

We work with many of our clients and their dogs without the use of electric collars. Uunfortunately, many of the dogs bred in this country have either been bred to be overly independent and lacking in cooperation or bred without consideration of hunting drive. With respect to the overly independent dogs, we refer to this as having been “bred to the collar”.  Owners or handlers can never hunt these dogs and expect obedience unless they’re wearing electric collars.

We specialize in training foot-hunting, wingshooting gundogs for discriminating hunters.  Our goal is to bring out all of the dogs natural ability and talent and leave no handprint. We have the highest expectations and the dogs make us proud.

Learn to Hunt

First, we run pups loose in the bird field. No obedience, no pressure. Pups learn about hunting and the predator/prey relationship.  They’re allowed to catch a few birds until they are confident and bold. During this time, we gun proof the dog.

Learn About Birds and What Doesn’t Work

Using good birds that flush when pressured, pups learn they can’t catch birds. Pups should actively hunt, bump and chase (being unsuccessful), understand air and ground scent, etc. Soon, pups should begin to manage and point or flash point birds (pause before the pounce). 

Learning To Be Successful (Magic Brushpile)

Now we show the dogs the Magic Brushpile. The goal here is to show them how to be successful (getting a bird in their mouth). I check cord them near the Magic Brushpile and stake them out or, if I have a shooter, I’ll hold the dog while the shooter goes out front. The shooter goes out, simulates shooting a bird and brings it back to the dog.

Part of the Magic Brushpile work includes stop to flush. Once we turn the dog loose to work the brush pile himself, we release birds when he moves. He soon associates his movement with the flushing of birds. In just a few sessions, I can turn the dog loose and he’ll choose to be steady to flush, shot and fall.

To The Field

Now it’s time to work the dog on birds in the field. He already knows that scent means birds. Our job now is to help him understand what to do with that information. Remember, one of the ways dogs learn is by association. He needs to apply what he learned with the Magic Brushpile ( wait for me, I’ll kill you a bird). I use Higgins Remote Releasers at this point to have birds in the field that will flush when pressured by the dog. The first couple of times, I may show him by checkcording him into the scent cone so I can go out front and kill it for him. Now, when I turn him loose, he will usually try a few options that don’t work. He may run in, flush and chase etc, but he soon realizes that if he waits for me, he’ll get a bird.