Upcoming Higgins Gundogs Shooting Clinics

Higgins Shooting Clinic

Brad’s goal in training hunting dogs is to create a calm, effective, synergistic team that works together. He writes blogs and articles often about training and shooting over fine hunting dogs. Over the years, we have worked with all levels of wingshooters. Some grew up with grandparents or parents who hunted and learned to shoot from an early age, and others (seemingly more and more), decide to learn to shoot so they can best enjoy the sublime relationship earned by hunting with a dog. Because Brad’s main interest in training hunting dogs requires a partner who effectively hits birds (at least some of the time), he has decided to offer shooting clinics for all levels of shooters. He has been an upland bird shooter for more than 40 years and has been successfully teaching amateur hunters to shoot for more than 30 years.

Throughout the clinic, he’ll be using the latest technology including lasers and a ShotKam video recorder. This makes it easy for students to learn, understand and practice, first in the classroom and then outside on real clay targets. Brad’s next shooting clinics have been designed to meet the needs of beginning shooters who may or may not own their own gun, or have limited experience with shotguns.

Saturdays July 28, 2018 and August 4, 2018 have been reserved for our upcoming clinics for Lady Shooters. Additionally, Sundays July 29, 2018 and August 4, 2018 are available for one on one private shooting instruction for those in attendance to the previous day’s clinic.

In order to meet each shooter’s needs, Brad has limited each day of the clinic to three shooters.

The schedule follows:

-8:00 AM Coffee, fruit and pastries

-Indoor Instruction and Practice

  • Understanding Gun fit (length of pull, drop at comb, cast on/cast off)
  • Shotgun Disassembly and reassembly
  • Shotgun Cleaning and maintenance
  • Practicing the gun mount and move (using a barrel laser and projected targets)
  • Creating a consistent sight picture (don’t look down the barrel!)
  • Keeping your eyes on the target while mounting the gun in front
  • Forward allowance (trusting the subconscious to apply lead)
  • Eye dominance


-Out to the Field

  • We’ll practice shooting clay targets with a ShotKam video camera (a high-tech training camera) attached to your shotgun. We record each shot so we can then examine your shots sight picture in slow motion.

-Evaluation of ShotKam videos

  • We’ll head back to the classroom so we can watch actual videos (ShotKam) of your shooting and see why you hit or missed the targets.
  • We’ll discuss your strengths and weaknesses and give you advise on what to work on at home.

-Back to the Field

  • Wingshooting demonstrations with Brad, Katy and Reagan. We’ll end the day shooting live birds over finished Higgins Gundogs.

Cost is $200 per shooter.

Please contact Katy for more information on upcoming dates.

Katy Stuehm



Urinary Incontinence in Puppies and Dogs

Urinary Incontinence in Puppies and Dogs, My Experiences and Solutions.

With contributions by Dr. Tracy Acosta, Acosta Veterinary Hospital In 2006,

I raised a large litter of Wirehaired Pointing Griffon puppies. One of the pups I kept was a wonderfully comical, joyful female that I named Bellibone. She was a healthy, precocious pup until she was around 8 weeks old. At that young age, she became depressed, lethargic, and began drinking more water than she should have been. Upon examining her, I discovered that she had some white discharge from her vulva and she did not smell right. My reproductive specialist veterinarian at the time prescribed ten days of amoxicillin. The puppy felt better and we just assumed that she had a low grade UTI. However, a few weeks after the last dose of antibiotics, Bellibone began to show signs of discomfort again, began peeing in her crate after only an hour or two, and was ‘spot peeing’ small amounts frequently in and out of the house. After another round of amoxicillin, the same thing happened. She felt better during the course (this time her vet ran a urine sample to confirm the infection), but a few weeks after the course, the symptoms returned, but worse. This cycle continued and she ended up with a canine urologist at UC Davis for diagnosis. After Nuclear Scintigraphy, a Contract Study, and thousands of dollars, the specialist ruled out Ectopic Ureters, anatomical contributors, and everything else he could think of. But the infection still raged on, migrating to her kidneys and making her extremely ill. She was five months old, in stage one kidney disease, and was taking 675mg of Clavamox twice a day. But the cycle continued to repeat itself for three months…14 days of Clavamox and better health, two weeks later, symptoms that the infection was still present. Then she had her first heat cycle at 8 months old, the infection did not return, and Bellibone became the outgoing, nutty puppy she had been.

Bellibone’s persistent infection remained a mystery until I sent a puppy up to a family in Washington State. They took her to their country vet for her puppy wellness exam. The vet was so impressed by her that he phoned me to enquire about getting a pup from me in the future. He commented that the pup brought to him was wonderful and healthy, that the only thing he would advise was that the owners should keep her vulva clean with zinc free baby wipes once a week until she had her first and ideally second heat cycle before she was spayed. When I asked why, he told me that she had a ‘cloaked vulva’ which simply meant that she had excessive skin around her vulva that could retain debris, causing chronic UTIs until she had a heat cycle whereby her vulva would become stretched out permanently, eliminating the creases that retained and brewed infections.

That call was an “EUREKA!” moment. I took the information back to Bellibone’s urology specialist and he confirmed that she had a cloaked vulva. Since that experience, I have seen this condition in many, many other dogs and breeds. Over the years, owners frequently contact me for help with their incontinent puppies. If female, I ask them to examine their pup to discover if she has a cloaked vulva right away. Dr. Tracy Acosta, who has her own successful practice in Biloxi, MS, agrees. She says, “…it [the female puppy’s vulva] should be checked on any routine exam, especially those with urinary issues of any kind.” But a cloaked vulva in a female pup is only one of many causes of UI. This UC Davis article about Urinary Incontinence suggests a few causes including Ectopic Ureters, but does not cover Cloaked Vulvas or other juvenile causes such as simple immaturity.

It needs to be mentioned that Urinary Incontinence and ‘tinkling’ when excited, are two, completely different things. When a puppy loses urine in excitement or submission, I simply ignore it and the behavior eventually goes away on its own. Sometimes it will resolve by the time they are a few months old, and sometimes it can persist until they are adults. Focusing on it, scolding the behavior, always makes it worse; a dog has no idea why a person is angry when they are piddling from excitement or submission and only become confused and nervous, often leading to more piddling. Dr. Acosta agrees, “Do NOT scold [for excited or submissive dribbling], ignoring this behavior works best.”

Puppies, like humans, do not have completely mature urinary tracts for some time. Each breed and each puppy will have their own maturation rate and owners must do what is necessary to accommodate their pups during house training and crate training. As I mentioned earlier in this article, I frequently get calls from puppy owners (of both male and female pups) who report that their pups were doing very well with house training but they have suddenly regressed. These pups might be ‘spot peeing’ in frequent, small amounts, ‘leaking’ (pooling) while asleep, piddling in their crates after a short time, drinking excessively, acting otherwise normally or behaving lethargically, their urine might be poorly concentrated (looking like water), etc. The first thought is to have the puppy examined by a veterinarian to rule out infection. However, many puppies will run a low grade UTI but be negative in a urine culture. This can be extremely difficult for a vet to treat.

In these cases, I error on the side of caution—preferring to treat the situation like it is an infection rather than a behavioral issue. Either way, the solution is the same. I recommend that young puppies, between 8 and 14 weeks old perhaps (healthy or with a suspected infection), not spend more than three to four hours straight, in a crate (this might be less for some pups). I recommend plenty of outdoor breaks during the day, and a break or even two in the middle of the night to take the pressure off of the small, immature bladder. This is even more important for small breeds! From 14-24 weeks old, they may have matured enough to handle up to six hours straight in their crate. After six months old, I go on a case by case basis, allowing that some six to eight month old pups might have mature enough urinary tracts to handle a full night without a break. Female pups who have cloaked vulvas can follow the same protocol so long as their vulvas are kept clean on a weekly basis (or more frequently depending upon the amount of skin coverage, extreme cases apparently require minor surgery to remove excess skin in the area). Dr. Acosta advises, “I recommend that owners of female dogs who are having chronic urinary issues keep the area around the vulva clean. I usually recommend an eye wash (not saline) because some baby wipes can have zinc which is toxic to dogs.”

There are some owners who choose to crate their pups all day while they are at work during the week, I do not recommend this for many reasons, and urinary tract stress is one of them. During the day, all systems accelerate and the urinary tract is one of them. During the day, dogs drink more and pee more. During the night, systems slow down. Dr. Acosta provides the following solutions, “A good alternative to crating all day is for owners to seek out a reputable day care facility. That way pup is socialized and not crated all day, I have many clients who take advantage of these services.”

In older dogs, the reasons for UI can be different. In my own Griffons, I have noticed that some of my females have become incontinent after being spayed. Apparently this is due to a condition called Urethral Sphincter Mechanism Incompetence. You can read more about this condition in this article. When dogs experience UI, depending upon the cause, veterinarians might prescribe hormone treatments, medications that strengthen the urethral sphincter, collagen injections, or surgery. Some owners who have little or no luck with diagnosis or treatments will find waterproof dog bed liners like these (I have used these for my large household full of young and old dogs alike for years and really like them). Some owners will also buy waterproof throws like these (I have one of these, it is a decent throw. It is a little heavy, but definitely prevents urine, vomit, and other fluids from soaking through.) While not a fun aspect of dog ownership, UI is not uncommon and we just have to deal with it as it comes, and not blame the dog. These products make it easier for us to deal with our loved pets’ incontinence issues.

Certainly urinating in the home can be behavioral. Some dogs will begin to ‘mark’ the house for various reasons and some dogs will give up on owners who have not been sensitive to their urgencies. But these behavioral issues should not be confused with UI due to infection, immaturity, senility, hormonal imbalance, or anatomical abnormalities. Cloaked vulva is also known as, tucked vulva, hooded vulva, hypoplastic vulva, recessed vulva, and juvenile vulva, see this article for a medical description of this condition.

Common causes for Urinary Incontinence:

  • Urinary Tract Infection
  • Cloaked Vulva
  • Hormonal Imbalance
  • Weak Bladder Sphincter
  • Urinary Stones
  • Spinal Injury or Degeneration
  • Prostate Issues
  • Disease such as Diabetes (diabetes insipidus and mellitus), Hyperadrenocorticicm, Kidney Disease
  • Certain Medications
  • Congenital, Anatomic abnormalities such as ectopic ureters

To conclude, Dr. Acosta gives the following advice, “It is important for owners with male or female dogs with any form of urinary issue to have it medically investigated to rule out the easy rule outs. All female pups, no matter what breed, should have a good physical exam during their puppy vaccination series that determines if a cloaked/tucked vulva is obvious. I see tucked vulvas in all breeds, mixed and pure, and all sizes. Many female dogs that have this history of chronic UTI’s or urinary issues, have a tucked vulva. Tucked/cloaked vulvas are so easy to check for and can help relieve a lot of clients once they are diagnosed and other issues ruled are out. A very high percentage of the pups I see with this, resolve after first heat cycle. When I determine that a female has a tucked vulva, I let the owner know that they need to let the dog experience one heat cycle and then about 8 weeks after the cycle, let me examine her to determine if a spay can be done. Additionally, pups need potty breaks—and either owners make it happen, hire a pet sitter to do it, or utilize day care options.”

Written by Katy Stuehm with contributions by Dr. Tracy Acosta



**Do not copy or share without written permission from the author.**

Raising your puppy

Yes, they are six months old now!  Your puppy might be feeling its oats and even be starting to feel the naughtiness of adolescence encouraging them to act in ways their former baby sweetness did not.

If this is the case we will give you some tips for handling these behaviors which can include: counter surfing, nipping, biting while playing rough, playing rough, rushing through doors, molesting windows and doors , knocking people down when going up or down stairs, making inappropriate noise while crated, etc.

If your puppy is exhibiting any of these behaviors you are not alone, most puppies go through this stage and it is a matter of management (not necessarily getting them tired) to get them through it.

The first thing we recommend is that you look at this video and do it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3FEQcCY1E0  The Higgins training method is not only for gundogs, it is a dog behavior philosophy based on how dogs think, not how humans wish they would think.

If you have any questions about the leash, we can send you one. Other leashes will not work. It needs to be a simple, plastic lead with a noose. Fancier collars will not be the right weight or stiffness.

This Walk is the place where you earn your puppy’s trust and show them that you can claim space from them. They are hardwired as pack predators to understand this and after the ‘hissy fit’ on this leash, they will be calm and happy. In fact, they will be more calm and will have learned to manage their own energy through this exercise which is half of the battle with puppy energy.

Once they understand the Walk, you will also be able to claim space in the home. When we have a puppy who is noisy in the crate, we simply put them into the crate, open door to the crate and claim the room. Their job is now to stay in the crate. Suddenly their energy is focused on staying in the crate so they stop letting their energy exit as noise and fretting. They become calm and take a nap. 

Whenever you have to break your puppy’s focus to change their behavior, use a noise that sounds like a growl—‘Ach!’. This noise is more effective than english as it is a noise that they understand from infancy from their mother. Whenever your puppy is thinking bad thoughts (like counter surfing) use this noise while reinforcing it by inserting your body between them and the counter, backing them up to their dog bed or crate or out of the room they are in. After they have made the association between your ‘Ach’ and you claiming space, you will be able to claim space from a distance. (example: you are at your computer when you hear the wastepaper basket rustle, you give a loud ‘Ach’ and the puppy walks away from the rubbish.) Basically, ‘Ach’ means ‘stop whatever it is you’re doing!’. It replaces all of the obedience words that you have been trying to teach but give up on because it is too much work and the dog doesn’t listen anyhow. ‘Ach’ means: stop jumping on my mother-in-law, stop running through the door when I open it, stop begging, stop chewing on the coffee table, stop eating the Christmas roast, stop chewing on me, stop nipping a the children, stop playing rough, stop running away from me, etc.

Of course, ‘Ach’ won’t mean anything until you have shown them that you can claim space. This is where the Walk is essential, it is the foundation for your elevation in the household. If you don’t do this, you are another pack member who can be molested and ignored until you show them that you can accelerate and claim space. This is not about obedience, this is simply about earning trust. None of the dogs in my house know a single obedience command yet they leave the staircase when I or my children place a foot on it, they stay in contact while I’m in the field with them, they don’t jump on guests or counter surf. 

Also, it is important to manage their space by not allowing them to have the run of the house until they have earned their freedom. This means that if we are actively playing with, giving attention to or am generally aware of a young pup, s/he is loose in the room we are in. As soon as we need to focus on my kids or do some chores where we will lose track of them, we put them someplace where they are managed so they cannot go chew on the curtains or execute some clever scheme to trip us in the middle of the night somewhere out of sight. we use an ex-pen in our living room for our young Griffons.

Once they have consistently shown that they know the boundaries, they have more and more time loose in the house. At the moment, only our seven and four year old girls have the run of the house when we are not home. Ithaca and Tidbit are only a year old and just beginning to get more freedom in the house. There is nothing wrong with crating them for an hour if you need some space. Especially if you have given them plenty of exercise.

Great Training Day

Wow, what a training day! Pete’s puppies keep surprising us.

Ithaca (Pete x Holly) and her littermates have been impressive from the moment their eyes opened, but this girl is mind blowing. She isn’t ten months old yet and yesterday she was steady to wing, shot and kill without any hesitation or question. She has never worn an e-collar and has never experienced pressure or obedience training, she is the most cooperative and intuitive dog. Brad and I had her in the field with good flying chukar. She was handling beautifully to front, quartering naturally, ranging out but never disconnecting. When she found and pointed her first bird her point was intense and solid. We gave her a moment to see if she was going to work her way up the scent cone as she was about 20 feet from likely cover and the day was super hot and dry, but she was a rock. So I went to front to kick around the cover. As I passed her, she gave me that flash of the eye saying, “you’re on, go get it!”. When the bird ran out of the cover I looked back to see if she was loading up or had changed her intent from holding to helping me flush, but she was still solid! I flushed the bird, checked once more to see that she was still steady and then shot the bird. She was a statue except for her tail 🙂 All of Holly’s and Pete’s puppies are super easy to read, their tails give them away. Brad and I were quiet for a while while continuing the hunt. We had to digest what we had just observed. This nine month old Griffon had just hunted with style and intensity and then been completely steady. He commented that in the many, many dogs that he has trained he can’t remember one so green that so clearly understood its role in the hunt. He said that she had just acted like an eight year old guide dog. It wash’t the fact that she was steady, many of our dogs are steady at this age, it was how clearly she understood her role and how she had no desire to challenge my role or require any extra help in staying steady.

We also worked with Monkey, Honey and Valentine. They are Pete’s and Periwinkle’s puppies and are five months old now. They are also exceptional puppies. Monkey (who now belongs to Scott and Mei) was in the field loose with quail for the first time. He handled super well so we let him work into a bird. When he found and pointed his first bird, Dustin shot it, Monkey hopped once at fall to mark where it landed and I gave him a little growl to remind him to stay still. He was solid on his second bird. Nice shooting Dustin!!

Honey was solid on the Brush Pile and will be practicing what she has learned in the field this week. She was steady to flush, shot and kill and didn’t move a bit while birds were flushing directly over her head. Valentine has another trip to the Brush Pile and will be in the field with her siblings. She ended this session with birds flying overhead and remaining steady to flush, shot and fall.

It is quite amazing to see young Griffons show such keen understanding of their roles in the hunt. It would be impossible without this method of training and this quality of pedigree. The Higgins Method works on the foundation of gregarious predator behavior. It can be used with young, sensitive dogs because it does not use pressure to make a dog comply, rather it gives dogs the incentive to cooperate because they will be successful if they do. We are also using this method to help shape our breeding program. By showing young dogs success with the Brush Pile, we can record their natural tendency to defer to the shooter. A pup who naturally recognizes that their success increases when they defer is one who will try fewer unsuccessful options while learning. A naturally deferring dog tends to be well balanced socially. Selecting natural deferrers in our program is producing puppies like Ithaca, Sophie, Monkey, etc. etc.

Sophie’s Story

The Sofie’s Story

Written by owner and handler, Terry Mundorf, 9/1/12

Katy asked me to recount my experiences as a new owner of a Griff, bred by Griffonpoint Kennels and trained by Brad Higgins of Higgins Gundogs. I was delighted to be asked to do so, but had the expected problem of figuring out where to begin. So I will start with me.

I am a long-time bird hunter (pheasant, quail, chukar) who has never owned a finished gun dog. I have, however, hunted birds with many friends, all of whom have Labs of various hues that were trained with electronic collars. As a consequence, I have spent many an hour in the field watching dogs hunt by themselves, hearing owners yell at them as they ran to catch up before the flush occurred, and seeing dogs ignore all oral commands and most electronic ones.

I wanted a gun dog, but one that was different from those of my friends. I wanted a dog that would hunt with me, would be naturally responsive and would be a part of my household. My research led me to the Griffon. Finding a breeder that bred dogs for hunting took some time, but with luck and effort I found Katy and Griffonpoint Kennels. Katy in turn led me to Brad Higgins, and that is where the story of Sofie begins.

I travelled to Griffonpoint Kennels to meet Katy’s recent litter of Griffons and to attempt to pick out my future hunting companion. The first two things I noticed were that there were a lot of Griffons of all ages at Griffonpoint Kennels, and that all of the dogs were allowed to range over the property, have fun and figure things out for themselves. There seemed to be a lot of well-adjusted pups (and adults). Finally, I was chosen by the Griffon that would become Sofie. She would play with the other dogs and then return to me for a belly rub. You can do a lot worse than choosing the dog that chooses you.

I elected to leave Sofie with Katy in order to put her in the training of Brad Higgins. I had never trained a pointer, and did not want to wreck a good dog out of my ignorance. I really had no knowledge of Brad and his natural (non-electronic) training methods, but I knew two things: he was bound to know more about starting a dog than I did; and he was recommended by Katy. I was soon to learn much more.

I visited Brad and Sofie in the training environment on three separate occasions, the last of which was for a four day stay. Over this period, I saw the whole progression of the Higgins method of dog training, in which the dog’s natural instincts are encouraged and the dog makes its own decision to hunt with a human because it is more successful to do so.

I got to see six-eight week old puppies point, chase and catch birds, then parade around with them visibly bursting with pride of accomplishment. I learned about the Magic Brush Pile, and found out that if left to its own devices, a dog with natural hunting instinct would figure out that it would get to hold a lot more birds working with the hunter than by hunting on its own. I also got to see numerous demonstrations that dogs are capable of deciding that hunting with a human is more fun than hunting on their own, and that dogs that are permitted to make this decision are more responsive to the hunter than those that are coerced or shocked into it.

One short story will suffice to make this last point. Brad knew of a few chukar in a large field and turned a Griffon loose without an electronic collar. The dog immediately high-tailed it towards the horizon, without so much as a look back. Based on my experience, it was now time to run after the dog yelling. Brad did nothing, he just stood there. When I got nervous and asked how we would retrieve the dog, the answer was we would merely turn our backs to the dog and wait. And so we did. Not too many minutes later, the dog had returned, was standing in front of us expectantly. It spent the rest of the day hunting birds close to and in front of us. When we turned, the dog turned. It was a classic example of the dog trying hunting on its own, and deciding without coercion that it did not work, and deciding that hunting with us was simply better.

Sofie went through the same process, and before I took her home I had the chance to hunt birds with her. It was an eye-opening experience to see a then six-month old puppy find birds, lock up on point, allow the shooter to flush the bird and await the command to get the bird. It was wonderful.

One more quick story then I will conclude this piece. Griffonpoint Kennel is in northern California and I live in Seattle, Washington. Rather than shipping Sofie by air, I elected to drive her to her new home. She readily got into the car with me, a relative stranger, and off we went. Since the car was too small for a crate, she sat in the back seat. For the first half hour, she whined softly and looked out of the windows at the onrushing scenery. At about the 35 minute mark, you could see that she was getting accustomed to the view, and perhaps a little bored. At the 45 minute mark, she laid down in the back seat a fell asleep. And she slept most of the way back to Seattle.

I considered this wonderful behavior, and I attribute it to a number of things. First, the Griffon as a breed is reasonably calm for a hunting dog. But more importantly, she is a well-bred and well-socialized dog that expects to be treated well, and as a consequence has little fear. Second, her hunting training instilled in her self-confidence, and what I would call confidence in her own ability to make decisions about new situations. This calm acceptance of change boded well for her when she arrived at her new home.

My wife had seen one picture of Sofie at about 8 weeks of age, and nothing more. She was expecting a dog about the size of a Pekinese. When Sofie jumped out of the car, weighing 45 pounds, the reaction was “What a HUGE dog!” However, the shock gave way to acceptance and then to love, as Sofie demonstrated her desire to please and her clear affection for everyone in the family. I had to leave home on business for a week, leaving Sofie and my wife alone together. I feared divorce, ultimatums or general mayhem. What I found on my return was a dog and a wife perfectly bonded, and no prized possessions destroyed. Life could not be better.

So what do I conclude from all this as a first time hunting dog owner? Well, a number of things:

  • Do not try to train a well-bred hunting dog on your own, you will only ruin a good thing.

  • If you are really going to hunt the dog, get it from a breeder who is focused on breeding only hunting dogs. The show ring and field trials have no place for hunters.

  • Get a dog that is raised in a pack. A well-adjusted dog makes for a happy owner, and more importantly a happy home.

  • Training by what I call the “natural method” (no electronic collar) with the Higgins Method is the only way to go. It results in a dog that has made up its own mind and wants to hunt with you, has not be tortured into submission, and is a hunting companion rather than just another piece of equipment.

  • All of the foregoing results in a confident dog that knows its job, enjoys its work, and enjoys hunting as much as its owner.

That’s all for now, but Sofie’s story will continue, as next Sunday will be her first Washington chukar hunt. 

Gundog Breeding with the Higgins Method

Where should we start?

Since training can depend upon breeding and breeding should depend (in part) upon training, these notes will go full circle.

Ideally, after a litter is born we allow the bitch to rear her litter as naturally as possible. We begin offering palatable foods when the pups begin to show some motility, some coordination and an interest and ability to eat solids as well as nurse. We don’t interfere with the bitch’s nursing schedule, she will wean them when she is ready. When we interfere, we remove opportunities for the bitch to teach her pups valuable lessons about boundaries. Even before the pups have opened their eyes, we serve the bitch freshly killed prey (generally quail, pheasant and chukar) in her nest so that the pups’ most receptive organ (nose) begins to receive information about prey and food. Once their eyes are open and they are able to move about the nest with some coordination, we begin to serve them some freshly killed prey (quail) that they smell, mouth, carry, and chew. Their dam will be permitted to occasionally bring fresh prey into the nest herself, often alive, to present to her pups. By the time the pups are ready to leave the nest, they can identify viable quarry. It is amazing to see the results of this method of rearing puppies compared to puppies who are merely presented with a few bird wings at 7 to 10 weeks of age or who were weaned at a predetermined age. Those with later, arbitrary bird exposure often take longer to learn that birds are prey, those who are weaned on a breeder’s schedule miss opportunities to learn boundaries from their dam.

In our program we begin by looking to the nature of the dog to decide how and when to proceed with gun dog training. The Higgins Method lays the foundation of early learning opportunities by initially allowing pups to hunt and play in groups. While with their siblings, pups learn to hunt from watching each other’s successes, they test one another’s temperaments and learn to read dog behaviors. Pups who are taken from their litter mates early (6-9 weeks old) do not benefit from this interaction.  As predators who are hard wired to work in groups when necessary, dogs learn to exploit one another’s skills to increase their odds of success. When pups demonstrate that they are actively hunting, have learned to associate other pups’ signals with success (example: one pup is pointing, another pup recognizes the meaning of the point and runs over to point or flush the quarry), like birds and have learned that guns are positive, they are ready to hunt with us. They are ready to learn that we also have a skill that they can exploit; we can kill and then share the quarry.

Conversely, the goal of conventional methodology is to use the dog as an obedient tool to find the quarry so that the handler can kill and keep the quarry. In that method, the dog’s incentive to work with the trainer/handler is eliminated. The dog is made to be steady through obedience. If he does not obey field commands, the handler applies pressure until the dog either complies or shuts down.

It is important to recognize and understand the differences in these two, different acts. In the first, we acknowledge the dog’s nature (a gregarious predator) and his ability to do something that we cannot (find the bird). We show him that we can help to make him successful if he chooses to exploit our ability to kill the quarry. The other, conventional method, focuses on telling the dog to find the quarry so that we can kill it for ourselves, creating a sense of competition rather than synergy. These are two completely different activities from the dog’s point of view. The first is an example of a synergistic relationship, the other is an example of a conventional relationship where there is a director who gives commands and a subordinate who must obey.

To be continued…


Submitted by: Steve Illingworth on Sep 09, 2012

I picked up my first Griffon in April 2012 after talking to Katy and reading many of the Newtown/Griffonpoint reviews on this site. I did not want to gamble on a breeder that did not have highly satisfied clients. I have little experience bird hunting and have never owned a bird dog so my selection of the breeder and trainer were my highest priority. Katy was very helpful and tireless over the next 5 months by eagerly guiding me step-by-step, with the end goal of having a successful hunting dog.

Katy recommended Brad Higgins (higginsgundogs.com) for training. After spending the past 6 weeks training with Brad and Katy I now have an 8 month Griffon that is ready to hunt…without ever having worn an e-collar. Brad’s training methods are completely unconventional meaning all training is rewards based, not discipline based. Bottom line this is a great Breeder & Trainer combination and I am 110% satisfied!

September 2nd Seminar

Higgins Gundogs had another successful clinic today! Along with two Brittanys, a Pointer and a Weim/Vizsla cross were five Griffonpoint Griffons.


Scott Jacobs came to meet Monkey (Pete x Periwinkle pup) and brought Archie, his first Griffonpoint/Higgins Griffon. We were extremely impressed with how well Scott has seasoned Archie. Archie is a true Higgins Gundog, he is Steady to Wing, Shot, Fall and Retrieve. Scott has spent his time with Archie hunting wild birds, mostly chukar, and it really shows. Archie was careful, bold and had that look of confidence that only a well seasoned Higgins Gundog who knows that being steady will put a bird in his mouth, can have. John and Christine Adolph brought Fritz (Pete x Holly pup) back up to continue his gundog work. John and Christine have also done a sweet job handling Fritz in the field, remembering to focus on staying connected. Fritz was introduced to the BrushPile and in three birds stopped to flush and demonstrated steadiness through fall. It seems to run in the family, his brother Moe also worked the BrushPile and tried some new options before deciding that being steady was the only way to get that bird. Moe is owned by Dustin Horse who has done an awesome job raising him.

Monkey was really impressive on the BrushPile. He has been watching from the sidelines for the past weeks but has only worked it three or four times himself before today. Today he was Steady to Wing, Shot, Fall and also stopped to flush- at four and a half months old!

The Hardesty’s brought their Weim/Vizsla who loved his quail. Brad started him in the field with some quail, where he showed how much he liked his birds. He found, bumped, chased and caught his birds while Brad shot from a distance. He will make a fine gundog with more experience and as he becomes more comfortable with birds and hunting.

Ron and Suzanne Pecci brought their five year old Brittany who had been made insecure from conventional training. He was unsure of the training environment when he arrived but after building confidence on the BrushPile, he returned to the field and was Steady to Wing, Shot and Fall while Brad handled and shot over him. He is a talented and sweet dog and will really shine with the Higgins Method. When he first entered the field, he hung close and was concerned about leaving Brad to go look for birds. When he realized that Brad was not going to interfere with the hunt and was simply there to work in a partnership to hunt and shoot the bird, he opened up and hunted with style.

Craig VonChance brought his four month old Brittany and learned that his pup has a ton of desire and talent. The pup went nuts for his first quail and as it flushed he grabbed it and packed it around like a big dog! He was so bold and confident that he later was given an introduction to the BrushPile where he learned to recognize that a shooter in front of him would flush, shoot and give him a bird when he focused on the BrushPile and acknowledged the shooter.

Jordan Wittman and Ashley Maurier came to watch the clinic as they are eagerly awaiting the arrival of their new French Braque puppy and wish to find a method of training that will suit their dog’s cooperative and soft nature. We are looking forward to meeting their new puppy and helping them become a great team.

Reagan Olivares also came to watch and help out. Reagan and his German Shorthair Pointer are a Higgins Gundog Team. Reagan handles and shoots over his GSP, Steady to Wing Shot and Fall. Thank you for your help Reagan!

Speaking of help, a huge THANK YOU to Tom, Dusty, Katherine and Maya for a fantastic lunch! We are grateful for the help and great food. Everything was super!


Q: I just acquired a new puppy. What can I be doing with it now, until it is old enough for gun dog training?

A: Socialize your puppy as much as possible. (Check with your vet to get recommendations about Parvovirus in your area.) The more your puppy gets out of the house to see strangers, kids, other animals, different kinds of outdoor environments (different kinds of cover), etc., the less overwhelming its first exposures to hunting and prey will be. This will allow pup to focus on finding and catching prey.   Read more…