Did a short video in the field today. This was our third session with this pup. Here he is learning that steadiness around birds, not chasing, increases his odds of success. My “alright” cue gives him permission to help me flush the bird if he likes. No chasing until my “hunt dead” (retrieve) cue . He’s coming along nicely.
This is a short clip of some work Reagan and I did this morning with a client and his pup. Here, I’m starting the steadiness process, showing the dog a new, successful hunting strategy that includes the shooter. Before coming here, the owner had done some retrieve work (force fetch) and taken the dog on a few hunts. The dog had become hard mouthed (mauling and chewing the birds on retrieve). My goal this week is to get the dog steady to wing, shot & fall, in addition to a flush/stop on cue and a natural, gentle retrieve. Piece of cake. I’ll post the complete video soon.
Here is one of our black pointer pups, Olive, in the field today during one of our training hunts. Here, she finds a bird and waits for us to catch up. Once we arrive, I get the shooter (Reagan) in place and give Olive her Flush/Stop cue. She does a beautiful aggressive flush to present the bird to the guns, but the bird refused to fly. So what does she do? She stops, resets and waits to be cued again. She does a second flush on cue and stops as soon as the bird flies. She is then sent for the retrieve. Dogs are pretty smart if you trust them and give them the freedom to make decisions.
Had Nigel (Des x Fizza) out this morning showing off for some prospective owners. Here he is demonstrating steady to wing, shot and fall, waiting for my verbal release to retrieve. In this video, I am filming and the bird flushes behind me.
This is a short clip from a longer video that will be going up on the website this week.
Hope you enjoy it.
This video shows how we encourage a natural retrieve. It’s natural because I leave the pups free will intact and allow her to choose her options. This is how we build trust and really see a dogs natural talent and abilities.
Had a couple of the black pointers in the field today. They’re putting it together. Handling well, good pace and drive. The collars you see them wearing are for tracking. No e-collars are used.
Here is a great quote from a book about the origins and history of the Pointer.
“The chief glory of the sport is to shoot over a brace of raking pointers, matched for speed and style, sweeping over the rough places like swallows, and passing each other as if they were fine ladies not introduced. Let one of them get a point and the other will, as if connected by an invisible wire, instantly point at him (i.e. back him); and as the pointing dog advances to make sure of the birds, the backer will do the same- often with an absolute mimicry of his leader’s movements.” (Quotation from William Arkwright, The Pointer and His Predecessors, 1906)
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.
I’m working on a new training video. It will show how I get a beautiful retrieve without pressure or obedience. Here is a short clip that will be a part of the new, upcoming video. Please excuse the wind noise. I will edit that out when the video is complete.
Here is the text that accompanies this clip.
Here is a video showing one of the phases of our natural retrieve training. Because I don’t use obedience in this, I need to work with the dog’s instinctive responses. Instead of a “fetch”, command, I need to encourage him to “share the kill”. In the beginning, I do this by bringing him in, taking the bird but then petting him up and sharing it with him. I also encourage him to walk and carry the bird. Pretty soon he no longer sees me as the one that wants to steal his kill. Instead, he offers to share it with me.
Recently I was asked if I force fetch dogs. Here is my response.
No, I don’t need force fetch. That would work against the foundation of my method. My training is based on what naturally motives the dogs, trust and success. It’s why dogs, wolves, lions, social predators in general, form hunting groups or packs. I didn’t make this stuff up, it’s just the nature of the beasts. I don’t fight the truth, I accept it and work within their rules.
There are two very important things to remember here. One is that for dogs, all learning is based on association. It’s how the predator mind is wired. The other thing to remember is that dog’s see the retrieve as chasing birds. That’s why I only teach if after a dog is steady. Even then, in the beginning, he is not allowed every retrieve. Some, I go out and get while he remains steady. I then bring it back to him and share it. I don’t want him associating the retrieve (chase) with the drop of the bird. When the bird hits the ground, I want him to wonder if it might be his turn. Basically, the only consistent association to retrieving (chasing the bird) he has left, is the word “fetch”. When I say that, he knows he always gets to go.
Here is a link to an article I wrote a while ago. It describes how I help dogs learn to choose to retrieve.
Hope this helps.
Higgins Gundogs hunting etiquette
Dogs: Stay in touch and handle well. Always honor another dog’s point, be steady when necessary and manage the birds for the gun.
Handlers: Be silent in the hunt. Allow the dog the freedom to do his work. Nurture the natural retrieve.
Here is a young dog we recently trained. He is steady to wing, shot and fall. He also stops to flush and has a natural retrieve.
People often ask how we can get such a young dog (6 months old) understanding this level of steadiness and still maintain his natural drive, intensity and focus. The reason is, I don’t use any pressure or obedience in his steadiness training and bird work. My method is success based. He knows that If he cooperates, I’ll help him get the bird in his mouth.