Learning the Higgins Method. First, Forget Everything You Know

Been working on the upcoming book, The Higgins Method. Here are some thoughts taken from various chapters on the differences between my method and conventional, obedience based training methods. You’ll  find that many things are opposite of conventional obedience training.

 

(1)  I never tell the dogs when to stop (“WHOA”). I never need to. They know how to manage their birds. Instead of demanding they STOP, I do the opposite. I give them permission to go (my “Flush/Stop” cue).

(2)  You’re not the dog trainer. That’s the birds job.  Your job is to simply set up realistic hunting scenarios with good, wild acting birds. Let the birds take it from there. He will learn from the birds that his odds of success (a bird in his mouth) increase when he is steady and waits for the shooter to kill the bird.

(3)  I show the dogs that I can increase his odds of success if he will include me in his hunt. From his point of view, I’m a liability. I can’t keep up or smell a thing. But I do have an ability that he does not. I can increase his odds of success by shooting the birds for him. It doesn’t take long for him to cooperate, include me in his hunt, and choose to be steady.

(4)  The foundation of other training methods is unnatural and foreign to the dogs. These methods are based on obedience and pressure. My method is the opposite. It’s based on the natural way predators interact, forming groups to live and hunt together. It’s based on trust and cooperation.

(5)  If you think you’re teaching your dog to fetch and retrieve you’re wrong. From his perspective, you’re teaching and rewarding him for chasing. I don’t teach dogs to chase. I don’t command a retrieve. I build trust first, then I simply nurture his natural instinct to share the kill. The secret is to remember that it’s his bird, not yours. Build trust and he will want to share his bird with you.

(6)  I don’t do obedience training with drills or repetition. Dogs are not programmed to think that way. I train the way they think using associations, timing, consistency and success. Because the birds we use have been released, I don’t know what they may do. They might be in a covey, they might run, flush wild before being pointed, etc. If you find yourself being repetitive and doing “drills” stop, and reevaluate your training method. Manage the hunt but keep it natural and as realistic as possible. The dogs should see time in the field as hunting, not training.

(7)  Pointing is simply part of stalking. It’s the predators way of closing the gap, getting closer to the prey before the pounce. I want to encourage this. The way I see it, all the work he did, the stealthy movement and intensity, culminate in the pounce (aggressive flush). I will never go in and steal a dogs point by walking up and  commanding him to “WHOA” while I flush his bird. He found it and managed it well. He is allowed to present his bird to the gun (pounce) on my “Flush/Stop” cue.

 

More to come.

 

Brad Higgins

Higgins Gundogs

 


Flagging Can Be a Beautiful Thing

Flagging can be a beautiful thing, if you know what you’re looking at. This is why reading a dog is so important. He’s talking to you if you’ll just listen.

Stalking is the strategy of all “ambush” predators (as opposed to the strategy of the “pursuit” predators). The point is actually a pause before the pounce. In this instance, the dog is setting up for his “flush/stop” cue. I can’t expect him to pounce until he knows where the target is. In this case, the wind had changed after he found scent. As you can see, he managed it well and didn’t panic. Beautiful style and intensity.

This is HGD Ch.Firle Oak California Chrome “REX”. He recently earned his Higgins Gundog title. Rex is owned by Jeff & Pam Bucher.


Glencuan Alex and Glencuan Basso

Glencuan Alex and Glencuan Basso

“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.”
William Arkwright, The Pointer and His Predecessors, 1906

Glencuan Alex and Glencuan Basso


Pup & Partridge

Here is one of the young pups learning about Partridge. You can see how important good flushing/flying birds are. They give the young dogs a reason to adopt an ambush (stalking and pointing) strategy.

The birds will train the dogs if you let them.


Higgins Gundogs Training/Research Center

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Our new building should be completed by May. Looking Forward to it.


Understanding the Retrieve From the Dog’s Perspective

Some have asked why I teach dogs to retrieve as the last step in their training when conventional training dictates that it should be taught as one of the initial obedience commands for pointing dogs.

When the fetch “command” is taught in the beginning, before the dog learns to be cooperative and steady, it is by definition, obedience. From the dog’s perspective, he is being forced to perform these tasks to avoid trainer induced pressure. However, when the retrieve is encouraged after the dog has learned to trust the owner and understands that being steady leads to success, in his eyes, retrieving is a reward, not an e-collar enforced obedience drill. It is much easier to retain the dog’s natural enthusiasm for retrieving when he does it naturally.

The same holds true for the flush/stop cue for the pointing dogs. In the UK and here at Higgins Gundogs, this style of hunting, where the dog on point is cued to flush the bird for the shooter, then stop on the flush, is practiced. The dogs see this cue in the same way they see a cue to retrieve. Basically, they see it as a cue to procure the prey. Keep in mind why dogs point. It is the pause before the pounce. In conventional training here in the US, the dog is  never allowed to pounce. His entire reason for pointing is taken away and replaced with pressure and obedience. It’s no wonder some of the softer dogs can loose style and intensity in these situations.

It’s interesting that this method of allowing the dogs to pounce, but only on cue, makes them much steadier overall. Enthusiasm, style and intensity increase when he knows  his reason for pointing will be realized, it’s just a matter of waiting for the cue. This is dog work on another level. I call it more than “physically steady”, this is when they become “mentally steady”.

Brad Higgins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Training Hunt With Mambo, a Higgins Gundog

I was going through some older video for the upcoming  members section of the website when I came across this. Some of you will remember Mambo. He always enjoyed helping other dogs “get it right”. Mambo is no longer with us but he will always be a Higgins Gundog.

Enjoy,

Brad Higgins

Higgins Gundogs