Higgins Gundogs: Rules for Training Your Gun Dog

  1. Dog training is dog psychology. Learn to understand your dog. Try to see everything from his point of view.
  2. Dogs don’t see things in terms of “packs” or “leaders”. Any social structure they display is related to hunting strategies. You want your dog to defer to you because through experience, he sees you not as a “pack leader” but as the most successful hunter.
  3. Stop unnecessary talking. Take the time to learn to handle your dog.
  4. Dogs are highly motivated to please themselves. A dog becomes cooperative and respectful when he realizes that you are in control of something he wants (a bird in his mouth).
  5. When learning to hunt and handle, dogs don’t make mistakes, they try options. In order to learn what works, they need the opportunity to try options that don’t. It’s how the predator mind is wired. 
  6. Let your dog learn to manage the bird. He gets his cues from the bird, we just reinforce what the bird tells him.
  7. Quality dog work is not between you and your dog. It’s between your dog and the bird.
  8. Instead of trying to get your dog to point, allow him to learn he can’t catch the bird. That he needs you to kill it for him. Staunch, stylish pointing will follow naturally.
  9. Dogs learn by observation, association and trial & error (trying options). Keep this in mind whenever you’re training (or not training!).
  10. It takes birds to train a bird dog.
  11. Don’t teach whoa around birds. Whoa has nothing to do with birds.
  12. A finished dog understands that a bird in the air (stready to wing), a gunshot (steady to shot), the sight of a pointing dog (honoring/backing), a flushing bird (steady to flush) and a bird falling (steady to fall) all mean stop and wait for me.
  13. Once your dog understands the command, give the command once and always use a release command.
  14. Never give a command you can’t or won’t enforce.
  15. When it comes to dog training, timing and consistency are most important.
  16. Learn to read your dog.
  17. Be patient and be sure the dog understand what you want before assuming he is refusing.
  18. If you ignore or don’t correct for an unwanted behavior, you are agreeing with and encouraging that behavior.

About the author
Brad Higgins, professional dog trainer and creator of the unique Higgins Method of dog/handler training.

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