Trust VS Obedience

I was over at one of the “other” training forums recently and answered a question posted by one of their members. I’m sure I’ll get a lot of feedback from the haters there. lol

Here is the question that was posted.: “When should we allow the dog to learn to correct itself, versus us correcting him?”


My response:

Hello *****,

I like the way you worded that. Very thoughtful.

That’s a great question. It tells a lot about how humans see training. Just the word “correct” speaks volumes. From the dogs point of view, when he is “corrected”, he is being punished for using his free will and making a choice. That will not work when you’re trying to build trust. The goal of most training methods is to replace free will with obedience, basically by removing trust.

The word “correction”, in the context of training, means late timing. In other words, after the fact. That’s tough on a dog brain. I find it’s much better and natural to help the dog learn to control his energy (or excitement). He learns that by managing his excitement, his odds of success (getting the bird in his mouth) increase. He will naturally become steady, thus requiring no “correction”. He already possesses this ability. It’s why he points (manage energy to increase the odds of success). All we have to do is show him that only we possess the ability to catch (shoot) the bird. As soon as he trusts that to be true, he becomes steady with all his natural intensity, drive and focus still in tact.

Here is a young dog in training. This is what we call the “defer” ( a glance at the shooter). The dog is asking the shooter to go out front and kill the bird. He has decided we are trustworthy.

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Brad Higgins
Higgins Gundogs
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.

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

2 Comments on "Trust VS Obedience"

  1. Hello Kimmi,

    More than half of my business is rehabbing dogs and fixing problems created by obedience based training. The main problem I see here is a lack of trust. You don’t trust the dog to be steady and the dog does not trust you to help him be successful. He sees you as an adversary.

    It really is simple when you change the foundation of your relationship with the dog. From obedience and control (as you stated), to the nature of pack (group) dynamics: Trust, cooperation and success.

    My success rate for the dogs is 100 percent. My success rate for the owners is considerably less. Because of the fundamental differences between how humans and dogs think, you need to forget everything you think you know about dog training.

    Contact me by e-mail or phone and we can talk more.


    Brad Higgins

  2. Hi Brad
    Would you say that your method works well for rehabilitating dogs who have been labled independent, on their own agenda, or who hunts for themselves?
    The higher the prey drive the more we try to control, the more we correct the more anxiety we create, especially with a bold, but sensitive dog.
    Is it really that simple, showing the dog that we possess the power to get the bird?
    What is the success rate in re-traing dogs that have bee labled, or older dogs, using your method?

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