When you get your 8/10 week old puppies, please keep this image in mind. Although this photo is a very young puppy, it's to show how much has yet to be formed. Their bones do not even touch yet. They plod around so cutely with big floppy paws and wobbly movement because their joints are entirely made up of muscle, tendons, ligaments with skin covering. Nothing is fitting tightly together or has a true socket yet.
When you run them excessively or don't restrict their exercise to stop them from overdoing it during this period you don't give them a chance to grow properly. Every big jump or excited, bouncing run causes impacts between the bones. In reasonable amounts this is not problematic and is the normal wear and tear that every animal will engage in.
But when you're letting puppy jump up and down off the lounge or bed, take them for long walks/hikes, you are damaging that forming joint. When you let the puppy scramble on tile with no traction you are damaging the joint.
Overview: First and foremost, the Higgins Method is a ‘no force, no whoa’ method of birddog ‘training’ which is modeled from his experience working with falcons. It’s all about the relationship shared by predator and prey while simultaneously recognizing well-bred dogs are intelligent creatures capable of learning from their mistakes and want to cooperate with their ‘boss’. Afterall, if you try to use force while ‘training’ a falcon it has a high probability to just up and leave. The beauty of the method is in its simplicity once you have opened your mind to this concept and made yourself ready to learn. The cornerstone of his program is a large block hewn from pure Cooperation & Trust. Brad trains handlers in the art of mindfulness/self-awareness and energy management for both dog and self. Then he presents realistic hunting scenarios to the dog and handler team and hopes errors are made, since this is where the gold is found. At its core Brad’s birds do all of the dogs’ training, we are only there to help the bird and partner with the dog. By increasing the dog’s success, we only increase our own. The result is the handler improves and the dog learns its odds for success go up dramatically when it allows his ‘boss’ to help. Brad’s unique falconry inspired ‘fly the dog’ methodology is elegant as it simply works and works simply.
Who isn’t it for? If you love to lay on the e-collar and shout ‘whoa’ until the small vessels in your eyes begin to burst, this technique isn’t for you. If you take a lot of joy posting photos of your statuesque dog posing on a Whoa Table/Barrel or fence post, this technique isn’t for you. If your collection of bird launchers is a point of personal pride, you guessed it, this technique isn’t for you. Alright, I’ll dispense with the Jeff Foxworthy shtick, since I am pretty sure you get the point. In short, this methodology isn’t for you if you can’t or are unwilling to open your mind to the possibility that traditional obedience training has nothing to do with cooperation and trust, but is instead much more about coercion, intimidation, and frankly bullying or worse. The use of toe-hitches and ear pinches can very easily cross the line into abuse...
Who is it for? Have you become disillusioned with the traditional obedience style ‘whoa training’? Do you want better for your dog, and yourself? Have you been looking for or are you ready for something different…well, and if I am to be honest, better? Are you ready to be in real a team-partnership with your dog? Are you ready and willing to learn? If you can answer yes to most if not all of these questions, you need to get off your laurels and get in contact with Brad to get yourself started. Yes, that's right. Just do it.
So, what do you get? A better way to manage your dog and hunt. What used to be stressful situations become learning opportunities where growth and improvement in both handler and dog are cultivated. Meaning, learning and improvement come at an exponential rate with no risk of the dog shutting down – after all the dog thinks you are out hunting and having a grand ol’ time, the whole time, every time. Depending on where you and your dog are in your readiness this experience can progress at a truly unbelievable pace. Brad says he can get a team through his program usually in 10 to 15 hours over the course of a couple of days. We brought a well started pup and an adult in need of some serious rewiring. Each managed a smidge over eight hours per dog to make it through Brad's (HGD) 'fly the dog' program. Brad is a consummate gentleman and professional with superior problem-solving skills. He is passionate with a dry sense of humor which was appreciated by us, and even helped us to let go the vestiges of our left-over baggage needing to be jettisoned in order to be successful. Brad isn’t cheap but as a value proposition, seriously, the experience from start to finish is quite the deal. You walk away with having been given a personalized private lesson in what to do and why, be gifted a host of new tools in your dog handling bag, as well a Higgins Quail 'trained’ dog all in just a few days. Simply put, you are not going to get that any place else and you aren't going to be disappointed with the results. I am sparing of glowing endorsements after 30 years of military service - but Higgins Gundogs deserves high marks and public praise!
*We were recently clients of Higgins Gundogs. No goods, services or discounts were exchanged for this review.
Brown Gravy for Jägerschnitzel
Paxson the Gloucester CGC, 9 June 06 - 13 November 19.
Whether the North American Drent community realizes it, we have all suffered a great loss with the passing of Paxson. Without so much as making a deliberate effort, he became the face of the Drent in North America - a true ambassador for the breed. It is without ego that I can say, if a North American has a Drent under the age of eleven, odds are the owner learned about the breed because of Paxson. If it were not for him there would be no DPCNA, the Drent would very likely not be part of the AKC's Foundation Stock Program and been one of the first breeds to be allowed to participate in both Hunting and Retrieving tests, and I most certainly would not have written any book.
Most dog owners would say their dog has enriched their lives, made them more complete and/or balanced. Some may even say their dog had been instrumental to their ability to pull through some dark times (I can count myself among this crowd). After all dogs are pretty much perfect companions. Paxson did all of that, but he did more. He changed my life in ways no other dog has, because of his love I was inspired to create the DPCNA, connect with the AKC, as well as Gun Dog Magazine, and write a book. Because of this many more people are now coming to learn about the Drent and their ability to move into your heart. Because of him the best kept Dutch secret is out.
Rob en Tiny Key, of the Gloucester kennel, selected Paxson for me. They could not have chosen more wisely. I will forever be grateful for their mentorship and friendship over the years. Most of all I will forever be thankful of the gift which was Paxson. Smart, affectionate, gentle are some words which come to mind, but so do goofy, and athletic. He was selective with who he warmed up to and those he deemed worthy of his attention and love generally were gifted with a dog willing to make himself a fool for you. It was always interesting for me to see who he approved of.
Paxson was my first from pup bird dog and sadly my inexperience and lack of understanding of training in this filed were evident in his work, but it was through no fault of his own - it was all me. Still over the years he managed to overcome many of my missteps and became an effective pheasant hunter and when hunted alone he was deadly on Mearns quail. There wasn't much Paxson and I didn't do together: hike, hunt, bikejor, and canicross to name a few. Most of all he was my beautiful friend, always nearby and always ready for a new adventure. He was the consummate 'good boy' from his first days to his last.
Paxson was born in Boxtel, The Netherlands, and because of my military career, he lived in The Netherlands, New Mexico, Spain, Idaho and Washington. He also had the opportunity to travel to many other places in between. His stately looks and gentle disposition drew people to him wherever he went. Paxson had a life filled with love, as many mud rolls as he could manage, and plenty of adventure.
I can't imagine a day where I will not miss him.
So how do you do this, help your dog teach itself? As I have mentioned in most of my training articles I have been moving more and more towards shaping techniques for a myriad of reasons, but mostly because they work and work well. The technique is easy to employ, sometimes a bit of forethought is needed - in particular if you are used to doing things the old way. The dog becomes much more predictable sooner, and becomes even easier to "train" because of it. Brad Higgins allows 'the bird to do the training', but really he guides the dog through some scenarios where the dog teaches itself what to do, we just happen to help set the stage, and provide the right reinforcement(s) at the right time to help set the behavior in the dog's mind. Here is a nice video by Stonnie Dennis which help illustrate what I am trying to say (his videos from this period are his most informative):
Sadly this is the first year that we played and didn't make the finals. I suppose a little humble pie is good for us all from time to time. Apparently we had become too accustomed to bringing home one of the coveted jugs of pickles or one of the other lesser prizes. That being said, I am very proud of how Powder ran this morning. She worked the field expertly and handled like a pro. The conditions were tough, many people came in with no birds or only one. Usually the finals are determined by the fastest time, today only those who got their two birds to hand within the ten minute time limit moved onto the final. Powder did have her second bird, but the horn sounded as I moved into position... Disappointing to say the least. We let little Ila tag along and she had a field day romping around as you may have expected.
We usually send this by email sometime late in October to our clients for the next year. Yes, we know, it's nearly a year before a new Two Gun pup will cross the threshold into your home. Which means, right now is a great time to start looking into different training options and methods, as there is little pressure. You can read, ask questions, seek out advice, find a local trainer: observe training sessions, etc. and really see what is going to work for you. Making these kinds of decisions once you have the puppy is a whole lot like attempting to fix an airplane while it is in flight...generally not advisable.
Since I regularly get requests for books I like, I figure it's time to give the list a place on the blog.
So here it is, I have dusted off the Recommended Reading list yet once again and getting it published in time for the holidays - so you have time to add one or more to your wish list and see what Santa has to say and see if anything makes it to your stocking.
What do these books have in common? Generally speaking, they are in tune with modern canine behavioral science vs. the old school ways I was taught when I was a young man which were quite barbaric by today's standards. They relied on force and were much less effective. So without further adieu:
The Puppy Primer, by Patricia B. McConnell
- for that matter any Patricia B. McConnell book on training/dog behavior
How to raise a puppy you can live with, by Clarice Rutherford
How to help gun dogs train themselves, taking advantage of early conditioned learning, by Joan Baily. **(this is a favorite)**
Dog Sense, by John Bradshaw
The Genius of Dogs, by Brian Hare
Bird Dog, the Instinctive Training Method, by Ben O. Williams
The Drentsche Patrijshond for the North American Fancier, by B. P. O'Connor
Since we have you here in the mindset to learn and read. Here is some reading we believe will also be worth your time and why we build our guarantee around a spay/neuter in early adulthood, if you feel compelled to do it. In short, the early spay/neuter is being strongly implicated/tied to joint irregularities, tendon injury, and even increased the risk of many cancers, please take some time to review these scientific articles:
Early Spay-Neuter Considerations for the Canine Athlete
Neutering Dogs: Effects on Joint Disorders and Cancers in Golden Retrievers
There are also some great training resources on YouTube:
HigginsGunDogs: Brad's methods emphasize a dog's natural cooperation. He uses his experience and background in training falcons on pointing dogs. We will train 1-on-1 with Brad later this year and we are very excited!
StandingStoneKennnels: This young couple has some really nice videos, and some I'm not so in love with. They use a blend of different training methods and they cover a wide range of dog and puppy topics.
Stonnie Dennis: A client recently turned me on to Stonnie. He uses a gentile technique and is a talented handler. The downside, now I have been accused of being long winded but really can't hold a candle... If you have patience and time his videos can be highly informative.
This post was inspired by having a few memories jogged after reading a favorite article by Dave Carty: Slow Down (Let Your Dog Work)
After a few pit stops on our long and winding way, we arrived to the spot. Dave got his Chevy parked in one of the standard places for hunting the area and, it became quite apparent that the temperature was already getting the best of us. Dave was immediately expressing concern over ‘dropping’ Powder to hunt, but the desire to have her down was high, since it was clear she was not going to have another season. Having an old and frail dog now myself, you take it day by day. They could have six more months, or today might be their last. I know this is where Dave was, so I just did my best to be supportive and respect his decisions doubly so when it came to Powder.
The intent was to hike down one branch of a ‘Y’ shaped coulee, mill around at the junction and then head back up the other unmolested branch. So that is what we did with very little fanfare. I still have a soft spot for Brits since my own, Mountain Sal. As we hiked, keeping an ever-watchful eye on Powder, we reminisced over some of the hunts we had shared over her. One which will likely stick out in mind for as long as I am able to keep memories neatly cataloged, is the hunt in which Dave bagged a gorgeous fully masked adult bull Mearns over a nicely stuck point from Powder. Making the event even more memorable was the high overhead passing shot Dave successfully made to bag the bird. With the bird plucked from the sky, it pitched into some heavy cover. Powder was asked to make her retrieve, which she did so with purpose and grace and with an impressively gentle mouth the bird was retrieved perfectly preserved. Dave gifted me the bird and I had it mounted.
I digress - after hiking ever so slowing down to the heart of the ‘Y’ the heat continued to rise, and it was clear Powder wasn’t really liking the heat. It was easy to see in her gait, how much water she had taken, so it was no surprise the level of Dave’s concern was ever so increasing with every few minutes. We paused in the shade in the crook of the ‘Y’ and talked about the easiest way to go back up, how best to try and keep Powder in the shade and debated at what point do we consider picking her up to carry her. The more we debated the pros and cons of our ideas, interspersed with our normal casual conversation Dave became very frustrated with himself for taking her ‘this far’ and that she hadn’t even gotten birdy. The risk wasn’t worth it, and I understood. As we talked about all of these things Dave kept his gaze uphill, presumably looking at the peak which the truck was parked just below. I, on the other hand, was watching Powder.
I'm just a guy suffering with an infatuation with gundogs since childhood. Fifty some years later this is what you get.