The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Pointing, retrieving, flushing, tracking, behavioral issues, puppy training, etc.

Moderator: Moderator Pack

The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby Higgins » Tue Mar 13, 2018 9:42 pm

Screen Shot 2018-03-05 at 6.25.47 PM.png
Grizz Hunts Pheasant with Prairie Falcon


As many of you know, I train dogs for use in wingshooting and falconry. What makes the Higgins Method unique is that, instead of conventional obedience based methods, I train the dogs using the same method I use to successfully train hawks and falcons.

Along with the dog training, I've been a master falconer for more years than I care to share. That's where I learned about the predator mind. Hawks, falcons and dogs, when it comes to hunting, they all think the same. As with most experienced falconers, I can trap a wild hawk or falcon and have it cooperating and successfully hunting game with me in 2 to 3 weeks. With the dogs, because I train them like the falcons, they're even easier. I don't have to tame them first! Falcon style training for the dogs obviously works.

My method of training (falconry for dogs) is readily understood and accepted by the dogs. The reason is, my method and falconry are both based on the building of trust, not obedience. There can be no denying it. To help understand, I've included some truths about falconry and working with the birds. Here, you will see the similarities between my method and the training of hawks and falcons.

First and foremost, when training and hunting with a hawk or falcon, they must have free will. Free will is the opportunity to make natural choices with no negative associations tied to the handler (falconer). You can't use obedience or coerce them into doing anything. You cannot use any pressure or punishment. If you do, they will simply leave. You can't get frustrated, or lose your temper. There are no vocal commands or hand signals. Done correctly, there is no training through repetition.

To show the similarities between my method and the training and flying of hawks and falcons (falconry), let me show you the definitions of  some old school falconry terms. The similarities will become obvious.

Bagged Quarry:  "Captive prey which is released under a hawk during training or when game is scarce to insure a flight for the hawk." This is what I do during training and on early hunts with the dogs.

Creance: "A line or cord attached to the hawk during early training". This is my personal favorite. This is how I use a "checkcord". It's not about obedience. Once I show them how to be successful using the creance (checkcord), it is removed and they are "flown free". There is no pressure or obedience here. In early training, I'm simply managing success.

Entering: "To fly a hawk at quarry for the first time or to arrange a situation such that a hawk has an easy opportunity to be successful." Sounds like when I first begin dropping the creance.

Hack: "A process of allowing a newly fledged eyess (young, inexperienced bird) to fly at liberty with purpose of reaching it's full power of flight under a simulated natural wild situation." This is how I introduce the pups to the field and birds. "At liberty" is the key word here.

Lure: "An object which is made of feathers, leather plastic, etc., used as a means of recall." I always have a live quail on a string in my vest. It's a great tool to use with the dogs on occasion when teaching a recall. They come running to see if there might be a bird. The secret is in using it sparingly. Dogs, and predators in general, are gamblers. Success in this case is not guaranteed. They come in to the handler happy every time, just in case.

Make Hawk:  "An older, more experienced hawk which is flown with an eyess (young, inexperienced hawk or falcon) to serve as an example or for encouragement." In early training, I often run the pups with an older, experienced dog.

Man (manning): " To accustom a hawk to men, to handling, and to strange sights and sounds."  Similar to socializing a young pup when he first comes home.

Serve: "To flush or put up quarry under a hawk". I encourage the dogs to flush/stop on my cue. I guess it could be seen as "self serve".

Wait on: "To circle overhead of the falconer waiting for quarry to be flushed." The way I see it with the dogs, this is similar to their "point".

Predators have the talent and the tools to be successful hunters. It's their dance. For the best results, we have to play by their rules. The bottom line is, you are asking them to include you in their hunt. They will accept you as a viable partner in the hunt when they trust that you are there to help them be successful.

Higgins
http://HigginsGundogs.com
https://www.youtube.com/user/HigginsGunDogs/videos
Higgins
Senior Poster
Senior Poster
 
Posts: 107
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2006 12:26 pm
Location: Nevada

Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby STait » Tue Mar 13, 2018 10:38 pm

We falconers do coerce and train using rewards....No? And also train through repetition.
STait
Master Poster
Master Poster
 
Posts: 338
Joined: Wed May 21, 2014 3:28 pm

Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby Higgins » Wed Mar 14, 2018 12:43 am

Hello STait,

Think a little deeper. When done correctly, why will the falcon or the dog hunt with us?
Brad Higgins
www.HigginsGundogs.com

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.
Higgins
Senior Poster
Senior Poster
 
Posts: 107
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2006 12:26 pm
Location: Nevada

Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby AverageGuy » Wed Mar 14, 2018 7:30 am

Higgins wrote:Hello STait,

Think a little deeper. When done correctly, why will the falcon or the dog hunt with us?


The wild trapped falcon hunts with the falconer because the falconer has shown themselves to be a reliable source of food. No one turns a fed up falcon loose expecting to get it back. That is why they are weighed before flying to ensure they are hungry and keen to hunt, but not weak.

Dogs have been bred for cooperation which is far different than a falcon.
AverageGuy
Champion Poster
Champion Poster
 
Posts: 1897
Joined: Mon Dec 22, 2014 8:05 am

Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby STait » Wed Mar 14, 2018 8:12 am

AverageGuy wrote:
Higgins wrote:Hello STait,

Think a little deeper. When done correctly, why will the falcon or the dog hunt with us?


The wild trapped falcon hunts with the falconer because the falconer has shown themselves to be a reliable source of food. No one turns a fed up falcon loose expecting to get it back. That is why they are weighed before flying to ensure they are hungry and keen to hunt, but not weak.

Dogs have been bred for cooperation which is far different than a falcon.


Bingo.
STait
Master Poster
Master Poster
 
Posts: 338
Joined: Wed May 21, 2014 3:28 pm

Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby Higgins » Wed Mar 14, 2018 8:25 am

I'm afraid you're missing the point. The wild trapped falcon does not need the falconer. My point here is that it does not need obedience either. Predators, dogs included base their survival on trust. There is no opinion here, only facts.

You can breed for whatever you want. It's still a wolf at heart.

Higgins
http://HigginsGundogs.com
https://www.youtube.com/user/HigginsGunDogs/videos
Higgins
Senior Poster
Senior Poster
 
Posts: 107
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2006 12:26 pm
Location: Nevada

Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby STait » Wed Mar 14, 2018 7:41 pm

Higgins wrote:I'm afraid you're missing the point. The wild trapped falcon does not need the falconer. My point here is that it does not need obedience either. Predators, dogs included base their survival on trust. There is no opinion here, only facts.

You can breed for whatever you want. It's still a wolf at heart.

Higgins
http://HigginsGundogs.com
https://www.youtube.com/user/HigginsGunDogs/videos


You are correct Brad, I am missing the point. This is my new wolf. But, she will die without me, where as the wild falcon will thrive.
Redandgrouse31318_edited-1.jpg
STait
Master Poster
Master Poster
 
Posts: 338
Joined: Wed May 21, 2014 3:28 pm

Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby AlaskaMagnum » Sun Mar 18, 2018 1:41 pm

I've watched some of your videos and "the magic brush pile" is very interesting.

I am training a pup now via the Michael Ellis method, who is probably the top IPO/Mondo ring trainer in the country. He is amazing and I love his philosophy.
AlaskaMagnum
Senior Poster
Senior Poster
 
Posts: 104
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2005 7:56 pm

Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby Kiger2 » Mon Mar 19, 2018 10:30 am

If they are wolves at heart lets take a general look at how the pack functions.

The pack has a leader and a pecking order. In order for the pack to function most efficiently, everyone needs to know their place. Order is kept by the more dominant animals by correcting inappropriate behavior. This may come in the form of just a "look", a growl, or even physical corrections up to an including vicious responses.

Example. Pup jumps up on a pack mate and gets corrected. Through corrections he learns the appropriate behavior, learns his place in the pack. The pup becomes a working member of the pack, is mentally stable, and respects those more dominant. Its discipline in its basic form. Wolf Pups dont get treats for the correct behavior, they just dont get disciplined.

So with the dogs we have, we establish discipline through training. We can use treats or rewards to modify the behavior, but you wont get the same level of respect as you would through training. Dogs thrive on discipline. not trust.

Go ahead and trust , "trust". Ill stick with fairly applied discipline.
Kiger2
Champion Poster
Champion Poster
 
Posts: 1033
Joined: Tue Oct 14, 2008 4:34 pm

Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby AlaskaMagnum » Mon Mar 19, 2018 12:43 pm

Kiger2 wrote:If they are wolves at heart lets take a general look at how the pack functions.

The pack has a leader and a pecking order. In order for the pack to function most efficiently, everyone needs to know their place. Order is kept by the more dominant animals by correcting inappropriate behavior. This may come in the form of just a "look", a growl, or even physical corrections up to an including vicious responses.

Example. Pup jumps up on a pack mate and gets corrected. Through corrections he learns the appropriate behavior, learns his place in the pack. The pup becomes a working member of the pack, is mentally stable, and respects those more dominant. Its discipline in its basic form. Wolf Pups dont get treats for the correct behavior, they just dont get disciplined.

So with the dogs we have, we establish discipline through training. We can use treats or rewards to modify the behavior, but you wont get the same level of respect as you would through training. Dogs thrive on discipline. not trust.

Go ahead and trust , "trust". Ill stick with fairly applied discipline.


None of that is accepted as true any longer. Most of that was based upon Mech's studies which were done on unrelated wolves put into a false pack. In his later years, he discounted much of his earlier work. These false packs created unnatural conflict that just does not exist in wild wolf packs.

There is a really cool study where the breeding male let's his pups absolutely terrorize him. He kind of seemed to get a kick out of it, as did the cubs.

Modern trainers like the guys at SeaWorld have proven that Operant Conditioning with rewards might even be more powerful than Operant Conditioning with pressure (adding or removing the stimuli to get the desired results)
AlaskaMagnum
Senior Poster
Senior Poster
 
Posts: 104
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2005 7:56 pm

Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby PL_Guy » Mon Mar 19, 2018 8:34 pm

AlaskaMagnum wrote:...

Modern trainers like the guys at SeaWorld have proven that Operant Conditioning with rewards might even be more powerful than Operant Conditioning with pressure (adding or removing the stimuli to get the desired results)


Depends on the "nature" of the critter being conditioned. I'm told aversive conditioning has limited utility when dealing with prey animals such as horses; those with experience are welcome to pipe up. Marine mammals are distinctly different from the terrestrial predator mammals we're working with. In particular, I believe it is well known, they are especially non-receptive to the use of "aversives" in operant conditioning scenarios. One person who had actual experience working in the field told me they cave in to the pressure of aversives - they "pout and sulk" and training comes to a halt. Dogs, on the other hand, are conditioned to a certain amount of aversive pressure nearly from birth by mom and siblings.

Jere
"Speak your truth quietly & clearly; ... Avoid loud & aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit."
So much to learn, So little time!
User avatar
PL_Guy
Master Poster
Master Poster
 
Posts: 300
Joined: Thu Mar 20, 2008 11:20 pm
Location: When at home: Seldovia, Alaska; otherwise: almost anywhere

Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby TruAblePup » Mon Mar 19, 2018 11:03 pm

AlaskaMagnum wrote:
Kiger2 wrote:If they are wolves at heart lets take a general look at how the pack functions.

The pack has a leader and a pecking order. In order for the pack to function most efficiently, everyone needs to know their place. Order is kept by the more dominant animals by correcting inappropriate behavior. This may come in the form of just a "look", a growl, or even physical corrections up to an including vicious responses.

Example. Pup jumps up on a pack mate and gets corrected. Through corrections he learns the appropriate behavior, learns his place in the pack. The pup becomes a working member of the pack, is mentally stable, and respects those more dominant. Its discipline in its basic form. Wolf Pups dont get treats for the correct behavior, they just dont get disciplined.

So with the dogs we have, we establish discipline through training. We can use treats or rewards to modify the behavior, but you wont get the same level of respect as you would through training. Dogs thrive on discipline. not trust.

Go ahead and trust , "trust". Ill stick with fairly applied discipline.



None of that is accepted as true any longer. Most of that was based upon Mech's studies which were done on unrelated wolves put into a false pack. In his later years, he discounted much of his earlier work. These false packs created unnatural conflict that just does not exist in wild wolf packs.

There is a really cool study where the breeding male let's his pups absolutely terrorize him. He kind of seemed to get a kick out of it, as did the cubs.

Modern trainers like the guys at SeaWorld have proven that Operant Conditioning with rewards might even be more powerful than Operant Conditioning with pressure (adding or removing the stimuli to get the desired results)



I would like to read more about this research. Do you have a source please?

Thanks,

TP
Isaac II vom Buffeltaler "Pax" - VJP 73
User avatar
TruAblePup
Started
Started
 
Posts: 46
Joined: Fri Jul 07, 2017 5:46 am

Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby AlaskaMagnum » Tue Mar 20, 2018 5:07 am

TruAblePup wrote:
AlaskaMagnum wrote:
Kiger2 wrote:If they are wolves at heart lets take a general look at how the pack functions.

The pack has a leader and a pecking order. In order for the pack to function most efficiently, everyone needs to know their place. Order is kept by the more dominant animals by correcting inappropriate behavior. This may come in the form of just a "look", a growl, or even physical corrections up to an including vicious responses.

Example. Pup jumps up on a pack mate and gets corrected. Through corrections he learns the appropriate behavior, learns his place in the pack. The pup becomes a working member of the pack, is mentally stable, and respects those more dominant. Its discipline in its basic form. Wolf Pups dont get treats for the correct behavior, they just dont get disciplined.

So with the dogs we have, we establish discipline through training. We can use treats or rewards to modify the behavior, but you wont get the same level of respect as you would through training. Dogs thrive on discipline. not trust.

Go ahead and trust , "trust". Ill stick with fairly applied discipline.



None of that is accepted as true any longer. Most of that was based upon Mech's studies which were done on unrelated wolves put into a false pack. In his later years, he discounted much of his earlier work. These false packs created unnatural conflict that just does not exist in wild wolf packs.

There is a really cool study where the breeding male let's his pups absolutely terrorize him. He kind of seemed to get a kick out of it, as did the cubs.

Modern trainers like the guys at SeaWorld have proven that Operant Conditioning with rewards might even be more powerful than Operant Conditioning with pressure (adding or removing the stimuli to get the desired results)



I would like to read more about this research. Do you have a source please?

Thanks,

TP


http://www.davemech.org

Also see Karen Pryor and Steve Wilks. If nothing else, it gives you something to think about.

Schutzhund trainers have been using mostly positive methods for a decade now. The scores are higher and the dogs are better for it. The days of burning a dog on a five chip until he vocalizes are over.
AlaskaMagnum
Senior Poster
Senior Poster
 
Posts: 104
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2005 7:56 pm

Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby RDJ » Tue Mar 20, 2018 7:01 am

This is beside the original topic, but I have dabbled a bit in "modern" dog training and find it too interesting to let it pass.

A very important difference between sport training (schutzhund or others) and hunting is that in sports you always have control over the dog's rewards. You can control its environment just as much as you need to in order to avoid that the dog self-rewards for the wrong behaviours. This way you can build up an entire program based on only "reward/non-reward" or positive reinforcement/negative punishment.

In hunting, you don't have that opportunity in most circumstances. You can't tell the wild birds not to flush if the dog isn't steady, you can't ask that hare to stop being so interesting if your dog doesn't come when you try to call him off. In order to train a hunting dog using only R+/P-, you would have to spend an enormous amount of time and energy on constructing all kinds of articifial scenarios in order to get a descent hunting dog. Not to mention the issues that arise from the fact that hunting is a whole lot more diverse than sports. When going into a sport event, you always have a pretty good idea of what is going to happen. With hunting you never know.

I do see people here in Norway training gun dogs using all positive methods. Some of them succeed as well, at least in part. But when you take into consideration the insane efforts being put into such a thing, I don't see how it can be worth it. Instead of doing like me ,putting a good "down" and a good recall on the dog and then let it develop as a hunting dog from the first season, they spend 2-3 years training in controlled environments to be somewhat on the same level. And throughout the dog's life they always have to strive to keep their rewards better than what the dog experiences in the field, or the obedience will start to suffer. Seems like a whole lot of unneccessary trouble to me.
RDJ
Started
Started
 
Posts: 13
Joined: Wed Oct 03, 2012 6:27 am

Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby AlaskaMagnum » Tue Mar 20, 2018 7:30 am

RDJ wrote:This is beside the original topic, but I have dabbled a bit in "modern" dog training and find it too interesting to let it pass.

A very important difference between sport training (schutzhund or others) and hunting is that in sports you always have control over the dog's rewards. You can control its environment just as much as you need to in order to avoid that the dog self-rewards for the wrong behaviours. This way you can build up an entire program based on only "reward/non-reward" or positive reinforcement/negative punishment.

In hunting, you don't have that opportunity in most circumstances. You can't tell the wild birds not to flush if the dog isn't steady, you can't ask that hare to stop being so interesting if your dog doesn't come when you try to call him off. In order to train a hunting dog using only R+/P-, you would have to spend an enormous amount of time and energy on constructing all kinds of articifial scenarios in order to get a descent hunting dog. Not to mention the issues that arise from the fact that hunting is a whole lot more diverse than sports. When going into a sport event, you always have a pretty good idea of what is going to happen. With hunting you never know.

I do see people here in Norway training gun dogs using all positive methods. Some of them succeed as well, at least in part. But when you take into consideration the insane efforts being put into such a thing, I don't see how it can be worth it. Instead of doing like me ,putting a good "down" and a good recall on the dog and then let it develop as a hunting dog from the first season, they spend 2-3 years training in controlled environments to be somewhat on the same level. And throughout the dog's life they always have to strive to keep their rewards better than what the dog experiences in the field, or the obedience will start to suffer. Seems like a whole lot of unneccessary trouble to me.


In Schutzhund a reward is often a bite. After they escort the decoy off the field, the dog ALWAYS gets another bite. They expect it, the audience just doesn't see it.

In the Higgins Brush pile, he is using a similar reward for the dog, getting the bird in its mouth. He calls it association, but it is just positive Operant Conditioning.

Regardless, if it works for you, it sure beats a 1000 reps on a whoa post.
AlaskaMagnum
Senior Poster
Senior Poster
 
Posts: 104
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2005 7:56 pm

Next

Return to Training

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 9 guests