The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

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

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Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby PL_Guy » Thu Mar 22, 2018 3:06 am

Bruce Schwartz wrote:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Pil4xr7h8Y

Seven whistles on the blind ... and it took forever! Had the handler steered the dog per my PR training (https://youtu.be/B433iME85F4) the dog would have completed the blind quickly and had a fresher view of the marks. Someday they'll learn.


One trains by the rules imposed by the "Club" one participates in, n'est ce pas, Bruce?

That said: I think you're on to something for a hunting dog - where you make the rules. You've come a long way since you started the "experiment" quite some time ago now. She seems to respond well to your whistles to me. This isn't unlike herding behavior though?

I generally let my dogs work out the "best" route to a mark and that was seldom a straight line where I hunted.

I don't expect much change in the way those AKC trials are run anytime soon, really!

One thing I noticed when I worked on training blind retrieves - There generally came a time when the dog's "lights went on," she seemed to "get it" that I was there, not as drill master but as a member of a team, that I knew more than she did and was trying to help her get to the "bird" with those whistle sits and waving of arms. Call it "cooperation" or call it "trust" no matter to me. Most of us, I suspect, try and develop that cooperative spirit in our pups from a young age BUT I suspect there is still gonna be a lot of "show pup" necessary to get the message across when it comes to the complex stuff!

Jere

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Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby GONEHUNTIN' » Thu Mar 22, 2018 6:56 am

Bruce Schwartz wrote:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Pil4xr7h8Y

Seven whistles on the blind ... and it took forever! Had the handler steered the dog per my PR training (https://youtu.be/B433iME85F4) the dog would have completed the blind quickly and had a fresher view of the marks. Someday they'll learn.


Whoa, whoa, whoa, Bruce. I'd bet you couldn't even get your dog to take the line off two shot birds. Second, you have to challenge the line, not let the dog veer around. You have to be tight to the line of the blind. Third, half those whistles came from the dog taking the handlers cast incorrectly. Pretty easy to say you could do better when you don't really understand what the dog was being required to do and the precision required for the task.

That blind was probably four or five times the distance of yours through hidden cover.

His next problem was that the dog coasted on the whistle. Had the dog sat crisply to the whistle, he'd have had a more favorable line on the blind.
I just hate seeing birds die of natural causes unless I'm that natural cause.
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Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby AverageGuy » Thu Mar 22, 2018 7:55 am

Developing, teaching, and training with PR and lots of exposure, combined with good low level ecollar stimulation techniques is how I train. Daily walks in game country, gunfire, water, and bird introductions, play retrieve conditioning, whoa, kennel, heel, tracking ... are all done with PR at an early age before pressure is applied when the puppy is ready to benefit from it. Yea my dogs trust me and love to work with and for me. Consistency and fairness in how I interact with them along with great genetics is key in that.

Truth be told, I mostly see the title and start of this thread as a Marketing ploy. Like TP, I have watched the video posts through the years with initial interest but always walk away with next to nothing that could be followed or implemented based on the snippets posted. I use PR techniques to incent a puppy to scent point a bird until I can flush and shoot it, which I think is far superior to encouraging the same pup to sight point a brush pile or a shooter.

Strikes me that this thread highlights a basic difference in what people value most in working with dogs. I insist on a reasonable well trained dog that I can hunt and handle as silently as possible. And I hunt the full spectrum of upland birds, waterfowl and a little fur with a single dog so we train for all subjects and situations.

But the trend is obvious to me, excellent upland bird dogs operate with a near opposite end of the spectrum degree of independence from a National FT retriever competing in high end retriever games. And so the persons who gravitate to one or the other will value more or less control in how they train and develop their dogs. And that is at the heart of these debates in many cases is what I observe. I enjoy watching a self motivated bold dog apply itself and make good decisions working to put game in the bag. I love/live to see a stylish dog searching and pointing hard, using its mind and its nose to work challenging running birds, crippled bird recoveries are high five moments, as are blood tracking recoveries. Dogs that do that well benefit most from being allowed to work independently, vs being dominated and controlled at a very high level. Hence my lean in how I train.

Bruce mentioned the visible bias in the traditional gun dog world to embrace the upsides of PR based training. But on the other side of that is the rabid Pure PR crowd which continues to mis-represent the value of properly used corrections and ecollar techniques. Hearing that kept me away from the Marker/Treat foundational approaches longer than it would have otherwise. Now we are seeing alot of folks embrace the value of blending them for different phases of training, particularly for a full spectrum Vdog required to work with a high degree of independence in one setting and a medium level of control in another.
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Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby AlaskaMagnum » Thu Mar 22, 2018 8:49 am

I think it is much simpler than that. Higgins uses simple Operant Conditioning to teach a dog to stand still at the shot and flush to get the PR of the bird in his mouth.

It's cause and effect - BF Skinner stuff. He also talks about "trust" which I don't see as a foreign concept either.

In fact, Michael Ellis talks A LOT about being judicious with NO commands and about developing the relationship with the puppy. He talks about being fair, and uses a stove analogy very well. His method is about developing a communication system of right vs. wrong with the dog through marks and rewards.

Ellis uses PR to shape behavior and mold the puppy, then teaches the dog to avoid pressure via the leash, and finally uses low level avoidance (again Operant Conditioning) with an ecollar only where needed. Even then he marks the positive response.

Lots of people are doing this. Ellis just puts it into scientific terms. Listen to him talk about the study in Mexico where high drive dogs had a higher cortisol response to the with holding off a food reward vs. ecollar stimulation.

Higgins seems to be doing a lot of the same things, just not as eloquently.
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Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby AverageGuy » Thu Mar 22, 2018 9:07 am

Not seeing much difference in my last post and yours other than I do not use the same terminology.

I use PR methods of getting a bird in the puppy's mouth via pointing and holding a scent point while I flush and shoot, which gets right to the desired behavior vs developing a habit I absolutely do not want i.e. sight pointing bushes and shooters. I see little in common with my Falconry background in doing it, but more importantly it does not give any practical guidance to those looking to learn how to train their dogs.

The enjoyment of a high degree of control of a dog for those playing the high end retriever games was my other point. It is reflected in their training methods and preferences. Which is an observation, not a judgement. There are whole lines of training techniques and dogs bred to stand up to them that go hand in glove with the retriever games. Not my thing.

Since this is a Vdog forum I made some observations around differences I see in how we ultimately want our dogs to perform. Which influences how we train. Not really a secret that the vast majority of Labs competing at the National FT level are never allowed to search and hunt upland birds independently at least until their trialing careers are over.
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Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby GONEHUNTIN' » Thu Mar 22, 2018 9:23 am

AverageGuy wrote:Not really a secret that the vast majority of Labs competing at the National FT level are never allowed to search and hunt upland birds independently at least until their trialing careers are over.


Yes, you WANT to remove the independence from a Lab (field trial) so their reliance is on you and only through you, will they get their reward, the bird. Even their search pattern is defined by the trainers preference.

There is also a difference in speed. If we look at Bruce's dog, he is what we used to term a "gallumper"; he doesn't go full throttle. In the high electrical days it was called the "Escalon Shuffle". That's just the way some dog's are, not necessarily man made. However that is the problem with training with attrition and PR only. The dog's get so damned bored, they slow down. Once well timed electrical correction can sometimes achieve more than 50 repetitions.

You also have to factor in wind and water (continuous whistle vs sharp blast). In lunging water or a 20mph prairie wind, the dog may never hear a continuous whistle. It is truly and interesting concept and as far as I'm aware, Bruce is the only one doing it other than with the sheep dog's. I think though it is not practical for most of us. Takes a looooong time to train and is far more time consuming than the simple T with whistle sit.
I just hate seeing birds die of natural causes unless I'm that natural cause.
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Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby Bruce Schwartz » Thu Mar 22, 2018 11:36 am

The dog's a Pudelpointer and would rather hunt mice, but willingly does drills because she's been programed to do so with rewards. One doesn't do handling or steering drills without paying a versatile dog. It's not a trust issue. I can assure you that if live or dead birds were involved she would behave more like your idealized Labrador Retrievers.

The dog also knows hand signals and, because she competes in HRC, is versed in "challenging the line". Also, the steering she does is geared towards sharp turns with quick whistle commands and slow bends with slower whistles. So, in the trial video, likely she would have picked up the blind in a couple of slow steering turns and maybe a sharp one at the end, and done it very quickly. You can literally seesaw the dog down a straight line if you wish.

And think about this: in trials, how many whistles do you see on water blinds and what does the handler do when the dog goes out of sight? And how much time is lost by the incessant dog stopping, treading water, taking a whistle, turning, etc. My dog simply swims straight ahead and is steered to the blind.

I have been using this in waterfowl hunting and it works very well and, unless I get a bum steer, I rarely use traditional hand signals any more. One of the places I hunt abuts a F&WL preserve and, since you can send your dog on the refuge but you can't go there yourself, she gets beaucoup handling experience. It works in upland hunting for bending the dog to the right or left to hunt parcels she may have missed. If you're worried about loss of independence she has a 4 in UT duck search. In short she's the best dog in the world.

A Labrador would be the dog to do this stuff with. And it's not without it's problems, like how does one give a collar correction for infractions without the dog thinking it was supposed to sit on the whistle? I've worked out what I think is the quickest way to get the dog ramped up to do this, but part of the reason I'm scheduled to spend two weeks with Michael Ellis in May is to learn more. I just do this for fun and because I think it has merit for advanced retriever training for trials as well as hunting. Naysayers are easy to find. It sure beats training the dog to point brush piles.

GONEHUNTIN' wrote:There is also a difference in speed. If we look at Bruce's dog, he is what we used to term a "gallumper"; he doesn't go full throttle. In the high electrical days it was called the "Escalon Shuffle". That's just the way some dog's are, not necessarily man made. However that is the problem with training with attrition and PR only. The dog's get so damned bored, they slow down. Once well timed electrical correction can sometimes achieve more than 50 repetitions.
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Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby AverageGuy » Thu Mar 22, 2018 12:41 pm

Bruce, I would think that allowing the dog to keep moving while steering it as it goes would be helpful in preserving more independence and less resistance to be handled, while hopefully getting the desired end result none the less i.e. the bird is recovered for a practical hunting application. I say with a Vdog vs a Lab in mind. I am interested.

Do you teach the whistle steering initially by combining it with hand signals in a baseball drill?

If a topic for another thread I would interested in starting another one if you are willing to spend a little time explaining how you got to where you are now. I am currently undecided and torn as to whether I want to attempt to work on stopping Spud and redirecting him. I predict he might go backwards on me. My end goal is be able to direct him into an area of fall out to 150 yards on land and water and let him search the area from there.

We are currently doing simple 90 or 180 degree separation walking baseball drills and short distance water and land blinds (50 yards). I am Treating after I take the bumper and using some level 1 stimulation to address heeling or sitting when it gets sloppy, but have not used any stimulation to stop the dog if he goes the wrong way. Thus far a simple NO from me stops him and it initially confused him some such that he would not move when I wanted to start him back up - a couple of days ago. I made things easier with some singles and 180s, treated him and we have had two subsequent good sessions over the last two days. I bought Evan's Walking Baseball DVD, basically following it although I am tossing some bumpers further while the dog is sitting facing me and watching it because I think the stimulation of the flying bumper is helpful at this stage.

My original plan was to use the same Whoa single whistle blast he already understands to stop him and then give him a hand signal from there as needed. I have done that approach with a couple of GWPs before and it worked. But this dog is more steady and always before that Whoa command and whistle has meant stop and stay where you are until I release you. I anticipate I could really confuse him or worse erode the Whoa training I have already taught and use for steady to WSF. So a little background on why I might want to use your moving/steering approach instead.

Probably longer than I should have posted in this thread, but I am interested in learning more about your method.
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Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby Bruce Schwartz » Thu Mar 22, 2018 1:23 pm

Sure AG. I know you've been working on handling and how it fits into your needs so In a few days I can make a short video on how to do the walking baseball drill and its segue into lining and handling that should help. All retriever types love a fast paced, no reward needed dummy drill so is suited for Vdog types.

I need to figure out how I can do the video on my iPhone and get my voice into it at the same time while I'm handling the dog. Anybody know how to to do that?

As far as the steering stuff goes I think it's best for dogs who have had a fair amount of handling experience. It's an adjunct rather than a replacement but I've got the basic steps honed and plan on doing a bit more polished video in the next few months for anyone interested. It's also pretty simple but still not for everyone.
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Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby Bruce Schwartz » Thu Mar 22, 2018 2:33 pm

I need more help understanding where trust comes into having and training a dog. I get that Hicntry's pups do trust that he will lead them into safe places, and that when scary things happen the pups trust that he will protect them. And I get AlaskaMagnum's notion that Higgins' dog is merely doing a Pavlov thing. At some point is there trust that if the dog turns left under my direction it'll be more likely to find the bird or is it totally rote? When my dog "pops" and looks to me does it trust I know more about where the dummy is than he?

Another thing I'm confused about is the notion of cooperation. NAVHDA goes to great lengths to grade cooperation but I've never understood it very well. When is the dog cooperating? I get that some dogs just take off and do their thing instead of checking in but what are other examples that demonstrates cooperation? Are Higgins' dogs cooperating?
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Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby GONEHUNTIN' » Thu Mar 22, 2018 4:15 pm

My take is that consistency is the father of trust. If you are consistent with a dog in all things, they trust you implicitly. It is very easy to achieve and probably most well trained dog's have it. Dog's that don't trust their owners lack the trust because they never know what to expect. Dog training 101.
I just hate seeing birds die of natural causes unless I'm that natural cause.
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Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby PL_Guy » Thu Mar 22, 2018 4:52 pm

GONEHUNTIN' wrote:
AverageGuy wrote:Not really a secret that the vast majority of Labs competing at the National FT level are never allowed to search and hunt upland birds independently at least until their trialing careers are over.


Yes, you WANT to remove the independence from a Lab (field trial) so their reliance is on you and only through you, will they get their reward, the bird. Even their search pattern is defined by the trainers preference.

...


Mike lardy wrote a series of articles in "The Retriever Journal.' In one he contrasted the dog's total reliance on the handler in blind retrieve work and the great level of dog independence allowed in working marked retrieves (Only control allowed is release and delivery commands).

Upland dogs should (IMO) be allowed nearly total independence to do their job. That's the way I worked my PLs. I released them to hunt and rarely gave a command except those associated with retrieves and/or release from a point (they were both SWSF). They kept track of me and I them as we worked the country. If one went out of sight and was gone "too long" (a time period of undefined subconsciously determined duration) I went looking to find him on point.

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Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby GONEHUNTIN' » Thu Mar 22, 2018 4:52 pm

Bruce, does your dog just work to two whistles, or will he do a straight back on a third whistle? For instance when he's arcing across the line to the bird is there a third whistle that makes him dig straight back so you don't have to keep hacking him left to right?
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Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby AverageGuy » Thu Mar 22, 2018 6:17 pm

GH, I sent you a PM looking from your thoughts please. Thanks.
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Re: The Higgins Method, Falconry for Gun Dogs

Postby GONEHUNTIN' » Thu Mar 22, 2018 6:48 pm

PL_Guy wrote:
GONEHUNTIN' wrote:
AverageGuy wrote:Not really a secret that the vast majority of Labs competing at the National FT level are never allowed to search and hunt upland birds independently at least until their trialing careers are over.


Yes, you WANT to remove the independence from a Lab (field trial) so their reliance is on you and only through you, will they get their reward, the bird. Even their search pattern is defined by the trainers preference.

...


Mike lardy wrote a series of articles in "The Retriever Journal.' In one he contrasted the dog's total reliance on the handler in blind retrieve work and the great level of dog independence allowed in working marked retrieves (Only control allowed is release and delivery commands).

Upland dogs should (IMO) be allowed nearly total independence to do their job. That's the way I worked my PLs. I released them to hunt and rarely gave a command except those associated with retrieves and/or release from a point (they were both SWSF). They kept track of me and I them as we worked the country. If one went out of sight and was gone "too long" (a time period of undefined subconsciously determined duration) I went looking to find him on point.

Jere


I agree with your thoughts on the upland dog. I never handle my dog's while they are hunting. I think you may have misunderstood Mike on marks though. When a young dog learns to mark, he MUST learn a search pattern so he doesn't switch on marks or backside guns. Once he learns to check going in, stay on the correct side of guns, and hunt an intelligent and productive pattern, from then on he is really given nearly total independence on marks. However, you can not give an All Age dog independence on marks until a pattern has been instilled.
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