Recently I became aware of “The Higgins Method” of gun training developed by Brad Higgins.
Brad has sent me two videos and invites commentary so I’ve added the NDT way of looking at things.
Brad’s website is below:
It’s very gratifying to find folks from different ends of the dog training spectrum having arrived at the same conclusions I have, i.e. the prey controls the predator. (Recently Robert Vaughn has been writing very eloquently about the evolution of his thinking.) Being part of a community of like minded folks makes the road off the road less travelled, feel a lot less lonely. Here, Brad’s work reminds me of the German Sheep tending master Manfred Heine whose work has been documented and is being carried on by Ellen Nickelsberg.
I’m particularly struck by the passage below from Brad’s website:
“Mentality as in “Predator/Prey Mentality” is defined as “a habitual or characteristic mental attitude that determines how a dog will interpret and respond to situations. Dogs don’t know dominance, submission, alpha or leadership. All they know, everything they know, relates to their natural, genetic, predator/prey mentality. This relationship is demonstrated within the pack, in their human/dog relationship and during the hunt, when hunting and managing birds.”
In these two videos one can see how the dog’s experience has been carefully crafted so that it learns to hunt through its own innate resources, and yet in alignment and synchronization with the hunters’ wishes. I have stated that the social capacity of dogs is predicated on the hunting paradigm and that anything we train a dog to do should flow from this template. This progression is clear to see in these videos. Note in the beginning of the second video featuring the young pointer, that the dog proffers a so-called “play bow” to the game bird. This is the “collected response,” wherein unlike other predators, a dog can “collect” or internalize the pressure of a situation (which instinctively it attributes to the “predatory aspect”, i.e. the negative, of the bird) and process it into a Drive manifestation rather than react reflexively or avoid altogether. In the collected response (the brain-to-gut connection) the dog’s body becomes very supple, and so we might think the dog is playing, but this emotional state will allow the dog to learn how to husband its energy into more measured outputs as well as deflect the dog toward the hunter. Cats and foxes on the other hand would not have as strong a collected response. They would be consumed with the the collapse sensations and not become collected. (This is why they do a more on/off, GO/NO GO, load/overload style of responding to resistance.) The collected response is the genetic embodiment of a law of motion, i.e. for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This law of motion is the predicate of the dynamo to which I refer to as Temperament and which generates the collected response. Temperament is a faculty of processing nerve energy so as to integrate the Big-Brain-in-the-head with the little-brain-in-the-gut in order to formulate a coherent response, in real time as opposed to instinct. Because of Temperament, the dog is able to sustain a state of attraction in the face of resistance. Eventually the starts and stops, the projection and the collection, average out into a steady state Drive so as to make contact with an object of attraction (the bird) but most importantly through the group, i.e. through alignment and synchronization. (What behaviorists don’t understand about Drive, which is why they deny its existence, is that it has programming “hooks” wherein other entities are assimilated into the group configuration. The dogs aren’t learning according to reinforcement, the reinforcements are fitting into a template.) Once the dogs have the bird in their jaws, they run happily back to the human, the most intense negative in their group frame of mind. The gun shot is associated with the prey, therefore it isn’t predator energy and cannot interrupt the dog’s perception of flow. When a dog is channeled in this way, even when another dog “steals the point” as in the first video, the dog is not knocked out of flow. Note also that before a dog learns “NO” (as in rules and regulations) make sure it learns “GO” (as in where all its energy should be focused).
Watching dogs learn in kind of primal activity allows us to see how the predator to prey relationship (and the flipping of polarities therein by way of the brain-to-gut connection) is the basis of sociability and everything we love about dogs.