Picking A Puppy
September 23, 2010
Some Of These Suggestions May Surprise You
You can already see a lot of his mom (Lulu) in this young fellow. Choosing your pup from a planned litter of like parents, whose characteristics are to your liking, greatly increases your odds of getting the pup of your dreams.
Let me begin with a disclaimer. The opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of the writer, and in no way reflect those of this magazine or its sponsors.
No, I'm not planning to go off the deep end, but just want to touch on the so-called "art" of choosing a puppy.
I'm pretty skeptical of some of the magic theories thrown around nowadays regarding how to choose a pup, for example, being confident that how a pup reacts when you hold him upside down or sideways at a very young age indicates his potential. This may provide some loosely associated feel for temperament, but it's all dependent on the pup's maturity, the time of day and recent exercise, previous handling/socialization, etc. So I say, don't hang your hat on it.
And, oh boy, the ones that really get me are those who claim the ability to perfectly match a pup's personality with that of the potential buyer's through a phone or live interview. They're likely better at matching a price with the buyer's billfold.
My feeling is, being very sure you're standing at the right whelping box when you make your choice has the greatest effect on your odds of selecting a good puppy and the right puppy for you and your family. In other words, do your research and choose from litters resulting from selective breeding of parents with proven ability, of the breed and type that fits your needs, your family and your style of hunting.
Remember, you are making at least a nine- to 12-year commitment when you take that pup home. So take your time and be sure you're zeroing in on the correct breed and the family group within that breed to fit your type of hunting and fill the role of a family companion during the off season.
This project isn't as simple as reading about German shorthaired pointers (as an example) and just deciding, that's the breed for me. As with all breeds, there are several distinct types of shorthairs--those bred for on-foot hunters, those for walking field trials and hunt tests, and those bred for horseback field trials. Within these groups there are even certain families or lines with specific characteristics you may or may not like.
This is why I say, think long and hard about where you live, your primary type of hunting, whether you're interested in hunt tests or field trials, how you're going to house the dog, etc. And'¦do most of this thinking before you start shopping.
Where do you begin? Well, if you're going in cold, for general breed information I'd recommend websites such as those sponsored by the various breed clubs. Breed articles in Gun Dog and other sporting dog magazines like NAVHDA's Versatile Hunting Dog are also a great source of information and provide leads to contact, specifically, those breeders who advertise in the magazines.
On the other hand, I know that many of you, having hunted for years, already know exactly what you're looking for, maybe even have friends planning litters from dogs you've hunted with or know for their reputation and success in field trials or hunt tests. And that is the key--you know and like the parents and grandparents, and you understand that planned puppies, of like bloodlines, have a strong chance of carrying those same abilities and characteristics, so in turn you have a better chance of choosing the right pup.
Did I say you might select from field trial or hunt test stock? You bet. I know the majority of you reading this are primarily hunters and may not be interested in sporting dog contests, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't look to those bloodlines for a puppy. Please don't get caught up in the stereotype of every "run-off son of a gun" being attributed to "field trial stock." It simply isn't true'¦in fact, those same "run-off, self-serving bums" have no place in trials or hunt tests, either.
Let's talk a little about that very subject. Sporting dog contests, be they field trials or hunt tests, are structured to allow dogs a setting in which to demonstrate their inborn abilities along with how well they accept and advance in training as team players with their handlers in various simulated hunting scenarios. Granted, a high-end, all-age bird dog must show independence and confidence in hunting forward, but definitely not all on his own.
Similarly, in walking trials and hunt tests, the key aspects are handling, cooperation and obedience. So, folks, please understand that the greedy, self-serving, uncooperative, disobedient dog doesn't finish, and don't be afraid to go to those bloodlines. In fact, I recommend you go there.
Choosing from these ranks comes with additional benefits. Through standards set by most sanctioning bodies, you're likely to find parents and grandparents with hip certification and other health evaluations, certified DNA, plus records of success, titles, access to scoring of key attributes, etc'¦ all evidence of the dogs' bird-finding ability, trainability and endurance'¦again, markedly increasing your odds of selecting the right litter from which to chose your new puppy.
Now let's fast-forward to the point where you're satisfied you've found the correct litter. You also need to decide whether you want a male or female. Forget all the macho nonsense; females hunt every bit as hard as males. Your only real concern here is dealing with a female's heat cycles or having her spayed.
It's best if you can visit the litter once or twice before actually bringing your puppy home. You might rule out the biggest and smallest of the sex you decided on, then take the remaining pups out alone so you can play with them to get a feel for one or two you seem to connect with. From there you can hold them upside down if you wish, play with a wing, or whatever'¦or you can just close your eyes and grab.
The point is, the odds are already in your favor because you've done the research, selected a breed and type you like and even a family group you feel you'll enjoy working with. So happy days are ahead'¦go for it!
And, oh yes, one last reminder. You've worked hard to find the right puppy, so please remember how crucial proper socialization and the basics of training are to help your charge reach his or her inherited potential.