Gun Dogs Recent Posts
August 19, 2009
How to Pick a Puppy - 1
by Brian Lynn
Most research out there suggests that online users and magazine subscribers are two separate audiences that have some overlap. If you're one of OL's cyber readers but not a mag-in-hand reader, you might consider picking up subscription.
While we try to keep our online and magazine content separate, I'm going to reprint a dog column I wrote for the February 2009 issue on picking your pup for two reasons. First, we have a ton of great stuff in the mag and you're missing out on some serious hunting, fishing, shooting, gear and adventure stuff! Secondly, this is an important topic that you often hear about and will just as often get conflicting information on--especially when it comes to the genetic component found under the "Get a Matched Set" bit below.
Read on, enjoy and think about picking up a subscription to the mag; it's definitely worth it!
Choosing the ideal hunting dog isn't about selecting an individual puppy. The real decision comes in picking its parents. Once you've chosen a sire and dam, you can simplify the actual puppy-picking decision by focusing on the sex and color you prefer. Then just reach in and grab a pup. They all have similar genetics, and at 6- to 8-weeks old, they reveal just a glimpse of their personality and demeanor.
So what should you look for in selecting the parents? Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Look for Desire: For a dog to hunt effectively, as well as handle the pressure of training, it has to want to do it. That disposition and desire is embedded in its DNA--you can't instill it with training. The best hunting dogs come from field-bred stock. Look for parents that hunt extensively or compete in hunt tests or field trials. Avoid dogs that come from conformation lines. While a few show lines might be able to perform in the field, most of them just can't cut it.
OL.com exclusive addition: Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, as long as they also hunt or compete in field work, would probably be the only exception to that rule; they're one of the only remaining breeds that haven't been split by the politics and influence of the conformation ring and can compete in both worlds.
Preview Your Pup: Your puppy will inherit its body type and energy level from its parents. Consider that the vast majority of time spent with your dog won't take place in the field, but at home and in the training yard. If the parents' energy, body size or temperament wouldn't work in your everyday life, neither will that of their offspring.
Get a Matched Set: A big, high-rolling sire paired with a small, mellow dam won't produce average-size, medium-drive puppies; instead, body size and drive will be unclear, with no direct indication of which puppies inherited which traits. Look for a pair with similar physiques and energy levels--their puppies will be much more consistent.
Health Clearances: Consider breeding pairs that have been vetted for common problem areas--hips, elbows, eyes, heart, skin and muscles.
OL.com exclusive addition: Also, know what, if anything, the breeder guarantees. If your pup suddenly comes down with hip problems, do you get a refund? Do you have to give the puppy back? Can you keep the pup, get a partial refund and spay/neuter the animal?
Remember, many maladies don't show up until later in life, most guarantees will cover up to the time that a dog can be tested for a disorder (e.g., two years), and by that time the puppy will be part of the family. Are you going to be okay with giving it back?
While not foolproof, guarantees help both you and the breeder should something go genetically wrong. Just be sure to talk about it first and get a clear and concise explanation of how things are to work.