How Do You Define a Started Gun Dog?

Brian Lynn Avatar

It’s becoming obvious that my bulldog, Hoss, is going to live for awhile longer. While that’s good, it puts me in an awkward spot timing-wise in regards to my next hunting dog. Kona is 8½ years old and probably has one, two max, seasons left in him (maybe squeeze out another year or so in the duck blind, but definitely not uplands).

Considering that timeframe and the relative good health of Hoss, I’ll probably miss a season or two training another Lab from puppyhood. Unless, of course, I go the started-dog route.

When discussing the acquisition of a pre-trained dog, to whatever level, the hard part is defining expectations. What is a started dog to some people, might be a finished dog to others — with all variances in between.

Some might consider a started dog one that has been house trained, has all its introductions successfully taken care of (intro to birds, guns, water — if a retriever) and started basic obedience. Others might want to see all that, as well as force fetch completed (if a retriever) or whoa post work (if a pointer).

As you can see, it’s a very subjective matter; one that you have to figure out and communicate about with from the potential breeder/trainer from which you plan to buy. If you don’t, it’ll come back to bite you in the butt and will probably cause hard feelings between you and the trainer, with each accusing the other not living up to your word.

The second point to consider is: how much would you pay for that started dog with whatever level of training completed to your and the trainer’s agreed upon standards. Considering most good gun-dog puppies with solid pedigrees and health clearances cost somewhere between $300 and $700, with many topping the $1,000-mark, you’re probably looking at $2,000 to $5,000 for one with any sort of solid start on training. Again, it’s very subjective and depends upon the amount of time (after all, time does equal money, literally, for a trainer) the dog has been cared for (fed, shots, heartworm and flea/tick treatments, etc…) and trained by the pro (time that could’ve been spent on another client’s dog or even PR/advertising, completing office work, etc).