How do I pick a good bird dog?
4 Important Rules to Follow When Picking Your Next Gun Dog
Your new pup will be both a hunting companion and a close family member for the next 10 to 14 years of the dog’s life, so look at this purchase as an investment, not a roll of the dice!
- Look at the puppy’s pedigree.
- Is the puppy healthy?
- Looks aren’t everything.
- Watch how all of the pups in the litter interact with you and with each other.
1) The first and most important item to look at is the puppy’s pedigree.
Commonly referred to as the “papers,” this document will tell you about the pup’s lineage. You will be able to see the parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. It will give you a basis of how they performed in the field while bird hunting. If you want a good hunting dog, chose a pup whose parents were hunting dogs and excelled in the hunt test games. If the parents and grandparents were successful in these sports, you will see titles before or after their registered name.
Buying a puppy that comes from parents who had success in the field is important because it will increase your chances of raising a puppy that possesses natural hunting instincts. You want to buy a puppy that loves to retrieve, has a good head on their shoulders, and one that wants to please you! If you don’t look at the pedigree and don’t pick a puppy from proven parents, you run the risk of owning a couch potato, a dog that doesn’t like to swim, a dog that quits retrieving after two throws because they’re bored, and the list could go on.
2) There is an old saying that goes, “if you don’t have your health, you have nothing.”
True words for us to live by and just as true for our gun dogs! Owning a dog that has health problems can not only be expensive but in can keep the dog from performing in the field! A few examples would be Hip Dysplasia, Exercised Induced Collapse, Centronuclear Myopathy, seizures, etc.
If you purchase a puppy from a breeder that hasn’t performed the important health clearances on their dogs, you run the risk of owning a dog whose health is a ticking time bomb. It is important to research breed-specific health problems and purchase a puppy from a reputable breeder that only produces puppies from health cleared parents.
3) If you only pick a pup based on their looks, you run the risk of owning a dog that doesn’t perform their tasks.
We all have an image in our head of what our gun dog will look like as they pose next to us with our day’s harvest. For me, it’s a strong, athletic, well-proportioned labrador retriever. For you, it may be a sleek, liver-ticked, german shorthaired pointer. There is a problem with this vision. If you only pick a pup based on their looks, you run the risk of owning a dog that doesn’t perform their tasks.
Start with the end in mind and research a dog that will look and act the part. Personality, natural instincts, and the desire to do their job should outweigh how handsome the dog will be. This topic goes back to pedigree, pedigree, pedigree!
4) Finally, the day has arrived! You did your research and found a reputable breeder that has puppies that match all your wants and needs! Congratulations, it’s time to pick your new hunting buddy!
I like to let all the pups out to play and watch them interact. I like to keep my eye on the pups who are playful, bold, and are excited to explore the world around them.
Next, I ask the breeder to put all the puppies away who are the opposite sex that I am looking for. Now, only the females out. Again, I watch them interact. Which pups are bold? Which pup stays away and would rather sit by themselves? Which puppy is the bully and which one is being bullied and how does that pup respond to it?
Somehow I select the pup that is the happy medium and I ask the breeder to put the rest away and keep my pick. At that point, I interact with the puppy, walk with the puppy, watch it explore. Does it stick close by me, is it adventurous, would it rather be left alone?
What I’m looking for is a pup that seems comfortable, confident, and playful! I’ll toss them a duck wing and see if they naturally run after it and chase it. They don’t need to bring it back, but they show the interest and desire to chase it! If that pup isn’t what I’m looking for, I have the confidence to put it away and pick another one out and repeat the process!
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