Choosing A Puppy
Spring is the traditional time for a new puppy. Let’s examine the steps in selecting your next “best friend.” We’re going to proceed with the assumption that we’re looking for a reliable hunting dog that will make you proud in the field.
The first step is making sure the family is ready for a puppy. I mention “family” because this must be a family decision. Every member of the family must be “on board” and prepared to allow a new family member into the household. Every family member must recognize that this is a long-term decision…usually at least ten years. Once that pup is brought into the household, the family has an obligation to keep the puppy safe and healthy. And, to make sure the puppy has plenty of exercise. Once the obligations are understood, the next step is selecting a breed. This is a bird dog column so bird dog breeds are what we’ll discuss.
The most common pointing breeds are English setter, Brittany spaniel, German shorthaired pointer and English pointer. For a hunting dog, you won’t go wrong with any of these breeds. The English setter and Brittany spaniel have long hair and can tolerate cold weather better than a short hair breed. The German shorthair and the English pointer can tolerate warm weather better. All, if treated properly, make excellent family companions. A good first step is to visit the AKC website (www.akc.org) and read about each breed…there is a wealth of information available.
The best ruffed grouse/woodcock breed I’ve personally hunted over is the English setter. The best quail dog I’ve ever hunted over has been the English pointer. The best overall (any species/anytime) is the versatile breeds such as the German shorthair or the Brittany.
Once the family has selected the breed, the next step is locating and selecting a breeder. If you’re a Facebook user, the simplest search would be to find a Facebook group which features the breed you’ve selected and post that you’re looking for a puppy. You’ll get numerous responses. Selling puppies on Facebook is actually against the Facebook rules, however, most folks with puppies will simply tell you to text message them. Here are Facebook groups that you can check-out: English Pointers; Hunting G.S.P.s; English Setter; Brittany Spaniels For Sale.
When selecting a breeder, you need to be proactive with questions. Are the sire and dam accomplished hunting dogs? Were the grandparents hunting dogs? Did either generation earn titles? Ask for pedigrees for both the sire and dam. Are the sire or dam field champions (FC) or Master Hunters (MH)? Titles indicate that these dogs were biddable to training and accomplished objectives. If possible, ask to see the sire or dam (if not yet whelped) work in the field. You want to make sure the parents demonstrate the level of work you want in your puppy. There are two things you can’t teach a sporting dog; you can’t teach it to point and you can’t teach desire. Those are genetic traits that must be passed along from parents.
Also, I would not pick a puppy that requires shipping by air. Think about the trauma of an eight week old puppy that’s pulled from its mother and siblings and stuck in a crate and put on an airplane. Choose a litter that’s within a day’s drive or an acceptable trip for the family. Speaking of eight weeks, do not buy from a litter that is broken up at six or seven weeks…eight weeks is the minimum.
Another advantage of buying a puppy within a day’s drive is that you can visit the litter before the pick-up date. This is very important for socialization. When my wife and I have litters, we have two socialization days; one at five weeks and one at seven weeks. We invite puppy buyers, friends and neighbors to come and play with the puppies. This is very important to help ensure socialization with humans.
And, finally, how to pick the actual puppy that will be with you for many years. There is no formula. With our litters, the most common method is to pick the one that runs to you first. Of course, that only works if that puppy hasn’t been picked by someone with a higher picking position than you. Do your homework, pick a good litter and your puppy will be a fine companion and hunter.
Copyright 2018 Paul Fuller
Paul Fuller is a life-long sportsman. He’s been an outdoor writer since 1971. He’s the host and producer of the award winning Bird Dogs Afield TV show (www.birddogsafield.com) and produced the epic video Grouse, Guns & Dogs. Paul shot over his first German shorthaired pointer in 1961. Paul may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.