Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How Do You Pick a Bird Dog?

If you are ready to make your hunts more successful, you might consider purchasing your own gun dog puppy. There are various breeds and price points, but here you will find some simple suggestions for selecting a puppy that will serve as a hunting partner and lifelong friend.

First, you will need to ask yourself many questions. Will this be a pet that hunts with you 5 days a year or will it be a serious hunting dog that goes hunting 60 days a year? What kind of hunting do you do and where? What kind of personality do you have? What size dog do you want? All of these questions (and more) will guide your conversation with the breeder.

Next, determine the breed you want. For basic information on breeds, visit the link to Gun Dog Breeds on the Gamebirdhunts.com  or look at the sporting dog descriptions on the AKC web site:  From there, search for breeders in your area that specialize in the breeds that sound most interesting to you. They can answer any questions you have and may lead you in the right direction. A great way to view dogs of different breeds is to attend a dog competition. This can allow you to see what a breed is meant to do and what their titles mean.

Field trials and Hunt Tests are located across the country and can be valuable in your dog search. The events are listed by state, then by the host club for various breeds. Often the clubs that host the events have web sites where club members can list their litters. This can also be a great resource for locating your puppy. Ultimately, getting to know dog owners and breeders is the best way of selecting your own dog.

Third, locate a good litter. It is important to start with a set of four basic standards: 1) Health Clearances of hips, eyes, and elbows on both parents 2) 26 month health contact 3) AKC registration papers 4) Dew claws removed. These are minimum standards for most breeds, but some breeds may require additional health clearance, such as heart and thyroid. The next consideration is the pedigree. If you want your puppy to turn into a working retriever, the pedigree must have a performance title. The best standards come from Field Champions and AKC, NAVDA, or UKC Hunt Test. These titles tell you what skills and abilities the dogs have. If the parent dogs have been able to perform well, it is reasonable to believe that the puppies will also. 

Fourth, pick the right puppy from the crowd. Look at the temperament of the puppy. The average hunter will need a dog that is neither too aggressive nor too submissive. Avoid the bully dogs and the dogs that shy away from the group. Watch the way they use their nose. You will want the puppy that searches the area with its nose in order to learn the surroundings. If you are considering future breeding, you will want to consider physical attributes as well.   For more info on choosing a puppy from a litter please read: How To Choose A Puppy From A Litter by pro dog breeder Ed Hall.  It is a excellent article.

Fourth, determine your price point. You can expect to spend no less than $500 for your bird dog. You may see puppies for sale in upwards of $2,500, but most hunters don’t require this kind of dog. A dog in the $500-$800 range should provide a quality puppy that will have great potential. You will be making a time commitment to the dog for training, exercise, and general care, so you should expect an investment.


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