Making the commitment to owning a dog should be a careful one so I have put together some pointers to help with that decision process.
1) Having decided on the breed you would like, the next major choice is whether you want a male or female gundog puppy. Things to bear in mind are:-
- As a general rule bitches are easier to train than dogs because they mature quicker and their personalities are more amenable. They are good at concentrating when given a command unlike a dog who is easily distracted by his surroundings. The downside however of a bitch is if you keep her entire then you will be dealing with Two seasons a year during which you cannot work them in the field.
- Dogs on the other hand are physically stronger and therefore possess more drive and stamina, which is a definite advantage in the typical weather conditions during the shooting season.
2) Before you look at the puppies ask to see a copy of the pedigree. This will give you a good indication if the parents are of a working line.
You are looking for the symbols FTCH (Field Trial Champion) or FTW (Field Trial Winner). Be careful though as FTW can also denote Field Test Winner which is a different distinction and is no indication of the dog’s ability. Always ask the breeder to be specific about the pedigree.
If CH (Show Champion) is prominent on the pedigree then the working line will be poor.
3) When you go to see the puppies they should be kept in clean conditions, be well fed and have happy wagging tails. The mother should be available for you to see, and if possible the Sire as well if he is owned by the breeder.
Seeing the parents will give you an idea of the temperament and eventual stature of the young ones. Ask whether the parents have been checked for hereditary problems ie hips and eyes.
If at all possible ask to see the parents work as this will give you an insight into the potential of the puppy. Be mindful however that the bitch will not be physically at her best.
4) Having decided on the sex of your choice ask to see all the same sex pups running free together. This will highlight the bold, adventurous, shy or inquisitive ones. Don’t be put off by the runt of a litter as often they can be the most intelligent as nature can give them a help with survival.
5) Try throwing a rolled up tissue and see which pup picks it up or brings it back to you. Although not fool proof this can be an indication of what might be in the future.
6) Essential questions to ask the breeder:-
- Have the puppies been wormed.
- Have they had their first vaccination.
- Are they registered with the Kennel Club.
- Are they micro chipped.
- In the case of working Spaniels, will the tails be docked.
7) Having chosen your gundog puppy and agreed payment ask if it is possible for you to leave a small piece of cloth with the puppy which can be taken away with you when you collect him/her. This will help settle the youngster into its new home in the early days by providing the smell of its litter mates.
8) The breeder should provide you with a diet sheet and a small amount of the current food being fed. It is necessary to wean the puppy onto the food of your choice slowly initially.
Having said all of this you will often find that the puppy ends up choosing you!! Enjoy.