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Picking A Puppy

To make an intelligent choice about what kind of puppy to buy, a puppy buyer should do plenty of research before making a decision.

Ask The Breeder For Help
"Most breeders of well-bred gun dogs will ask prospective puppy buyers lots of personal questions," says Jim Julson, a Small Munsterlander breeder from Colman, South Dakota. "In most cases, the breeder wants to get sort of a profile of that person's experiences with gun dogs in general, hunting with them, training them and maintaining them on a personal level.

"The idea is to match individual pups from the litter with the hunting lifestyle of the buyers so that the new puppy owner will have a gun dog best suited to his expectations and needs," Julson feels. "If a breeder spends most of the time making a sales pitch about his puppies and gives little attention to the buyer's personal background as a hunter and gun dog owner, the buyer should be wary," Julson warns.

Judging Temperament
"Don't believe any puppy seller who says you can't make some general judgments about a puppy's temperament at seven weeks of age. Anyone who says that probably hasn't spent enough time watching the pups at play or personally handling each individual pup," says to John Luttrell, a Labrador breeder from Clark, South Dakota.

"Sure, you can look at a litter of 10 black Labs as they charge around the yard and chase each other then decide there is no obvious difference in the temperament of any of them. But spend several hours watching them eat, play and have mock fights with one another and the pecking order will appear, along with some insights about the personality of each individual pup," Luttrell adds.

Reasons For Producing A Litter
"Always ask any breeder why the two parents of the pups for sale were bred," says Larry Hansen, owner of a British Labrador kennel in Tracy, Minnesota. "What are the breeder's stated objectives and how will this pairing of dogs produce some specific pre-conceived results? Is this a repeat breeding and if so, why? And if there have been other litters out of this line of dogs, are there references from satisfied puppy buyers?" Hansen suggests these are all worthwhile questions.

Among the ways to evaluate a pup's personality is to hold the youngster on its back for a minute and see how he reacts.

If references are given, "Do get in touch in person or at least on the phone to see how the owners of these dogs feel about their purchases," Hansen adds. "Ask the same pointed questions asked of the breeder. And be sure to ask how much and what kind of hunting the referred persons do so you can get a solid sense of perspective on the pups you're considering."

The Breed's Health History
"Before picking any kind of puppy, make sure the lines of dogs from which it comes have certified sound genetics with major emphasis on normal hips and healthy eyes," advises Tom Dokken, a Labrador breeder from Northfield, Minnesota. "Joint and eye problems plague many breeds of gun dogs, so every puppy buyer needs to study each breed's genetic background for a history of chronic hip dysplasia or eye disorders as well as any other genetic-related problems.

"When buying any gun dog, get a guarantee in writing from the breeder that your puppy will be free from any major debilitating genetic disorders and that the pup you have bought is healthy," Dokken adds. "Take your pup to your vet as soon as possible for a complete examination for genetic soundness and good general health."

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