Picking A Puppy
Having your new puppy thoroughly examined by a veterinarian is an essential part of getting off to a good start.
Pick A Well Socialized Pup
socialized puppy is one that has been regularly handled by people,
helping the young dog to become accustomed to the human touch and
comfortable with human beings. "If a gun dog litter has had little or
no contact on these levels, then the pups may be fearful and anxious
around prospective buyers," notes Tom Roettger, an English cocker
breeder from North Branch, Minnesota.
"Spooky puppies afraid of people are
difficult to evaluate and hard to sell. So most responsible gun dog
breeders make a specific point of spending time with any litter,"
Roettger finds. "The idea is to develop pups that are friendly, happy
and at ease around anyone who wants to hold them, play with them or
just watch them.
"With my puppies, my family and friends
handle them a little every day from the birth of the litter, then play
with them a lot starting when the pups are five weeks old. By seven
weeks, our pups love to be handled by everyone, which means they can
better be tested for temperament and other factors," Roettger says.
Conformation In A Puppy
the time most gun dog pups are seven weeks old, you can make some
accurate predictions about their future physical conformity," says
Chuck Wilson, a Llewellin setter breeder from Waco, Texas. "Main
physical features such as head shape, body type and tail set are
usually evident when most breeds of puppies are seven weeks of age and
become more apparent each week after that," Wilson feels.
"Most experienced breeders of any kind
of gun dog should be able to look at eight to 10 pups in a litter and
tell with 75 percent success which ones will grow into small, medium or
big dogs," Wilson believes. "And, even if the rough estimates aren't
absolutely on target, the educated guesses should be close enough to be
useful in picking a puppy."
Bird Finding And Fetching Ability
"Testing seven-week puppies for hunting potential may seem like a real
stretch. But in our experience, there are some fairly consistent
behaviors that can be identified to predict a young dog's hunting
future," says Jean Rodriguez of R Place Kennel in Hartford, South
Rodriguez and her husband Joe have
tested dozens of litters of all breeds of gun dogs. In the process,
they have developed a system that is relatively simple and effective
and can be administered by anyone.
"We evaluate a litter of gun dog
puppies in several categories of responses to physical stimulation as
in other kinds of tests for canine temperament and learning aptitude,"
Rodriguez says. "What is different about our system is that there is
more emphasis and focus on prospective hunting qualities. For example,
each pup is exposed to a bird wing flipped on a string and a tethered
live pigeon to see if there is a perceptible prey drive,
self-confidence in a new experience and a willingness to pursue a
moving object," says Rodriguez.
"No, we don't say this testing system
is totally complete, but we have a pretty good history of predicting
the hunting behavior of pups when they become adult dogs," Rodriguez
claims. "Our evaluation program is not the only one available but it is
the only one we know of with an emphasis on determining hunting
potential in a wide range of gun dog breeds."
Picking a puppy is hard to do--if you do it right. Research into breeds
and lines, quizzing breeders about their litters, evaluating a pup's
parents and choosing one pup according to some practical standards--all
of this takes time and effort and a great amount of personal
involvement. But as gun dog owners everywhere know, picking a good
puppy is worth the effort.