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Picking A Puppy
Here are some guidelines for finding the best young gun dog

A prospective buyer should be sure that the entire litter of puppies he's choosing from has been well socialized.

Do Your Homework
"The most rewarding way to pick a gun dog puppy begins way before the pup is born," says Dr. Jim Rieser, a veterinarian and owner of the Shooting Starr kennel in Franksville, Wisconsin.

"Locating a promising puppy means first finding the best breed for your hunting purposes, then researching the backgrounds of breeders who produce the kind of gun dog for which you are looking," Rieser advises.

"Though this process may sound simple enough, you might spend many days or weeks or months reading magazine articles and books on the subject and lots of time studying breed-specific Web sites. Do all this before making phone calls to breeders. A prospective puppy buyer who has done his homework and knows about the breed he is interested in will get a more positive reaction from a breeder with pups for sale," Rieser emphasizes.

"Most breeds of gun dogs are represented by national clubs or organizations that have Web sites featuring a detailed description of the breed and its general history and background. Many sites also have a list of club members with addresses and phone numbers so that anyone interested in this breed of gun dog can call club members for information or maybe even see their dogs in person. Some sites will also have a list of breeders with announcements of existing or expected litters. Going to these information sources is obviously a good idea," Rieser says.

Don't make an impulsive decision and take the first cute pup you see.

Picking A Pup With Credentials
"I always advise anyone searching for a pup to look at litters from parents with quantifiable hunt test or field trial scores," says Clyde Vetter, a full-time professional hunting dog trainer from Wisconsin. "As a gun dog trainer, I am often asked by clients for help in selecting a puppy. My advice is to look for litters from parents that have been judged in the field according to some formal system or standard, which will give the puppy buyer some measurable and concrete information.

"Though field trial scores may not always directly relate to an adult dog's potential as a game bird hunter, results of AKC Hunt Tests or scores from North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA) testing procedures are more conclusive and meaningful for most gun dog breeds," Vetter states. "The same goes for statistics from the Hunting Retriever Club or the National Shoot To Retrieve Association."

Look At The Pup's Parents
"One of the best ways to judge a puppy's future as a gun dog is to see its parents," says Curt Shreve, a Large Munsterlander breeder from Prior Lake, Minnesota. "When I add a new pup to our line or help someone choose a puppy, I always like to actually see the young dog's parents�for all the obvious reasons."

If you can't see the pup's parents in person, Shreve suggests asking the breeder to send a video of them in a real or simulated hunting situation. "With my breed, I like to see the adult dogs point a live bird such as a pigeon, track a running wild or pen-raised pheasant and fetch any species of game bird on land and out of water," Shreve says.

"With all the inexpensive cameras on the market, most gun dog breeders can own one or at least borrow one to make a short video of their adult dogs in action. One good video sometimes is worth 10,000 words in deciding if the puppies in a litter have come from good hunting parents."

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