A New Puppy
I’ve never had so many people inquire about getting a new puppy as in the past year. The pandemic drove thousands of people to the outdoors and upland hunting was included. Picking a puppy is a major decision. It’s usually at least a ten-year commitment which means there are many factors involved. There are many questions to be answered. Here are a few: Is everyone in the family on-board? Can you afford to buy a well-bred pup and pay the upcoming vet bills? Do you have time to train a field/hunting dog? Do you have time and the property to exercise the dog daily? Be sure you can answer these questions in the affirmative before looking for that pup.
The first step in the process is deciding which breed of puppy you want. Perhaps you have a friend you’ve hunted with and really like the breed of dog he has. That might make the decision easier for you. If not and you’re a first-time bird dog owner, my recommendation is that you investigate these four breeds: English setter, pointer (English), Brittany or German shorthaired pointer. There are many lesser known breeds that perform very well in the field, however, the wider the field of choices, the more confusing and the more time it will take. One point I would like to make here. When you buy a puppy, you’re buying potential. Potential is improved with good genetics. And, good genetics are more expensive than a back-yard bred litter.
The English setter is the most popular breed in North America for ruffed grouse and woodcock. A well-bred setter will have a good nose, is biddable and makes a good member of your family. The pointer (English has been dropped from the name) is a tried and true breed. It was the pointer that was brought to the Northern states, from the South, in the late 1800s to bring a little more style to bird hunting in Yankee territory. The Brittany is a rock-solid game finder. This breed is the second most popular breed for ruffed grouse and woodcock hunting. And, then we have the Swiss Army Knife of bird dogs…the German shorthaired pointer. Great nose, medium range and a wonderful family pet.
Although there are exceptions to every rule, in general, the Brittany and German shorthaired pointer will be more natural retrievers. They’re both considered versatile hunting dogs. The setter and pointer may need more advanced training for reliable retrieving. However, for natural backing the point of another dog, the setter and pointer have the advantage. Backing has been in their genetics longer. The setter and pointer may naturally have a bigger range than the Brittany and German shorthair, however, proper training can adjust range…both out and in.
Finding a respected breeder is your next challenge. A suggestion to help find a breeder and/or a breed would be to attend a bird dog event. You can go to www.americanfield.villagesoup.com for a schedule of field trials and www.navhda.com for a schedule of training events throughout North America. At both websites, you’ll find a plethora of opportunities to watch excellent dog work. Another source to find breeders is www.gundogcentral.com.
Since this column is about bird dogs that are actually going to hunt, you want to be sure you’re buying genetically geared puppy stock. And, the key to doing this is making sure the blood line is used for hunting. When you’re interviewing breeders, you want to ask if both the sire and dam have been used for hunting. For example, you don’t want to buy a puppy intended for hunting that is from a blood line used primarily for the show ring. For each generation bred for the show ring, there is less genetic desire to hunt birds. If possible, visit the breeder and watch the sire and/or dam work on birds.
When searching for a breeder, be sure the breeder isn’t releasing the puppies before the age of eight weeks. It’s actually illegal in many states to release a puppy earlier than eight weeks. Numerous studies have shown that the longer a puppy stays with their mother and littermates, the more adjusted and happy the puppy will be. Eight to ten weeks is ideal for breaking up the litter. And, ask the breeder how often the litter gets human contact…it should be at least twice per day.Good luck with your puppy. You’ll have many years of enjoyment in the uplands.
Copyright 2021 Paul Fuller