Bird Dogs Afield host Paul Fuller is the gun dog columnist for Northwoods Sporting Journal. The Journal has granted permission to re-print Paul’s articles. Thank you Northwoods Sporting Journal.

Northwoods Sporting Journal

Buy or Breed

You’ve decided you want, or need, a puppy. Perhaps your current string isn’t really a string…it’s one dog. And, you know you need at least one more dog. Especially, if you’re a long-distance hunter. If you’ve traveled hundreds of miles and then your dog becomes injured, you’re in trouble. A second dog is really important. If you have an intact female in your kennel, you may be debating whether to breed or buy to get that second dog. In the past five years, my wife and I have twice been faced with this decision. Here are the pros and cons of both.

Breeding: If you have a female and you’re very happy with her performance in the field and training biddability, why not find her a high quality mate? The question of whether the male or female has the most influence in a breeding has been debated for decades. Why gamble…find the best sire possible to breed with your female. You may already know of such a dog so your search will not be that difficult. If you need to find one, go to a AKC Hunt Test or a NAVHDÅ training day. Ask different people for advice. Then watch the potential sire perform in the field if possible. Does the dog have a good search pattern? Run close or runs big? Looks good on point? Steady at least to the flush? Obedient to recall? If you’ve found the right boyfriend for your girl, then plan the breeding.

If the female’s heat cycle permits a January or February breeding, that is the ideal time. With a two month gestation period, you’ll have an early spring litter. Keeping the litter together for a minimum of eight weeks means your puppy buyers will have all summer to get their puppy prepared for hunting season.

Let’s back up a bit. If you haven’t ever had a litter of puppies, there is a great deal of preparation. Both the sire and bitch need pre-breeding testing according to their breed; heart, eyes, elbows and hips are usually a minimum. You’ll need a whelping box. That can be bought on-line. We used a Dura Welp. Either my wife or I sleep next to the whelping box the first week after the litter has been born. Plus, you need to have the time to handle the puppies at least once a day but more is better. If you decide to breed, I highly recommend you buy a DVD set titled Puppy Culture. It covers the first 12 weeks of a puppies life.

At about the six week mark, you’ve probably identified the puppy you want to keep. Then comes the long procedure of selling the puppies you won’t be keeping. The sporting breeds are in great demand these days so finding buyers won’t be the problem. Finding quality buyers is an issue. When we had litters, we had an application potential puppy buyers had to complete. Is the whole family on-board with getting a new puppy? Are the buyers financially capable of the puppy’s medical care, will the puppy get daily exercise? Will the puppy be left alone all day? And many more…however, you get the idea. There will be many difficult decisions to make.

However, in the end, you’ll have a beautiful puppy to love and begin training. Good times ahead!

Buying: When buying a puppy, you’re buying genetics. The better the genetics, the more promising the puppy. Unless you’re familiar with very good breeders with a very good hunting bloodline, buying good genetics takes research. Much like finding a sire, as described above, you’ll want to see the parents in action. Do they demonstrate good manners in the field? Is their range what you are looking for? Do they have good manners? A good looking point? Steady to the flush? Good recall?

Does the breeder have a good reputation? Ask for references. Is the breeder’s kennel clean and in good order? Are they keeping the puppies to at least eight weeks of age? Never accept a puppy under eight weeks. In fact, in many states, it’s illegal to break up a litter under eight weeks.

Whether you breed or buy, love your puppy and treat it with kindness. It will return the love many times over.

Copyright 2021 Paul Fuller

Paul and his wife Susan are co-hosts of Bird Dogs Afield TV ( Paul can be contacted at