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

Bird Dog Genetics

A common piece of advice for puppy buyers is to “buy good genetics”. Exactly, what does that mean? For most of us, that means to buy a puppy with parents that perform and act in a manner that you want in a dog. The theory being that the parents will pass along those traits to the offspring.

However, the genetic question goes much deeper. How many breedings (generations) does it take to develop an inherited trait? And, how many breedings (generations) does it take to breed out an inherited trait?

Several years ago, I met a canine genetic specialist at Pheasantfest. I asked him about the question of how many generations to both develop an inherited trait and breed out an inherited trait. He told me the question was difficult to answer. There are too many variables. For example, if you wanted to develop honoring point in your bloodline, it might take fewer generations if every sire and dam for several generations honored point. I then asked him about breeding out an inherited trait. He thought once the inherited trait was firmly established in a bloodline, it would take several generations to breed out an inherited trait. And, maybe never.

About four years ago, I asked our local veterinarian the question about how many generations would it take to establish an inherited trait. His response was four generations if all sires and dams had that trait. Students of genetics often site the famous Russian silver fox experiment. It took six generations to take a silver fox from a snarling show-your-teeth fox to a loving pleasant pet me silver fox.

Now, the real reason I’m writing about genetics. A Facebook friend recently asked me to recommend a kennel where he would be able to buy a German shorthaired pointer puppy. His purpose would be strictly hunting. I gave him three kennels from which I would personally buy a puppy. One of the kennels, Autumn Kennels in Maine, both hunts and shows their dogs in the ring. The puppy buyer shied away from a kennel with show dogs. His theory was that a show dog kennels might not have a strong inherited trait for hunting. Here are examples which make that theory a fallacy.

In his book, African Genesis, author Robert Audrey, cites the Rhone beaver study. After being in captivity for many generations, the beaver was re-introduced to river life. The beaver returned to its inherited trait of building dams. Another example given by Audrey is the weaver bird experiment. In natural surroundings, the weaver bird would weave their nest into a cocoon-like structure. A researcher by the name of Marais kept four generations of weaver birds in captivity. None of the four generations had access to materials to weave nests. The fifth generation was released back into the wild. That generation immediately built the weaved nest. Inherited traits are hard to breed out.

And, here are more examples of long lasting inherited traits. Fifteen years ago, Susan and I bought a male GSP puppy from a show kennel. He was my Dillon. His conformation was perfect. A beautiful animal. And, an incredible hunting dog. Staunch on point and steady to the flush and shot. And, a natural retriever. Dillon was so good that we bought a second puppy from the same kennel. This pup is our beloved Dena. She’s beautiful and has hunted exceptionally well across the country. And, given us two litters with exceptional hunting talent.

Here’s another example. We have a good friend, Jennifer Jacob, who has a German wire haired pointer. The dog’s name is Beacon. Beacon earned a NAVHDA NA perfect score (112) title very early. Beacon had a strong hunting instinct. Beacon then went on a three year show circuit trip. She has won 28 All Breed Best in Show and a National Championship. After her three-year show tour, Jennifer brought Beacon to one of our training fields. Her first encounter with a bird in three years and she gave us a perfect point.

The moral of the story? Don’t be afraid of a purebred show kennel puppy when you’re looking for a hunting companion. You can have the best of both worlds.

Copyright 2023 Paul Fuller

Paul and Susan Fuller are co-hosts of Bird Dogs Afield TV show. All past episodes are available on their website: Contact: