The Retrieve with Bags and Shadow: Picking a Puppy
By: Michael Baggetta
Let’s start at the beginning of it all. You’ve decided you want to get a hunting dog. Now, understanding what you like to hunt will help determine what dog breed is best for you. This is the first step.
Once you’ve decided the breed, next you’ll need to determine your budget. Good hunting dogs can range in price, from free to in the thousands. A common misconception is the more expensive the dog the better the dog is. False!! I’ve seen dogs that cost a couple thousand dollars not even show interest in chasing a ball. Then there’s the opposite scenario, dogs that cost the owners nearly nothing could be the most loyal, best behaved and show the highest drive. Back to my first article, I believe great dogs are made, not born.
With that said, the breed and whoever you’re getting your dog from is very important. Do the research on the breed and the different types of dogs within the breed. For example, within the Labrador breed you have different colors – Yellow, Black and Chocolate (I do believe there are major differences in temperament and personality amongst the different colors, but others may disagree) or the style- American vs. English/British. Lastly, it is important to understand the difference in personalities between the sexes. I knew when we picked Shadow, we wanted a female for a few reasons: 1. She was going to be smaller, which is better to get into tighter spaces while hunting. 2. Female labs tend to be less stubborn than males.
Find a reputable breeder within your price range. The reason it is important to use a reputable breeder is for health and genetic reason. Ideally, your breeder will have credentials (AKC certified, hip records, the breed’s health history records) for all of their dogs. Just because a dog has papers doesn’t necessarily mean the dog doesn’t have any genetic defects. However, just because a dog doesn’t have papers doesn’t mean that dog won’t hunt. In my opinion, a reputable breeder will get to know you and ask you questions; in some cases, some breeders will have you take a personality test (I’ll explain why in a little). The breeder will have at least a one year health guarantee and most breeders, who breed hunting dogs, will have some sort of training guarantee.
Once you have established where or who you are getting your puppy from, take your time spending a few hours there and bring someone (another set of eyes will help – let them know what you are looking for). I have to say when we picked out Shadow, the fact that there were two of us really helped because we could see the personalities of each puppy and were able to pick what we thought would be the best fit for us. Make sure you connect with the parents and watch the litter to see how each of the puppies interact with one another. It’s ok to take your time; ask the breeder questions and get his opinion on each dog. As I mentioned before about some breeders having you take a personality test before picking out your puppy, the reason is so they can help you identify which one from the litter may best suit you. Remember the breeder spends almost two months (8 weeks) taking care of the puppies. What you want to look for when you are watching the puppies are their temperament, their personalities, and their socialization with the rest of the litter.
Pick up the puppies, but understand once you pick up a puppy for the first time the training begins. With each and every one of the puppies you pick up, use the pressure on and pressure off technique (we will talk about this in more detail in our next Article: The Foundation- Building a Bond). The reason you want to do this is to see how each and every puppy will react to you as you do this. As you separate them from the litter, play with them, see how they react and watch how the parents react while you are doing this (What is their temperament?).
By the end of your visit with the litter and the breeder, you will have a good idea which puppy will suit your needs and be your best teammate!
- Understand your goals
- Know your budget
- Do your research
- Review the credentials
- Talk to the breeder
- Watch the litter (look at temperament, personality, and interaction)
- The litter has been well socialized
- Handle the pups
- Pick your Hunting Dog
Until next time – Keep the retrieve alive!