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Pick a Pup, Pick a Breeder by Scott Young


So you want to buy a new hunting dog, but you are unsure of what breed will be the best for you? Where do you look for information about the various hunting breeds? Are all breeds alike? What about the dog that will be an integral part of the family? Where do I look for that perfect pup for me? With so many questions to think about, where do you turn for honest, unbiased opinions and facts?

"The English springer spaniel and the English cocker can hunt a wide variety of game birds and animals in many different cover types and conditions. In addition, those same dogs are excellent companion dogs, travel well and are very social. Characteristics that make them tops on my list."

The breed that you pick should be based on the type of game that you are going to pursue and your personal preference. If you are going to hunt quail in the big country of Texas, then a big running pointer or a versatile German shorthair might be the best for you. If your plans are to hunt the fields, sloughs and big water for waterfowl, then a well bred Labrador would be a great choice. If, on the other hand, you are hunting the wily ring neck pheasant or gentlemanís bobwhite quail in the CPR grass and croplands of Kansas, then a springer or cocker is your best bet. Not one breed can do it all, but some breeds come close.

The English springer spaniel and the English cocker can hunt a wide variety of game birds and animals in many different cover types and conditions. In addition, those same dogs are excellent companion dogs, travel well and are very social. Characteristics that make them tops on my list.

If you are unsure of what breed is best for you, then you need to do some homework. Start by looking at the dogs that you currently hunt with. Maybe a friend has a breed that has caught your eye. Attend various hunting dog competitions to see what breed you think would make the best dog for you. Read books, magazines and talk with as many hunters as possible to gather the necessary information so you can make the best choice for your hunting and family situation. Visit kennels or breeders that specialize in the breed you are interested in. The internet is a great place to gather information about breeds of dogs, kennels, breeders and much more.

Armed with all of this information, it is time to select a breed and pick out the breeder of your choice. Your next stop will be a reputable breeder that handles your breed of dog. Breeders have a tendancy to breed, raise, train and sell the breed of dog that they like to hunt behind. Therefore, they become knowledgable experts in that breed. They can tell you about the qualities that you should look for in that breed. A good breeder is more like a library of information, rather than a good salesman. A good breeder will ask as many or more questions than you do and they will listen to you and understand your wants and needs. The breeder should be running a breeding program that puts the emphasis on breeding for solid hunting abilities, calm temperament and superior genetics. If they donít, then thank them for their time and look for another breeder. As the old saying goes, "Rome was not built in a day." Look for a breeder that breeds only a select few litters per year. The local "puppy mill" is NOT the place to buy a good quality hunting dog. Remember, breeders are in the business of selling dogs and a good breeder is looking at the immediate sale as well as future sales with you and referrals from you. After talking with the breeder, you should feel that he/she is truly interested in your needs and is willing to work with you to find that perfect puppy. If you are not comfortable with the breeder, take the time to look for another kennel that better suits your needs.

Having found the perfect breed for you and a breeder that you can rely on, it is now time to pick up your pup. But there are a few more questions that you need to think about! Do I select a male or female? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each sex? Will you be looking to breed litters in the future? If your male turns out to be outstanding, will you offer him for stud service? These are all good questions to ponder.

Each pup is as individual as people are. Some males are softer than others. Some females train quicker than their male counterparts. Some dogs handle the stress of training better than others, even among littermates. People will tell you that males train faster, but some are hard headed. Others will say that females take longer to train, but they progress through training at a steadier rate. As a trainer, I would say that if you buy a pup from excellent hunting stock, your chances are greater that your pup will turn out to be an excellent hunting dog and companion - and that sex is merely a personal preference.

Now that you have spent the time to research your breed, watched dogs at work and play, talked with the experts, chosen a trustworthy breeder and decided on the sex of pup you want, how do you pick that special pup from all of the others in the litter? This is where a good breeder comes into play.

Letís say that you are interested in a female puppy. Ask the breeder to bring out only the female pups from the litter you are interested in. Then sit back and watch them at play. How do they interact with each other, the breeder, you and any other spectators? Some of the pups will be more outgoing. Some will be more reserved. Others might just sit and do nothing. Ask the breeder if he or she can bring out a clipped wing quail. Watch the reaction of the pups. Do they attack the quail right off? Do they act interested, but not overly aggressive? Do they run the other way when the bird moves around or takes off running? In most litters, you will find pups that exhibit each of these traits. The pup that runs headlong into the quail, chases it down and picks it up might be the one for you. Or you might be interested in the pup that finds the quail interesting and will chase at times - and at other times, just watches. Or do you choose the pup that is laid back, watches all of the festivities, but really is not all that interested in the bird? At this point, it is time to get input from the breeder. After all, he or she has spent eight weeks or more with the pups and will know more about them than anyone. Ask the breeder about the personalities of the pups. How do they behave around other people or dogs? How do they interact with their littermates on a daily basis? Which pups are bold and confident, which are more laid back or which are more middle of the road? Based on your conversations and research, you can now pick a pup.

There are a couple of interesting theories about selecting a pup. Some old timers will tell you to just close your eyes, reach in and pick a pup. Another theory is to let the pup pick you. In other words, pick the pup that comes over to you and shows an interest in you. Here is what I think: do your homework and research. Then seek out the very best genetically superior puppy from excellent hunting stock that you can afford and buy it. By doing so, you put the odds in your favor. Good luck with your next pup!




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Spaniel Journal - your source for flushing spaniel training, hunt test, field trial & hunting information