Picking That Right Pup

By: Jim Newcomb

A well socialized puppy can mean a quicker bond with it's new master, or even an eaisier time during training sessions. If a gun dog litter has had little or no contact on these levels, then the pups may be fearful and anxious around prospective buyers leading to time neede to build trust and acceptance between the pup and new master before the real training can start. So most responsible gun dog breeders make a specific point of spending time with their litters.

Our litters are handled each day by a different or several family members from the birth of the litter to the day they meet their new masters. We play with them a lot starting when the pups are three weeks old. By seven weeks, our pups love to be handled by everyone, which means they can better be tested for temperament and other factors. Our pups are gun trained by six weeks, thatís another series, but yes it can be done. I categorize pups in three ways, aggressive, some-what aggressive and non-responsive.

Get ten feet away from the puppies, call them, the ones that come straight to you are aggressive, want to please, the ones that hesitate but go ahead and come are head strong, the ones who ignore you, are independent, will probably be hard to train. Try to make 2-3 visits to a litter before deciding on a puppy. By the time most gun dog pups are seven weeks old, you can make some accurate predictions about their future physical conformity, Main physical features such as head shape, body type and tail set are usually evident when most breeds of puppies are seven weeks of age and become more apparent each week thereafter. High tail, good hips and tight feet are important to me. Most experienced breeders of any kind of gun dog should be able to look at eight to 10 pups in a litter and tell with 75 percent success which ones will grow into small, medium or big dogs, I have had a lot of luck picking the runt of the litter, he has had to fight for everything he has got from day one and has already learned some positive traits.

Testing seven-week puppies for hunting potential may seem like a real stretch. But in our experience, there are some fairly consistent behaviors that can be identified to predict a young dog's hunting future.

Our process is relatively simple and effective and can be administered by anyone. We evaluate a litter of gun dog puppies in several categories of responses to physical stimulation as in other kinds of tests for canine temperament and learning aptitude. What is different about our system is that there is more emphasis and focus on prospective hunting qualities. For example, each pup is exposed to a bird wing flipped on a string and a tethered live pigeon to see if there is a perceptible prey drive, self-confidence in a new experience and a willingness to pursue a moving object. Although not fool proof, the results are fairly consistent.

Picking a puppy is hard to do--if you donít do it right. Research into breeds and lines, quizzing breeders about their litters, evaluating a pup's parents and choosing one pup according to some practical standards; do not deviate from those standards. All of this takes time and effort and a great amount of personal involvement. But as gun dog owners everywhere know, picking a good puppy is worth the effort in the long run.

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