Owning a Good Gun Dog
the field. If only the mother is available, which is often the case, she may be worn down from the rigors of feeding and caring for her litter and not up for a good showing. If so, and if she has had other litters, ask for the names of people who own pups from one of her previous litters. The success of these pups, if sired by the same dog, will reflect the current litter's potential.
Ask about the parents' temperament, intelligence and hunting desire. How easy were they to train? How far do the parents range when hunting? Are they naturally softmouthed when handling game? Are the hips of both parents OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) certified? Many gun dogs, especially larger breeds, suffer from hip dysplasia, a crippling disorder. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Pups from quality parents often run $500 or more. For that price, you should get quality.
Take the pup home when it's seven to eight weeks old. Taking the pup home sooner will prevent the pup from developing proper canine social skills. Taking the pup home later will increase the likelihood that the pup will have developed a submissive or a dominant position in the litter. Both personality types are undesirable. A submissive pup will have difficulty handling the pressure of training. A dominant pup will often be rebellious and stubborn.
Also never buy a pup that has spent months on end in the kennel with minimal human contact and no opportunity to explore new surroundings. Pups raised under these conditions are almost always nervous. They are tentative and often scared of any new situation. Seldom do they develop into good gun dogs.
You can forego these potential problems by buying a mature gun dog that is already trained. All you have to do is reach deep into your billfold. Prices for trained dogs start at about $1,500 and go much higher, depending on a dog's pedigree and level of training.
Transforming a quality pup into a dependable hunting dog requires months of training. If you haven't the time nor inclination to do it yourself, you can hire a trainer to do it for you. Fees for training a gun dog range up to $800 a month. A skilled trainer, working a dog of normal ability, may turn out a pup, ready to hunt, in four to eight months.
If your pup