By Kristy Fike
When it is time to choose a new pup for hunting and a family companion, there are several important questions that you should ask yourself.
What traits do you look for in a hunting dog? What size dog suits your needs? What things matter to you when in the market for a pup?
These are great questions, and here are some more important things to ask yourself about a potential puppy.
The first thing I would look for is that the dam and sire have health clearances, to include OFA hip and OFA elbow clearance. These two clearances confirm the dam or sire is free from hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia.
Exercise Induced Collapse, or EIC, is a disorder that causes seizures when your dog is exercising. A lot of retrievers such as labs are known to potentially carry this disease. The test can be done at many vet offices.
Centronuclear Myopathy (CNM) is a disease in the dog’s muscles and is worth a look too.
These disorders and diseases can affect a dog’s hunting career and should be cleared by the dam and sire of the litter you are interested in.
There are many health risks to watch out for, but those are just a few examples of what I look for when on the market for a Labrador Retriever.
Keep in mind some breeds of dogs are prone to certain diseases while other breeds are not. So, research health clearances by the breed of dog you are looking to buy.
Health clearances will help prove that the parents of the pups are healthy, and the pups should be as well. Also, ask the breeder what kind of vaccines the pups have been administered and if they have been dewormed.
Temperament and personality is one of the most important traits to investigate when buying a pup because you are going to either love those two traits of the pup or just tolerate them for the rest of the dog’s life.
If you are looking at buying a pup from a breeder, I would encourage you to ask about the temperament and personality of the dam and sire of the litter. Some breeders choose your pup for you based on information you give them about your desires and needs as well as the environment the dog will be in.
Some people do not like this method as they want to choose. Be sure you know what the breeder does or does not do with regard to purchasing a pup.
Find a personality and temperament that fits you and your hunting needs. Also, if possible, ask to see the parents of the dogs so you can see for yourself how they act and what their personalities are.
Some people care about appearance. Other people care more about the hunting traits and don’t mind what the dog looks like.
There are breeders that breed more for traits than breed for appearance and some breed for both. This really depends on the breed you are interested in.
Everyone likes different looks and sizes. So, when you are buying a pup, once again ask the breeder to see the parents. Some dogs have a different head shape, body shape etc… Some labs, for instance, have big block heads and lanky bodies while others are stocky.
If you want a German Shorthaired Pointer that is superior in upland hunting, look for upland hunting titles in the parent’s or litter’s pedigree that you are interested in.
This will prove that the upland hunting desire or gene is in the bloodline.
Reading the pedigree of the dam and sire is a must when looking for a hunting companion. Be sure you know how to read a pedigree first, so you know what any titles mean.
Read the Breeder
When talking to the breeder, pay attention to things they say, how they treat their dogs, and even the people around them. Watch their body language. Look at the way the dogs are taken care of.
If you ask to see papers on the dam and sire of a litter of pups and they try to avoid the topic or refuse, that should be a red flag.
If you are asking questions about the parents and they move on to another topic, once again that should be a red flag to you.
Don’t be hesitant to even ask friends or people you know about the breeder. Ask the breeder for the contact info for previous clients. You could even ask the local veterinarian about the breeder.
In my opinion, a good breeder will always do their best to answer any questions you have and will always show pedigrees, health clearances, or whatever papers you would like to see.
Read the Pup Too
Deciding which pup out of the litter would make a great addition to your family is a hard decision to make.
Watch the pups play with each other. Which one is dominant or submissive? Which pup seems curious? Which pup seems lazy?
Curiosity and drive are great characteristics to look for in a hunting dog.
Puppies are known to sleep and can seem lazy because they are growing. However, I would not choose the pup that is overly lazy, because the pup may have lower drive for hunting pursuits.
I would also interact with all of them and see how the pups seem with people.
Seeing how they interact with people will also give you an idea on how well the breeder may have socialized them.
Pick the pup that suits you and your family. If you are not satisfied with the litter of pups don’t buy one. A good breeder should respect that and would want the puppy owners to be satisfied with their pup.
When on the market for a pup, do your research on the breed you are looking for.
Talk to the breeder and always ask questions.
Make sure your potential pup is healthy and likeable.
Look at the dam and sire a lot to make sure you are happy with their looks.
Look at the lineage of the pup.
Make sure you completely admire the dam and sire of the pup, because if you don’t, chances are there will be things that you may not enjoy about your pup.
Also, some breeders will not allow breeding of the pup once it is mature.
It is better to be picky than disappointed later and don’t be in a rush. Wait for the perfect pup.
Kristy is the owner of Whispering Woods Retrievers, a new venture focusing on Labradors with strong hunting and retrieving instincts. She carefully trains and breeds quality Labradors.