Where to Find a Dog with the Right Stuff—Part 1
Each time someone calls to ask about locating a puppy, I have flashbacks to my first dog, Sam. I purchased Sam from a friend who had an athletic eager hunting dog. He decided to breed his girl to a very nice looking male whose ancestors found fame in the show ring. I was extremely excited at the thought of bringing home this gorgeous looking puppy and had high hopes of training him to become a perfect hunting dog.
Like many people, I did not take any time to research the breeding and gain some understanding of what this puppy might turn out to be. If the parents were good enough for my friends, then a puppy out of their dogs should be good enough for me. As my knowledge of dogs grew, I realized a mistake had been made in purchasing this puppy. Sam grew up with little desire to retrieve and great looks. He was a mediocre hunting dog and my attempts to train him for field trials frustrated both of us greatly. I was attempting to force something into this dog that his genes would not accept. Before you buy a dog, take your time by asking questions of yourself and the seller.
Ask yourself this question first. Do you want a puppy, started dog or finished dog? If you decide to start with a puppy, plan on having a patient training routine and not rushing into a situation that the pup is not ready for. Starting with a pup takes dedication on your part, but is by far the most rewarding way to go. Some people have a hard time dealing with puppyhood. They look for a started dog to avoid the house breaking, chewing, and other things pups do to annoy their owners. Taking the started dogs forward in training saves you time but there are risks involved. Then, there are the people who need instant gratification. For these folks, you'll occasionally find a finished dog for sale. Which way do you want to go?
Let's start with the best way in my opinion, purchasing a puppy. Before you buy a puppy, a litter must be available. Where you purchase your puppy can have a great deal to do with how successful the training process will be. Getting a puppy from a local neighborhood breeder is a matter of convenience and probably not the best way to locate a future finished dog. I am not telling you to rule out local litters, just be careful when researching your purchase. Pick up any newspaper and the classified advertisements will be full of puppies for sale. Be especially careful of these dogs. Most well-bred litters are never advertised because the puppies are sold well before it is time for them to go home. This is the way most professional breeders operate and I recommend that you start your research with a professional breeder. The majority of people who breed puppies professionally spend many hours researching pedigrees and invest years into the type of dog they like. For most of them, this is not a casual hobby but instead, a serious business.
I have never seen a litter that was not promoted as having champion bloodlines. What exactly does this mean? To me, it means the litter owner is forced to sell the merits of his litter because the parents may be something less than finished dogs. If you research every pedigree, you will find a titled dog somewhere in the past. It might be seven generations back, but there still is a champion in these bloodlines. When I look for a puppy, the focus is directed towards the parents and grandparents of the litter. Titled dogs in four to five prior generations mean little or nothing when purchasing a dog.
Champion bloodlines come in many forms depending upon which titles the owners wanted to pursue. When you look at a pedigree, it is common to see many different letters in front of or behind the registered name. What does all this alphabet soup mean? These letters represent titles given by different groups that test or evaluate dogs in their ability to perform certain skills. Don't get excited simply because the dog has a lot of titles in its background. Make sure those titles are in a field similar to what you want your dog to become. CH is a title awarded to dogs on their appearance and conformation. It has nothing to do with the dog’s ability to hunt or be trained. I would not recommend you to start training a hunting dog by purchasing a puppy whose pedigree was filled with champion show dogs.
Currently there are several groups that award titles to dogs. NFC, NAFC, FC and AFC titles are awarded to field trial dogs that have earned a certain number of points in particular events. Dogs with these titles have proven that they are capable of being trained to very high level.
Other pedigrees will have titles such as GMHR, MHR, WR, SR, MH, SH, JH or GRCH in front of or behind the registered names. These titles are earned in noncompetitive field tests or hunt tests, which emphasize a dog's ability to hunt. Most of this alphabet soup makes the future owner and breeder feel good about what they're doing. In my experience, I have seen many of these titled dogs for which I had little respect. Politics play big a part in the dog world, and quite often dogs do not deserve the titles they receive. So buyer beware, just because there are a lot of letters in front of a dog's name, there is no guarantee that the puppies will become finished dogs that their owners will be proud of.