The most reasonable way to locate a well-bred puppy for yourself is by doing a great deal of research. Ask each breeder why he bred the parents of the litter. If they cannot document good reasons, you might want to look elsewhere. Any time we breed dogs, we should strive to improve the breed by matching parents with similar positive traits and dissimilar negative traits. Accentuating positive traits and diminishing negative ones through selective breeding should remove certain faults within a few generations. Before buying a puppy from a breeder, make sure he is doing the right thing by breeding quality dogs for the right reasons.
In looking at past litters, almost every puppy will show striking similarity to either its mother or father in appearance and personality. Ask the litter owner if either of the parents have been bred before. If they have, get names and telephone numbers of the people who purchased previous puppies. Call these folks and see if they are pleased with their purchase. Tell them what your intentions are with your dog and see if they would recommend the breeder to you for that purpose. This is not going to guarantee success but it certainly increases the odds of you getting the type of puppy you desire.
My favorite way of finding a puppy that fits my needs involves repeated breedings. I let someone else do the experimenting of seeing what the first litter turned out to be. If the pups out of the first litter look good, have an excellent personality, want to please their owners, show the ability to be trained a high level, have a strong desire to retrieve, and are genetically sound then I want one out of the next litter. Repeated breedings of good dogs are the safest way for you get a high quality dog.
After you have done your homework and researched quality litters available to you, it is time to hit the road. Look at as many litters as possible so you will not second-guess yourself. It amazes me how many people will purchase a puppy without doing any research. They don't think about the next twelve years that they will be spending with this dog. A word of warning about going to visit prospective letters, don't take your checkbook! Visiting a litter of puppies can be a highly emotional experience. You may end up buying a dog that does not fit your future needs because you can't tell your children or wife, ”NO.”
Picking the correct litter is the hardest part of buying a puppy. Now it's time to pick the individual puppy that you will be spending a great deal of time with for the next decade. Do you want a little boy or a little girl? I am asked every day whether a male or a female makes a better retriever. I see little difference in the final product. Boys seem to mature quicker but that is not always a good thing. If you can tolerate the female heat cycle, I don't think it matters which sex you choose. However, it can be quite frustrating for your little girl to come into heat the week of a national competition or when you have planned a hunting trip and your gunning partners all have male dogs. In both cases you and your dog probably don’t get to play.
When it comes time to select your puppy, how does anyone know which pup to choose? I have heard of many tests to evaluate the seven to week old puppy in hopes of not making a mistake. The problem with these tests is that puppies are rarely consistent in their performances. The most dominant puppy in the litter may be asleep because he exhausted himself at the food bowl earlier. I prefer to discuss my needs with the breeder and ask him to help me with my puppy selection since he sees the puppies on a more consistent basis. In the final analysis, I let the puppy pick me. If several have caught my eye, I play with them and select the pup that wants to be with me or will not leave my pants leg alone. When unsure, let your wife choose the puppy. We all know that women never make a mistake and therefore will pick the perfect puppy.
Stay tuned for the 3rd and final article in the series about choosing started vs. finished dogs.
Always check your local and state regulations related to dog training and the use of game birds on private and public property.