Buying A Gun Dog

Finding your first pup begins with research—and word of mouth is a good place to start.

Spring is the time of the year most hunters are on the lookout for a new pup, one that will be ready to hunt in the fall.

If the person already has a good hunting dog, chances are a good breeder is only a phone call away.

But what if this is your first attempt at finding a good hunting dog? Where do you start?

First, stay away from the bargain dogs and stick with the quality dogs. When we look at quality dogs, it’s from $500 to $1000 a pup. You have to look at your dog as a 10- to 12-year investment, that’s why $500 to $1000 is fairly reasonable.

A person is looking at an investment of $1000 to $2000, even before buying the dog. There’s three visits to the vet a year, at least one bag of dog food per month, a car kennel, a backyard kennel, books, miscellaneous training tools, and the list keeps going.

My first recommendation is don’t buy a bargain dog, you’re buying into trainability problems and physical problems.

Getting Started

In picking out a specific breeder, word of mouth usually is pretty reliable, either going to an individual or a professional kennel. Also, there’s literature available from the North American Hunting Association, the Retriever Field Trial News, and Gun Dog magazine that lists reputable breeders.

There are a few precautions prospective buyers should take before deciding on a specific individual or kennel:

  • Look at the premises. 
    Make sure it’s clean. The seller should be open about the entire operation.
  • Ask to see the puppy’s pedigree. 
    When we look at the pedigree, we look at the parents and grandparents. The last resort is the third generation option. The pup gets 50 percent of its makeup from its parents, 25 from its grandparents and 12 percent from its great grandparents.
  • Ask to see the parents or pictures of the parents and grandparents.
  • Have the seller explain the dog’s characteristics, its trainability.
  • If the dog is from field trial stock, ask to see the title. I strongly recommend buying from field trial stock. The closer the pup is to the titled dog, I feel their trainability is stronger. I advise staying away from show ring bench dogs. They’re bred for looks and not field trainability.

If breeders can’t walk you through some of these fundamentals, say ‘thank you’ and be on your way.

My final note of advice: If they are very well-bred, you might as well close your eyes and grab a puppy. They’re like bookends.