How To Pick Out a New Puppy

Picking Your Next Pup
by Greg Ye- Professional Gun Dog Trainer

Does the following sound familiar? Almost overnight, an urge to buy a hunting dog came to life. After scanning the Sunday paper, the race was on to get a pup. “AKC Registered Lab Pups from Proven Hunters” sprang off the page and frantic calls were made to set up a time to go look. Once on site, a little fella grabbed a pant leg, wouldn’t let go and pup and family were all home by early afternoon. Over the course of several months, the pup ran the household. The little guy loved to chase knotted white socks and the little canvas bumper with a pheasant wing attached. Pup even learned to come back so the bumper would be thrown again.

October 1st was fast approaching, so Dad went off to the trap range to bone up on clay birds and while at it, might just as well bring little dude to expose him to gun-fire. Now the big day, The Opener, and as it was, the pup was totally overwhelmed. Pup heard the first shots and began to cower. A duck was knocked down and pup didn’t see it because he was haul’n ass back to the truck. The little knocker was drug back to the scene of the crime and chucked in after the duck. After floundering for some time and after 18 rocks were thrown, the little monster located the bird and after some calling, returned to shore with no bird. From this dubious start, the little fella soon realized hunting was no place he wanted to be! Well, it really doesn’t matter because after the hunting fiasco, he showed up lame and the vet pronounced he was dysplastic but could be remedied for $1500.00 per hip.

As a pro dog trainer, we see pups come in for training in all modes of socialization and breeding. As a percentage, I would say the vast majority of the gun dog pups we see come from a similar scenario as described above. Want to save major aggravation and be sure that a new family member will actually hunt? Well, let me explain the basics of puppy buying and raising

Rarely are pups in the “Classifieds” a good buy. It’s what the ad doesn’t say that should be alarming. Never respond to an ad that doesn’t include genetic clearances such as OFA and CERF, AKC field titles or non- AKC title distinctions earned by parents or mention of a guarantee. Want to see some “Real” retriever ads? Go to the “Hunting Dogs” Section for the breed you are looking for, or even check out the website. The ads on Working Retriever Central’s website are screened for proper content and are pulled if they do not meet certain criteria. Study the ads to learn why reputable breeders give the buyer certain information. Call a listed breeder and ask questions about titles, clearances and guarantees if you don’t understand the lingo. Here’s a novel idea- call a professional trainer and see if they know about a breeding!

What makes a good hunting dog? I would answer that a reasonable hunting partner has a well-developed prey drive. Even a well-bred dog can be ruined easily. Genetics can predict a certain outcome but socialization can insure a predictable outcome. In other words, withhold live birds from a puppy and by 6 months of age, the pup may well be either a useless hunter or take untold patience and training to regain a prey drive.

Puppies need to be on birds at 5 weeks of age!!!! Good breeders love to show off their pup’s bird work at the time puppies go home at 7 weeks. Birds need to be a part of the socialization package consistently until they are at least young adults. Wings on bumpers are a joke as are artificial scented bumpers. Pups need to experience the flutter of wings, the taste of down and the trail of fresh scent left by birds. It doesn’t take much. One clipped wing pigeon per week is often plenty. Freeze the birds once they are dispatched and continue playing productive games when live birds are inconvenient to use. Remember the pro who had good puppy ideas? Maybe a once per week drive out to some training grounds supervised by a pro is a good idea? Some trainers offer puppy socialization programs that include birds. Is there a game farm close by? What about joining a retriever club?

Just remember two things when it comes time to consider a new pup. Buy a pup from a reputable source who breeds proven, titled performers with genetic clearances and gives the new guy enough real birds to develop his prey drive. Whether the pup will be home schooled or sent to a pro, the job of training the new guy will be rewarding and yield positive results in the shortest period of time if socialized to prey and a hunting environment from the very beginning.


Professional Trainer Greg Ye
Address: 1182 140th Ave
New Richmond, WI 54017
Phone: 715-246-7040

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