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Choosing A Hunting Dog

Charles McHoleran- Breeder -Trainer

Hunting Dogs- Choosing a hunting dog isnít as easy as it looks, however following a few simple tips should make your days in the field training and hunting much more rewarding than if you bought the first hunting dog you came across. Choosing a hunting dog, is the first and the most important part of the training process. Selection of the right breed and litter will pay huge dividends both in the training process and hunting.

Choosing the hunting dog breed thatís right for you.

The first step in choosing a hunting dog is selecting the breed which is right for you. Picking the right breed of hunting dog begins and ends with you. This can be accomplished by talking with breeders, and researching the many hunting dog websites on the Internet. You will need to decide which type of hunting you will use the dog for most.

Some dogs crossover well. In my fifty odd years Iíve hunted with Beagles who would run a pheasant just as well as many bird dogs and a Brittany Spaniel that would make you look twice to make sure it wasnít a Beagle on a rabbit. Unfortunately most dogs have one concentration of hunting in their blood line so donít expect to get a super dog that will fit all of your hunting needs. Sharing the dog with your family also needs to be taken into consideration, along with how much exercise the pup will get on the non-hunting days.

Once you have an idea of what breeds you might be interested in then plan on visiting Breeders of each of the hunting dog breeds. Explain to them what type of hunting you Want your dog to perform. Also go into detail about what the dogs home life will be like, along with the amount of exercise the dog will receive and the amount of training time you will be able to devote to the dog. The Breeder will tell you if the breed he prefers is right for you and if he isnít heíll probably suggest what breed he would suggest for your situation. Visit three or four breeders of various hunting breeds and get their advice on whatís right for you.

Picking the right litter followed by the pup.

Always pick the right litter first followed by the pup itself. Hunting dogs are like thoroughbreds in which quality runs through the bloodlines. Yes a couple of mutts can produce a good hunting dog, however if you want to increase your chances of getting a great hunting dog then follow the bloodlines. Tell the Breeder you want to see both the Father and the Mother. This may require visiting a second kennel as often Breeders will bring stud dogs in to mate with their females. Also ask the Breeder if both Mother and Father hunt and would it be possible to accompany them for some field work, or an actual hunt itself. Ask to see the pedigrees of both parents and remember just because a pup has great show dog heritage it may not lead to a great hunting dog. Many times some of the better traits are bred out of show dogs. This is where taking the time to see the Mother and Father hunting or doing fieldwork is critical in making your decision.

The best way to give yourself every advantage is find an experienced breeder with a proven bloodline. Keep in mind you will be paying for the hunting dogís bloodlines as much as the dog itself.

Tips on choosing the right puppy from the litter.

When selecting a pup from a litter, look for the puppy that walks up to you and licks your hand while wagging his tail. Overlook the pup that is shy, cowers, or tries to bite. Also, donít let the pup "choose" you. This pup may be dominant which may cause problems for you in the future (unless youíre experienced with training and want a dominant dog for a specific purpose). Many suggest getting down on your knees and when you have the attention of the pups make a loud noise and see how they react. Avoid a dog that runs and fails to return.

By now the Breeder should know your particular situation, so take a moment to ask him or her which puppy they think would work the best for your situation. Breeders spend a lot of time with the pups and can tell you which one is most friendly, independent, hyper, etc.

If you visit a litter before their old enough to take home, try not to pick one out until theyíre at least six weeks old. Before six weeks is too early to know how each puppyís temperament is.

Donít take your puppy home until heís at least seven weeks old. Puppies need seven weeks to develop internally and to get proper time learning from their mother. Most reputable breeders wonít allow a puppy to leave until seven to eight weeks of age.

Be sure the puppy youíre choosing was handled often by the breeder. You should be able to pick up a puppy and handle him without him throwing a fit.

Consult a breed specific guide for what particular traits to look for in the hunting dog breed youíve Chosen. Many of the Internet dog breed sites can provide you with breed specific information to look for in your pup.

Although many Trainers will tell you differently Iím under the belief that training should start the moment you get home with your new puppy. A seven to eight week old puppy acquired in April may do a fair job in the field come October or November. The pup probably wonít do as well as a fully mature dog, but this is valuable learning time for the pup which can never be replaced.

Choosing a hunting dog is a very rewarding experience. The two of you will spend endless hours of training for the pupís first day in the field and itís on that day youíll realize the rewards of taking the time to make a good choice of a hunting dog.

Charles McHoleran- Guest Writer for Hunting & Fishing Gear Review


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