Hunting dogs 101: Picking a pup
When I started the search for a new puppy last spring I didn’t know what I was doing, so I enlisted the help of Tom Dokken. Dokken is well known in the dog world as a top-notch trainer and is as close to a retriever whisperer as you could become without actually transforming into a canine. I set Dokken on a search for a dog that would be part family dog, part shed hunter, part upland hunter, and part waterfowl dog.
He kept me informed throughout the process and explained to me what he was looking for in a litter that had the right background. Bloodlines containing both field trial champions and master hunters were his goal, and he didn’t stop until that is what he located.
Those pedigrees help ensure that the pups will have a strong retrieving desire, will be smarter and thus more trainable, and overall tip the odds in your favor that you’ll get a potential-laden puppy. He was right, of course, and although my dog was more expensive it wasn’t like I had to spend thousands of dollars. In fact, the price tag was twice what I paid for my last dog, who came from a farm and had nothing in the way of a solid pedigree.
If you’re on the hunt for a new four-legged addition to your family, heed Dokken’s advice. Seek out a litter that comes from solid breeding on both the maternal and fraternal side. Even if you never plan to have your dog compete in a field trial or master hunter trial, look for those achievements. Those dogs tend to be smart and easier to train, which is exactly what all of us are looking for in a dog.
Remember that there are no guarantees with animals, however the best bet for achieving the desired result involves plenty of bloodline research. It’s a small price to pay for a 10- or 12-year commitment.