The speed, agility and drive of good hunting dogs inject excitement into what might otherwise be a so-so hunt. The decision to purchase a hunting dog, however, is not to be taken lightly. A dog poses a significant financial investment, say nothing of a serious time commitment. The following considerations will help prospective dog owners make well informed decisions before adding a new four-legged friend to the family.
Hunting Dog Breeds Have Different Purposes
Be true to yourself and your new dog. First consider if you want an upland hunting dog or waterfowl dog. You might love German shorthaired pointers, but if duck hunting is your passion, a big-running, short-haired dog might not be the best choice.
In general, pointing breeds, such as German shorthaired pointers and English setters, are upland hunters that were bred to run hard and work the cover so the hunter doesn’t have to. Pointing breeds are not necessarily natural retrievers. Flushing dogs, such as English springer spaniels, generally work a much closer range and are usually great retrievers. Retrieving breeds, such as some Labrador or Chesapeake Bay retrievers, can more easily endure cold and water and were bred to sit and wait calmly until they are given the cue to retrieve. Be realistic about the type of hunting you most often do. Then look for the breed for the job.
Good Hunting Dogs Will Suit Your Hunting Style
Amongst breeds, and even within breeds, there are a lot of characteristics to consider. Smaller dogs tend to have more endurance and are faster runners and are also physically easier to handle. This can greatly benefit smaller framed dog owners.
Choose a dog that suits your climate. Lighter colored dogs often fare better in hot, sunny climates and may be easier to spot in thick cover.
The single most important characteristic to consider is temperament of the dog, especially if the dog will live in the house with small children. All of these considerations should be written down on paper when selecting a hunting dog.
Even the Best Hunting Dogs Need Training
A common misconception is that hunting dogs are born ready to hunt. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Although they are born with an innate desire to hunt, a hunting dog’s instincts need to be nurtured and cultivated through repetition. Owners should decide whether they have the means to train a young pup by themselves or seek the help of a trainer.
A good hunting dog trainer will expose puppies to live birds as soon as possible. This builds their prey drive and familiarizes them to bird scent. Another option is to buy a started dog that has already received some level of training. The dog will cost more, but it’s often dollars well spent considering the cost and time required to raise and train a puppy from scratch.
Find a Reputable Breeder
Once you have determined the breed and identified the characteristics you want in your dog, then it’s time to look for a reputable breeder. Look for a breeder that has a proven record of turning out dogs that consistently display the characteristics that are important to you. This cannot be over stressed. Are you looking for a calm family dog in the house, but want drive and intensity in the field? Or maybe you are looking for a high endurance pointing dog to cover a lot of ground. A good breeder is one that has worked for years to systematically hone his gene pool to display certain characteristics in his dogs. Ask the breeder a lot of questions so you feel comfortable that his dogs are a good match for your needs.
In most cases, a puppy should stay with its litter until it is at least seven weeks old. Some breeders prefer to wait until the pups are eight to nine weeks old. Regular socialization to people, children and other dogs already should have started. On the final day of sale the breeder should supply the puppy’s certification papers. He should also offer a guarantee of satisfaction that will include health and temperament.
With an optimal lifestyle and preventative wellness care, hunting dogs can easily live to be 15 years old or more. It’s crucial to avoid the all-too-common buyer’s remorse through careful planning. The time commitment in the first three years of a dog’s life is substantial. Dog owners who do their homework and invest in their dog’s training will have a dedicated hunting companion for years to come.