If your considering buying a puppy or started dog ask your self these questions first. In the big picture what are you buying a dog for? Are you looking for a pet to grow and bond with your family? Do you have time and the facility to raise a puppy or do you want a dog ready to hunt, listen and obey?
Buying a puppy is a big decision in itself. Assuming you have a yard, compatible lifestyle, and are mentally prepared to raise a puppy. Just know now that buying any puppy is always a gamble. Even the most contentious breeders can’t guarantee the dog will be genetically sound in two years. Will the puppy be capable of training to the level you desire? No one can truly answer these questions. You can raise your chances of winning the gamble by making smart choices.
- Buy from a respected bloodline and breeder. No back yard accidents from the news paper unless your looking to start a shelter. In which case, you should save a dog from the pound.
- Check that the parents have the proper health clearances. A bare minimum of Hip, Elbow, and eye clearances from OFA and CERF.
- The parents should be breed for hunting and used for that purpose.
- Look closely at the temperament of the parents. That is likely to be what your getting.
Raising and training a puppy from scratch is a real joy and can be very rewarding if you truly have the time it is going to require. By taking this route, you may get that once in a lifetime dog that can’t be found started. Just know it’s not going to come easy.
What is a Started dog? It can have several different meanings depending on sellers preferences and what they consider a finished dog to be. In it’s truest form, it’s a dog that has begun training and knows the bare minimum required to start hunting. Typically this means obedience, retrieving to hand, and the dog has a good understanding of steadiness. Many professionals trainers will train their started dogs to handle before sale (handling is the use of a whistle and hand signals that direct a dog to a bird that he didn’t see fall). It’s a bell and whistle addition to some hunters, but a extremely useful tool in my book. This brings a dog a little closer to being finished, but still considered started. It takes a lot of real hunting experience to be a finished retriever in my book.
Started dogs are a much simpler path to take. First off there is no gamble. They are old enough so you can see exactly what your buying. In most cases they will already have health clearances or at least have preliminary x-rays and assessments for you to consider. Most importantly, You can evaluate their ability and temperament before you spend a dime. The cost of a started dog is generally no more money then if you had taken the puppy route and had it trained. If your worried about the lack of a bond between you and the dog, Don’t. After a few weeks of spending time with you, it will be as if you raised them yourself.
- Good started dogs can be found though several professionals who train puppies with the intention of selling them started. There is a big market for this and you’ll know it’s not being sold at that age because there is something wrong with it.
- You can also contact your local Retriever club and ask about field trial or competition wash outs. Generally, they are very well trained and should be capable of doing what you require. In this case, always ask why they are selling the dog. Generally, it’s because the dog lacks the ability to be competitive. That doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be a good hunting companion. Although trials involve retrieving, it’s entirely different then real duck hunting. No matter how impressed you are by what the dog can do, make sure it’s the right match for you.
Whether you start with a puppy or started dog, there will be a period of learning at the duck blind. No matter how much training goes in to a dog, the only way to get good at hunting is by doing it. Training will give you the control and tools to help the dog through this transitional period. Take your time, find a dog that fits and your experiences together will be grand.