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December 29, 2010

How Do You Choose a New Pup?

By Chad Love

Previously I asked when was the best time (in terms of your old dog's age) to think about getting a replacement.

So let's say you've gone ahead and made the decision to get a new pup this spring. You've picked out the breed you want, put down your deposit, the litter's arrived and at seven or eight weeks it's time to make your choice. You peer into the whelping box and are confronted with an indistinguishable mass of butterball-fat puppy cuteness.

You start hyperventilating. Panic ensues. The decision you make right now will be with you and your family for at least the next decade or so. How to choose? Biggest? Boldest? Let your kids pick it out? Your wife? Go with the recommendation of the breeder?

There is perhaps no more angst-inducing decision than trying to figure out which puppy to take home. As such, there is perhaps no act in gundog-dom that has been given such attention in print.

Field & Stream Editor, Warren Miller, in his (old, very old) book "The American Hunting Dog" (copyright 1919 by Field & Stream Publishing Company) suggests eschewing sentimentality and cuteness...

"Your first pup will naturally be bought from some kennel whose stock you fancy. Most kennelmen are reliable and they have the advantage of having seen and noted the puppies when they were just born, which is the only time that any idea can be formed of their probable future behavior, for after the first few days they all become so many little fluffy balls of fat and cannot be judged as to bonal structure."

While the late F&S gundogs editor Bill Tarrant in his book "Best Way to Train Your Gundog: The Delmar Smith Method" has this to say in the introduction to an entire section devoted to the subject of picking a pup:

"The first rule for picking a pup: Don’t ever look to pup to pick a pup. Look to the parents. Fine the best sire and dam in the country, get a mating, grab a pup, and go."

OK, so physical conformation and the abilities of the parents are obviously important. I get that; Good dogs generally beget good dogs. But let's say all the pups look pretty even and the sire and dam are both great dogs? What method do you use to pick out an individual from that writhing mass of mystery and possibility?

I have to admit, my methods have often been far from logical or scientific, but I may be confronted with this dilemma (again) in the next year or so I'm interested in hearing how you do it. I could use the help...

Comments (23)

Top Rated
All Comments
from Douglas wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

Well, after losing my Brit this summer to cancer, I just today signed on to get a rescue Brit. I can't afford to buy a pup and this 2 yr old dog comes from good stock.
Lots of people are giving up their dogs due to the economy and theres lots to choose from out there.
I am looking forward to getting to know my new friend.

+7 Good Comment? | | Report
from Levi Banks wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

Having only picked out one pup in my life and that being already narrowed down to only 2 or 3 of the litter I can't say I have much experience, but here's how I did it. They were mutts from a purebred GSP dam with unknown sire, most likely some sort of black lab. I wasn't sure she would hunt, but the one I picked was fairly free ranging, but when you picked her up she was excited to see you. I knew she needed to be a good companion dog and I took a gamble on the hunting part(she was free after all). She loves to chase just about anything and has flushed all types of birds and game, she tries to retrieve anytime you shoot (gun or bow) and is a great companion. I lucked out and in 4-5 years I hope to again.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ngonseth wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

The pound had 6 male GWP pups and they were all in the same kennel. I took the pup that I liked the best based on my first look. I don't know if it was his color or the way he was sitting or what, but I liked him best at a glance and that felt right. I'm glad i picked him. Couldn't ask for a better dog.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Happy Myles wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

Obviously, bloodlines and successful parents are important. There have been many articles in major magazines and chapters in books on this subject. In my case I carefully analyze the litters behavior, then quickly take the one my wife likes. Saves a whole lot of trouble down the road. Kindest Regards

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from gman3186 wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

i didnt pick my dog he picked me i did not show attention to them but he sat right between my feet and stayed there. he turned 7 years old last month and when i look at him i still see that little puppy

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Charlie Nichols wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

Got to agree with gman on how to pick a pup...let them pick you. Sit down out in the yard with the sex (male or female)of the litter that you plan on taking from. The parents you have already researched...the breeder you also researched. It all comes down to that pup learning from you for the next few years. Your satisfactory training of that pup has to result from a Karma between you and the pup, and you might as well leave it to the dogs to tell you which ones you have that Zen with. Kind of scary ain't it? Fortunately the last dog my wife picked out and she wanted a female Brit. There was only one female in the litter. What a relief. Turned out she is smarter than the trainer....good blood lines usually always are.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from bbainbridge wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

The litter I looked at were six months old when I found them in the paper and only three were left. The guy brought them out one at a time and only Lexi ate the cookie I offered. Seemed like the best temperment, so there you have it. I totally lucked out!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jamesti wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

i got lucky. mine was the last of the litter and i saw a pic of him on the internet and decided he was the one. i called and got to meet him 2 days later. he was 9 weeks and wrestling with 120 lb. dogs like he owned them. that did it. best dog i ever owned.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from muddman wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

Dont know if that litter of chessies is what you will be choosing from, but if it was up to me I would pick the chocalate on the far left looking at the pic.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from chadlove wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

Thanks, Muddman. That's actually a litter I bred (accidentally, after my eldest son let the dogs out of the kennels...)about four years ago. The dam was my old chessie you see in the blog illustration and the sire was the dog you see in my avatar.

Although accidental, it turned out to be a helluva nice litter of pups. Most of them went to hunting homes, and if I recall correctly the one on the end you mention was a very nice male I almost ended up keeping. He's now spending most fall mornings in a duck blind somewhere in Texas...

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

I'm with the folks who said they let the pup pick them. My parents would do the research, then go see the pups and spend about 2 hours with all of them and one by one, some of them would lose interest, the ones that stay with you are the ones you want! The last time I looked into getting a pup, I called around and found some pups and the owners didn't seem to have a lick of sense, they had week old pups already picked out and they said I'd have to pay and pick a week old pup only to turn around the get the pup when it was 7 weeks old, I told them no thanks.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Paul Landry wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

My black lab was an accidental breeding. Picked him up for 25% (or less) of what he could have commanded had both parents been champions. Out of 7 possibles, I got a nice one that just sort of came to me. I couldn't really say why I picked him other than I wanted a male dog to watch the house during the day. He looked like the happiest dog in the litter, I guess.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from spentcartridge wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

I recently heard an interview with Mike Stewart of Wildrose Kennels and he said all the thinking is done when researching the litter. Once you have that decided, reach in and pick one. His feeling is that at 7 weeks, boldness and personality don't mean a lot. Much of that gets determined after you bring the pup home.

This is fine as far as I'm concerned since I pick by markings anyway. I want a dog that I like to look at.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jehnifer Quinn wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

I would ask the breeder if I could interact with the puppies... Sit amoung them observe. There always seems to be a natural draw to one of them or in a lot of cases they end up choosing you. I've known people to schedule two visits to "play" before chosing which one and the pick is always clear. Hard for me would be having to choose based off of pictures on a website.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from PAShooter wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

My best dog was the last of the litter, for some
reason(s) markings?,activity?,size?, she was not chosen. Unless there is some obvious problem, it is difficult to select the best dog of the litter. Good breeding stock is important though. Training is probably the the most important thing for a good dog.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Deeanna Harrington wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

Hi,

I would just like to throw my vote in with what Douglas said; now more than ever during this bad economy a lot of good dogs are being handed in. I know many of these dogs who need new homes would be a fine companion and excellent gun dog.

Deeanna
http://www.puppies-seeking-homes.com
http://www.puppies-seeking-homes.com/blog

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from kelmitch wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

After chooseing the breed I then searched for the best lines that I could afford.It doesnt matter weather it on the internet or local.I then ask to see the parents work and ask many questions what shots,tails,hips,have they been vet checked,etc.Then male female etc.are any left in most cases in great breeding they are sold long before seen and in my case the internet was a great tool.I found my litter on Gundogs Online and was posted on other gun dog sources.For what he cost me I made out pretty well for a UK spaniel of field trial lines compared to other litters of similar lines.His pedigree is posted on my profile now.And that brings another question will you breed this dog.A dog of great lines that is to be bread still in this economy brings enough to pay for itself.The going rate is from what I have heard whatever the pups will sell for and pick of the litter in a lot of cases.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from charlie elk wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

Let the puppy pick you is good especially if you have some feathers or fur of the game you hunt rolled in the end of your sleeve; the one who shows interest is as good as any.
later,
charlie

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

I picked the one who was most aggressive trailing after a duck wing on a string and who would come right to me. Also, he would retrieve the duck wing when thrown and keep it away from the other pups. That at 8 1/2 weeks.

He turned out to be a 95 lb retrieving machine, but not too friendly with most other dawgs. A big Chesapeake whupped him in a scramble over a goose when he was 6 months old. That hasn't happened since...

Just yesterday he went across 200 yards of frozen marsh and 100 yards of frigid bay water after my son's cripple. He brought it right back, cold as it was.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bassmasterking wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

Its called a grab and go-

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jere39 wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

After picking a breed: French Brittany, I began looking for a breeder with pup prospects in the foreseeable future. The breed is not nearly as popular as it ought to be here in PA, so it was a long distance search. I found a breeder who stressed several key qualities, including strong hunting instinct and almost as strong companionability. He and his family kept me aprised of the growing balls of fur through pictures, video, and some great comments from the kids in the family. It was clear this litter got lots of attention from people. The breeder steered me toward a particular black and white dog with a great show of hunting sense. But who knows what that means at 6-8 weeks, and as far as I know, the breeder was presenting the same great recommendations for each of his pups to other future owners. Suffice it to say, on greeting day, I couldn't have been more excited. Yesterday was 2nd anniversary, and I have found every day with this dog a treasure.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

What do you think about picking the runt? I got a chocolate lab female from a guy that said his grand dad was a good bird dog trainer, and recommended choosing the runt if you wanted a dog with lots of energy. Mine has lots of energy, and is very aggressive, but don't know how much good thinking went into that strategy. If you wanted a dog to retrieve big Canadian geese mine wouldn't be the dog, but she is a good, upland bird dog with no quit in her.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from mexhunter wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

The trick grandpa taught me was getting about 5-10 pups of about 3 or 4 different breeds in a room or somewhere, and toss a live a live flightless bird. Look for obious enthusiasm, fighting for it or rarely, giving it back to you. This is for upland dogs mostly.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Douglas wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

Well, after losing my Brit this summer to cancer, I just today signed on to get a rescue Brit. I can't afford to buy a pup and this 2 yr old dog comes from good stock.
Lots of people are giving up their dogs due to the economy and theres lots to choose from out there.
I am looking forward to getting to know my new friend.

+7 Good Comment? | | Report
from gman3186 wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

i didnt pick my dog he picked me i did not show attention to them but he sat right between my feet and stayed there. he turned 7 years old last month and when i look at him i still see that little puppy

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from chadlove wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

Thanks, Muddman. That's actually a litter I bred (accidentally, after my eldest son let the dogs out of the kennels...)about four years ago. The dam was my old chessie you see in the blog illustration and the sire was the dog you see in my avatar.

Although accidental, it turned out to be a helluva nice litter of pups. Most of them went to hunting homes, and if I recall correctly the one on the end you mention was a very nice male I almost ended up keeping. He's now spending most fall mornings in a duck blind somewhere in Texas...

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Happy Myles wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

Obviously, bloodlines and successful parents are important. There have been many articles in major magazines and chapters in books on this subject. In my case I carefully analyze the litters behavior, then quickly take the one my wife likes. Saves a whole lot of trouble down the road. Kindest Regards

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from muddman wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

Dont know if that litter of chessies is what you will be choosing from, but if it was up to me I would pick the chocalate on the far left looking at the pic.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Deeanna Harrington wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

Hi,

I would just like to throw my vote in with what Douglas said; now more than ever during this bad economy a lot of good dogs are being handed in. I know many of these dogs who need new homes would be a fine companion and excellent gun dog.

Deeanna
http://www.puppies-seeking-homes.com
http://www.puppies-seeking-homes.com/blog

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from jamesti wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

i got lucky. mine was the last of the litter and i saw a pic of him on the internet and decided he was the one. i called and got to meet him 2 days later. he was 9 weeks and wrestling with 120 lb. dogs like he owned them. that did it. best dog i ever owned.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

I'm with the folks who said they let the pup pick them. My parents would do the research, then go see the pups and spend about 2 hours with all of them and one by one, some of them would lose interest, the ones that stay with you are the ones you want! The last time I looked into getting a pup, I called around and found some pups and the owners didn't seem to have a lick of sense, they had week old pups already picked out and they said I'd have to pay and pick a week old pup only to turn around the get the pup when it was 7 weeks old, I told them no thanks.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Levi Banks wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

Having only picked out one pup in my life and that being already narrowed down to only 2 or 3 of the litter I can't say I have much experience, but here's how I did it. They were mutts from a purebred GSP dam with unknown sire, most likely some sort of black lab. I wasn't sure she would hunt, but the one I picked was fairly free ranging, but when you picked her up she was excited to see you. I knew she needed to be a good companion dog and I took a gamble on the hunting part(she was free after all). She loves to chase just about anything and has flushed all types of birds and game, she tries to retrieve anytime you shoot (gun or bow) and is a great companion. I lucked out and in 4-5 years I hope to again.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from kelmitch wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

After chooseing the breed I then searched for the best lines that I could afford.It doesnt matter weather it on the internet or local.I then ask to see the parents work and ask many questions what shots,tails,hips,have they been vet checked,etc.Then male female etc.are any left in most cases in great breeding they are sold long before seen and in my case the internet was a great tool.I found my litter on Gundogs Online and was posted on other gun dog sources.For what he cost me I made out pretty well for a UK spaniel of field trial lines compared to other litters of similar lines.His pedigree is posted on my profile now.And that brings another question will you breed this dog.A dog of great lines that is to be bread still in this economy brings enough to pay for itself.The going rate is from what I have heard whatever the pups will sell for and pick of the litter in a lot of cases.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ngonseth wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

The pound had 6 male GWP pups and they were all in the same kennel. I took the pup that I liked the best based on my first look. I don't know if it was his color or the way he was sitting or what, but I liked him best at a glance and that felt right. I'm glad i picked him. Couldn't ask for a better dog.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Charlie Nichols wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

Got to agree with gman on how to pick a pup...let them pick you. Sit down out in the yard with the sex (male or female)of the litter that you plan on taking from. The parents you have already researched...the breeder you also researched. It all comes down to that pup learning from you for the next few years. Your satisfactory training of that pup has to result from a Karma between you and the pup, and you might as well leave it to the dogs to tell you which ones you have that Zen with. Kind of scary ain't it? Fortunately the last dog my wife picked out and she wanted a female Brit. There was only one female in the litter. What a relief. Turned out she is smarter than the trainer....good blood lines usually always are.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from PAShooter wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

My best dog was the last of the litter, for some
reason(s) markings?,activity?,size?, she was not chosen. Unless there is some obvious problem, it is difficult to select the best dog of the litter. Good breeding stock is important though. Training is probably the the most important thing for a good dog.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from bbainbridge wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

The litter I looked at were six months old when I found them in the paper and only three were left. The guy brought them out one at a time and only Lexi ate the cookie I offered. Seemed like the best temperment, so there you have it. I totally lucked out!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Paul Landry wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

My black lab was an accidental breeding. Picked him up for 25% (or less) of what he could have commanded had both parents been champions. Out of 7 possibles, I got a nice one that just sort of came to me. I couldn't really say why I picked him other than I wanted a male dog to watch the house during the day. He looked like the happiest dog in the litter, I guess.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jehnifer Quinn wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

I would ask the breeder if I could interact with the puppies... Sit amoung them observe. There always seems to be a natural draw to one of them or in a lot of cases they end up choosing you. I've known people to schedule two visits to "play" before chosing which one and the pick is always clear. Hard for me would be having to choose based off of pictures on a website.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from mexhunter wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

The trick grandpa taught me was getting about 5-10 pups of about 3 or 4 different breeds in a room or somewhere, and toss a live a live flightless bird. Look for obious enthusiasm, fighting for it or rarely, giving it back to you. This is for upland dogs mostly.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from spentcartridge wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

I recently heard an interview with Mike Stewart of Wildrose Kennels and he said all the thinking is done when researching the litter. Once you have that decided, reach in and pick one. His feeling is that at 7 weeks, boldness and personality don't mean a lot. Much of that gets determined after you bring the pup home.

This is fine as far as I'm concerned since I pick by markings anyway. I want a dog that I like to look at.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

I picked the one who was most aggressive trailing after a duck wing on a string and who would come right to me. Also, he would retrieve the duck wing when thrown and keep it away from the other pups. That at 8 1/2 weeks.

He turned out to be a 95 lb retrieving machine, but not too friendly with most other dawgs. A big Chesapeake whupped him in a scramble over a goose when he was 6 months old. That hasn't happened since...

Just yesterday he went across 200 yards of frozen marsh and 100 yards of frigid bay water after my son's cripple. He brought it right back, cold as it was.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from charlie elk wrote 3 years 15 weeks ago

Let the puppy pick you is good especially if you have some feathers or fur of the game you hunt rolled in the end of your sleeve; the one who shows interest is as good as any.
later,
charlie

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

What do you think about picking the runt? I got a chocolate lab female from a guy that said his grand dad was a good bird dog trainer, and recommended choosing the runt if you wanted a dog with lots of energy. Mine has lots of energy, and is very aggressive, but don't know how much good thinking went into that strategy. If you wanted a dog to retrieve big Canadian geese mine wouldn't be the dog, but she is a good, upland bird dog with no quit in her.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bassmasterking wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

Its called a grab and go-

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jere39 wrote 3 years 14 weeks ago

After picking a breed: French Brittany, I began looking for a breeder with pup prospects in the foreseeable future. The breed is not nearly as popular as it ought to be here in PA, so it was a long distance search. I found a breeder who stressed several key qualities, including strong hunting instinct and almost as strong companionability. He and his family kept me aprised of the growing balls of fur through pictures, video, and some great comments from the kids in the family. It was clear this litter got lots of attention from people. The breeder steered me toward a particular black and white dog with a great show of hunting sense. But who knows what that means at 6-8 weeks, and as far as I know, the breeder was presenting the same great recommendations for each of his pups to other future owners. Suffice it to say, on greeting day, I couldn't have been more excited. Yesterday was 2nd anniversary, and I have found every day with this dog a treasure.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment