_First and foremost, know the person who's selling the dog or know someone who recommends him (or her) highly. "Started" means different things to different people. The guy who sold me my dog said he would point, back and retrieve. I saw the dog point, once, and took his word for the rest of it. After I got him home and worked him a bit my impression is that the dog had, at some point, done all three things but he was far from reliable on any of them. It took three months at a trainer to get him really steady on point, the retrieving has been my summer project and the backing will just have to wait. Don't let any of this deter you, just don't jump the gun like I did. Before you plunk down your money, make the seller work the dog for you to your satisfaction.