Six Pointers for Picking Your Next Pup

15a01fb8-8137-4d7f-8b26-1dd1791ef051 This story appears courtesy of Purina

Spring is a prime time to add a new sporting dog to your family. Narrowing down a breed and picking a pup, though, can be overwhelming. Here, pro trainers and Purina ambassadors Rick and Ronnie Smith offer some additional valuable advice on navigating the process.
“As a trainer, I see hunters with various breeds hunting different types of game. I’m often asked which is best, but there’s no surefire answer,” says Ronnie Smith of Ronnie Smith Kennels in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. “Choosing your next sporting dog isn’t the time or place to cut corners,”
Rick Smith of Huntsmith in Crozier, Virginia, agrees. “Do your research, seek recommendations from people you trust and go to a reputable breeder.”

Consider Your Goals 

Think about what, when and where you’ll be hunting. If you desire a dog that will pick up downed game, choose a retrieving breed. Or, if hunting duck in the morning and pheasant in the afternoon is important to you, then you may want to choose a versatile breed. Likewise, if you’re going to hunt in south Texas, you may choose a short-coated breed such as a pointer, or if you live in northern Minnesota, you might opt for a long-coated breed like an English setter.

Talk Shop 

Don’t let your research end at Googling which sporting breed is the best fit for you. “The Internet is not a reliable resource,” Ronnie Smith advises. “Go to field trials and other sporting dog club events to see different breeds in action. This will give you a first-hand look at which breed may be the best application to you and your family and that will facilitate the type of hunting you’re looking to do.”

Complement Your Personality 

Temperament is paramount. Select a breed that meshes well with you and is suitable to your lifestyle. “Ideally, there should be an understanding between you and your dog,” Ronnie Smith explains. “If you’re more alpha, you don’t want a passive dog, and vice versa, if you tend to be more passive, you don’t want an alpha-minded dog.”

Do Your Homework 

Once you settle on a breed that best suits your needs, it’s time to diligently search for a reputable breeder with strong hunting bloodlines. This should not be a hasty decision. “You get what you pay for,” says Rick Smith. “A good breeder will give you a good dog to work with.” Once you find a trustworthy breeder, talk to him or her about what type of dog you’re after so he or she can make a recommendation on a particular litter and pup.

Hands On 

You should visit your breeder’s kennel to see the pups in person, as well as their sire and dam, if possible. “You want a dog that’s built right and moves easily to withstand a day of hunting,” Rick Smith explains. “You’ll be able to tell what you’ll get by watching the sire and dam.” You can also pick up and handle the pups to get an idea for each one’s temperament.

Flip a Coin 

As long as you’ve chosen a reputable breeder who produces consistent, solid breedings, picking a pup really comes down to chance. “My best piece of advice is to take a quarter, flip it, take that pup home and don’t look back,” Rick Smith says. “You’ll have as much success with that pup as you would stressing over how to pick the ‘best’ one.”

Pro Tip

“Bringing your puppy home is an exciting time and becomes even more exciting once he or she starts the training process. These days, pups are so well bred that they are highly intelligent and pick up on early introductory training quickly. However, don’t forget that your pup is still a pup. It may be tempting to rapidly progress through his or her training, but pump the brakes and take it slow. Support your pup’s natural and healthy development, and training will follow suit," says pro trainer and Purina ambassador Josh Miller of River Stone Kennels in New Richmond, Wisconsin.