Picking a New Retriever Puppy

Picking your new pup is a serious job that requires serious planning. There is more to choosing your new hunting partner than simply picking a breed and going to pick him or her up. In order to find the perfect fit for what you are looking for in your gun dog requires research and patience.

Picking a Breeder
Most gun dog owners, trainers and breeders can agree the first step in choosing your new puppy is to start looking at the stock he came from. When choosing your breeder you need to look for breeders of capable, proven hunting dogs. If you haven’t seen your pups parents in field trials or hunt tests, reach out to the breeder and ask for a video or even if you can go hunting with them. Get to know the breeders and their dogs, get references, and visit the breeder instead of only using phone call and emails. Choosing a breeder is more than just who has the cutest pups.
Mark Romanack of Wild Fowl Magazine online wrote,  “All puppies are adorable, and it is easy to get caught up in the emotions associated with visiting and handling young dogs. It is critical to stay focused on the task of selecting a pup and working toward the goal of choosing the best of the best.
Good breeding produces dogs with capable hunting instincts, and also ensures that vital physical and emotional characteristics such as eyesight, enthusiasm, drive and the desire to please are present. I can’t emphasize enough that researching the best breeding is the fast track to making sure puppies have all the tools they need to become capable hunters and long-term hunting companions.”
via Tips for Picking Your Next Retriever

Male or Female?
Once you’ve chosen your breeder, it’s time to pick your pup. The sex of your new dog is mostly about personal preference. True, males and females can have some consistent personality differences, but just as a male dog can be aggressive, so can a female.
Brian Lynn of Outdoor Life online had this to say about the pros and cons of both male and female dogs: “While we can only speak in generalities, males often tend to challenge you mentally. Not like trying to trick you, but stand up to you and make you prove the exercise to them; females will sometimes pout if you push too much (not to say there aren’t alpha females), but can also be more affectionate, too.
Males like to pee on everything and have more of a tendency to fight with other dogs, but both are issues that can be resolved with training. Females have their heat cycle to contend with and Murphy’s Law will almost always have that come about during a special hunt or a big competition. While a cycle will keep you from competing, it won’t keep you from hunting her; but hormones could affect her mood, responsiveness and performance. Let’s not forget, however, that a good female is hard to come by, and can also produce puppies, and will therefore almost always cost more than a male.”
via Do You Prefer Male or Female Puppies?

Getting your new puppy home: Flying vs. Driving
Now after all the research, decisions and waiting your breeder finally calls to say your puppy has been born and in just a couple of months it will be time for you to pick him or her up. While this may seem like a cut and dry issue, there are a few things to think about and decide on before it’s time for your puppy to come home.
Noted dog breeder and trainer (?) Butch Goodwin says although it may seem like an easy decision to drive to pick up your new puppy there are two factors to consider when deciding HOW your dog will make it to you.

  1. Stress
    Flying for just a few hours will cause a lot less stress for your dogs than a several hour road trip in car. You can also fly with your dog in a soft crate so even if your flight gets delayed your pup stays with you.
  1. Vaccinations and exposure
    Goodwin wrote, “…a seven- or eight-week-old puppy has generally had only one vaccination. It is possible that he no longer has the full level of immunity that he got from his mother and likely that he hasn’t had his full series of shots yet. So, when you drive for more than a few hours, where do you stop and let him out to relieve himself? Is there anyplace to stop along the route home where you can be absolutely positive that another dog hasn’t spread parvovirus or some other killer disease in that area? Certainly you can’t let your pup out at a gas station or truck stop — that’s where everybody stops to let their dogs out. Fast food places are just as bad. The ‘dog area’ at highway rest areas is probably the worst. And, if you have to stop overnight, the grass areas or ‘dog only’ areas surrounding the motel parking lot are likely extremely contaminated and often covered with – all manner of trash.”
    via New Pup?: If you plan to drive to get him – Think again. 
Look for socialized pups with hunting potential
So you’ve finally made it home with your new gun dog puppy. Now begins the tedious process of socializing and training your dog to be the hunting companion you need.
A well socialized puppy simply means your pup has been handled by people frequently and is comfortable around other people and dogs. Your puppy’s socialization should have begun with the breeder. In the article “Picking a Puppy”  for Gundog Magazine Jerry Thoms wrote, “Spooky puppies afraid of people are difficult to evaluate and hard to sell. So most responsible gun dog breeders make a specific point of spending time with any litter,” Roettger finds. “The idea is to develop pups that are friendly, happy and at ease around anyone who wants to hold them, play with them or just watch them.”
Also during this time is when you’ll start to set the foundation of your gun dog’s training and get a real feel for the potential of your new puppy. Thoms said, “Testing seven-week puppies for hunting potential may seem like a real stretch. But in our experience, there are some fairly consistent behaviors that can be identified to predict a young dog’s hunting future.”

via Picking a Puppy

For more info on picking your new puppy here are a few extra online articles: