When a person really wants something, be it a second-hand luxury car, a new camera, a foreign holiday or, in the world of shooting, their own gundog puppy, they will often jump into a purchase with both feet, and with their eyes shut. I am sure that only once the stark reality of the additional costs of their new hobby emerges is thought given to whether it is affordable. A puppy, like a sports car, will eat away at the bank balance throughout its life.
You must expect a significant change to your lifestyle once a new gundog puppy has become part of your family. You will be responsible during the coming weeks, months and years for the correct maintenance of its health, care and welfare. Providing somewhere for it to live, eat and sleep, and its subsequent socialisation, exercise and training, will be your responsibility. Other luxury purchases can be put away in the cupboard or garage and brought out only on special occasions, but a puppy needs constant looking after so that it can live a long, happy, healthy life. It is not just a simple question of whether the bank balance is big enough, but whether there is enough space in the home and free time in the potential owners life to make the commitment to future care and welfare and, in the case of our gundog puppy, time to train it to become an obedient shooting companion.
Soon after the arrival of our first baby, when my wife Lyn would at last be at home instead of being out at work as a joint breadwinner, I had that urge to get a puppy. I was fortunate to have grown up with dogs and all sorts of pets and livestock, and was prepared for the amount of time and personal commitment that was required. However, I was naïve about the continuing costs. One income instead of two coming into the household was insufficient for a new baby and puppy. If it had not been for my good DIY and salvage skills producing kennel, run, leads, whistle, dummies and so on, plus, more importantly, a father in the butchery trade freely supplying tripe, bones and breast of lamb to mix with stale bread obtained weekly from the local bakery, dog ownership might have ended abruptly.
That was many years ago and, luckily, no harm came to dog or family members through my impetuous decision. The purchase prices vary greatly, depending on the chosen breed and sex. For a well-bred, eight-week-old, working-strain, pedigree gundog puppy, expect to pay from £350 to more than £1,000. This includes the Kennel Club registration document and usually a copy of the pedigree. You may receive a puppy pack containing food and other goodies, including rearing information, usually supplied free to the breeder by the puppy food manufacturer. However, that is when the freebies stop!
The puppy will immediately need somewhere comfortable to live and sleep. This may be a dog bed or dog crate in the family home, in a suitable outhouse or in a purpose-built kennel and run in the garden. It will need food and water bowls, a lead and collar with an ID tag for being taken out in public, canine toys, a marrow bone and a radio to relieve boredom in those first few weeks away from its litter mates.
Register with a local veterinary surgery for a thorough health check and its first vaccination. A second vaccination will follow in another two weeks, and in 12 months an annual booster will be required. If it is a docked breed, a microchip will be required before 12 weeks of age; for other breeds, a microchip is recommended for subsequent identification. Essential regular treatment for fleas, ticks, lice and worms will add to the bill (cheaper online from Vet-Medic). Other illnesses may arise naturally or through accidents, so health insurance should be considered but beware of the excess clause. Routine care such as grooming can easily be done by the owner with a high-quality rake and slicker brush. Nail-clipping may be necessary but needs skill, so another visit to the vet.
The expenditure has not finished: a suitable vehicle with safety harness, dog-guard or travelling box will be needed for safe travel to the vet, training, exercise and shooting trips later on. You will incur boarding kennel fees at holiday time and perhaps the kennel cough vaccination will be required. Add the expense of books, DVDs, training classes, one-to-one or residential training and the list is reaching completion. However, there is a vast amount of other training equipment on the market, which may drain more money from the purse.
So how much does this all add up to? Many of the items vary in price but the list on the right is a realistic breakdown of the possible mid-range cost of the first year of gundog puppy ownership. Gundog ownership can be surprisingly expensive, and this article has given me the opportunity to highlight all the possible hidden extras that could mar the owners first year. As you can see, £3,000 could easily be spent. Be prepared and embark upon this very rewarding experience with both feet firmly on the ground and your eyes wide open.