Gun dog puppy: She’s five years old and I only want to have one litter from her, but because she has been such a good shooting gun dog I want to keep a bitch pup so I can carry on the line.

The trouble is I don’t know which gun dog puppy to pick from the litter; I once had a bitch with hip displaysia and don’t want that problem again.

I’m reluctant to keep two pups because people say two gun dog puppies kept together never train as well as one brought up on its own.

Can you advise me?

JEREMY HUNT SAYS: Anyone who goes out to buy one pup from a litter takes a risk on its working ability, but you have to assume that if a pup’s parents are proven workers there’s a good chance it will have inherited some of their traits.

Whether it will be a better or worse working gun dog than its parents is guesswork when you are picking a gun dog puppy at eight weeks of age.

Even if you buy a pup from a litter where both parents have been health tested – including hip-scored- there’s always a small chance there could be a genetic blip and two parents with good hip scores can produce progeny with high hip scores.

That’s the unpredictability of genetics.

Providing you get enough bitch pups in the litter, you’ll have more options.

Keeping two pups in the short- to medium-term will enable you to make a more balanced decision initially – certainly in terms of their temperament and character.

And providing you observe them closely in everything they do you should be able to discern individual traits in each pup.

Depending on how long you keep them, you should be able to discover more about how they respond to the early stages of training, how responsive they are, how bold they are and – possibly most important of all – how they get on with you, the handler.

Litter sisters can be very different.

Even if they are equal in all things, you may not want to keep both pups until they are 12 months old, the age at which you can have their hips X-rayed.

So run them both on until six months old and then find a vet with a good reputation for radiography who will be able to X-ray them and give you an unofficial but informed assessment of how their hips are developing.

Any abnormalities are usually beginning to show up at this stage.

Once you have that information it should help you make a decision.

As far as running two pups on together is concerned, it’s not something I’ve ever been too worried about, provided you make sure they spend time apart – either on their own or with an older gun dog – to enable them to gain some independence.

This will help them learn life isn’t about operating as a duo and they must each learn to respect other gun dogs and listen to and respect you as you embark on their early training.

Two littermates always kept together would not be my ideal scenario for getting the best out of a gun dog puppy – although I am sure others will prove me wrong. www.fenwaylabradors.co.uk

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  • Mary

    I have been informed that there are people in the U.K. who have “working lines” of Standard Poodle that they work on shoots, but so far no-one has been able to tell me who they are. Please does anyone know of someone who breeds their hunting/retrieving Poodles or is planning to in the next year or so, because I would love to have one.