By Jeremy Hunt
Tuesday, 18 November 2008
I have decided to buy a labrador pup to train for shooting and hopefully to try some working tests.
It will be the first dog I have trained. I thought it would be easy, but the more I go into it the more I find out and the more confused I become. Everyone is giving me different advice. I am not in a hurry but I don’t know where to start.
Jeremy Hunt says: This is an important venture for all first time labrador buyers and you need to take time over it.
A dog will be around for possibly 12 years or more and many can still be working until at least 10, so you need to make sure you are buying a pup that will enable you to train it to the standard you require.
Check it has been bred from health tested parents to reduce the risks of any problems occurring with joints or eyes.
A lot of people still pick up the local paper and buy a working pup from a classified ad. While there is nothing wrong with that - provided you can look at the pedigree and understand the breeding, see
the mother of the pups and check the health certificates of both the sire and dam - it’s not what I would recommend in your case.
I would suggest that you start by joining the Labrador Retriever Club and also one of the regional labrador clubs, as well as a local gundog training club.
In that way you will set up your lines of communication and all the contacts you will need to find your pup in the first instance, and then to provide you with the back-up and advice you require as you progress as an owner and trainer.
Adverts for stud dogs in shooting magazines will enable you to make contact with many of the top breeders of field trial labradors who will be able to tell you if they have litters due or where pups by their stud dogs are expected.
By starting your enquiries at this level you will be saving yourself a lot of time and be focusing on pups of good working breeding and from parents that have been hip, eye and elbow tested, and
hopefully have a favourable Optigen test result regarding the DNA status of their parents covering GPRA (premature blindness).
First-time labrador buyers who are embarking upon training a pup won’t be able to make the best of a dog that could turn out to be too 'hot' in terms of its trainability for a novice.
By taking advice from top breeders you should be able to locate the type of pup that will suit your capabilities - one that will turn into a dog that may be quite happy to shoot one day a week and not a dog that needs four day’s picking-up every week in the season just to keep it sane!
Talk to other owners of working labradors and build up some knowledge of how they are finding the trainability of pups sired by the current day’s most popular stud dogs.
Remember that the mother of the pups is just as important as the sire of the litter, and while the sire may be a field trial champion that doesn’t necessarily mean that he can make up for all the shortcomings of the bitch.
So, make sure you look at the dam’s pedigree and try if possible speak to someone who may have seen her working.
Of course there are good pups about from well-bred local working dogs that may not have achieved titles from trials.
If a dog is Kennel Club registered, has had the necessary health tests and hopefully has produced pups that others are pleased with, it would be worthwhile looking at pups sired by him - provided that the bitch also fits the bill.
If you do go to look at a litter, make sure you see the pedigree and the full set of health test certificates for both sire and dam at the outset.
You need to see all of this paperwork before you even look at a pup, and not be handed an envelope when you hand over the cheque.
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