I want to buy a gun dog puppy and am scared by what I read in the shooting press about buyers being easily duped by indiscriminate breeders.
Can you give me a checklist of things that I need to be sure about before buying a gun dog pup?
It strikes me that for a novice buyer there are many pitfalls because few pups can tick every box. So what are the priorities?
JEREMY HUNT SAYS: While I would advise you to buy a gun dog pup that is bred from Kennel Club registered parents that, in itself, is no guarantee of the health status of the pup’s parents or of the standard of the breeder.
Until there is a major change in the Kennel Club’s stance on registrations it is continuing to register pups bred from labradors that are not health tested in any way and also from large-scale breeders who produce teens of litters per year.
The Kennel Club is recommending that puppy buyers buy from members of its Accredited Breeders Scheme. This scheme has only just been given teeth after years of being a virtually meaningless scheme in terms of the standards that were actually imposed.
Your pup must be bred from good working stock and while it’s very likely that you will not be able to see the sire if a popular stud gun dog from outside the areas has been used, check out the dam of the pups for temperament.
You can have all the health checks and fancy pedigree breeding in the world but if it’s all wrapped up in a nasty natured gun dog it’s no use to you. Hip scores and current eye test certificates of both the sire and dam must be seen.
These are the very basics in my book. The hip score should be under 16 in total and the eye test certificate should have been awarded within the previous 12 months, it’s an annual test.
Remember that if the bitch has been mated to a top stud gun dog, but has not been tested herself for hips and eyes, and that’s very possible, you must be aware that you are taking a calculated risk because the sire’s health status will only have a proportion of influence on the litter.
If the litter is bred from parents that have also had their elbows scored and X-rayed and if they have been DNA tested for Progressive Retinal Atrophy (Optigen) and Centro Nuclear Myopathy then so much the better.
If it is a case of “I can’t get all of it right so what bits are important” my advice would be to go for a well-bred working pup, from parents that have good temperaments and are both hip scored and hold current eye test certificates.
While other health tests are very relevant, in reality we all know that there are thousands of labradors being bred and sold that tick none of these boxes.
So it makes sense to go for a pup that at least has the basics to give you a working gun dog that should have the brains to do its job, a pleasing temperament and one that is unlikely to suffer from hip-displaysia or eye problems.
I say ‘unlikely’ advisedly because all the tests in the world can never be totally relied upon, all you can do is minimise the risk.