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Buying a puppy – what should I know?

“I’m just about to embark on acquiring my first gundog and I would like some advice as to what breed to buy and whether to get a puppy or either a part or fully-trained dog. Also, I am not sure whether to keep it indoors or outside and whether this will this cause me any training issues?” Mr P Bagnall, Essex

What breed?

Choosing the right breed of gundog puppy has to be the foremost consideration. You will have to not only decide what breed will suit your shooting requirements, but also your lifestyle. Remember, most gundogs will only work in the shooting field for three or four months of the year, so you will have to decide how you will manage the dog for the rest of the year.

playful puppies

Try to match a new puppy to the personality of the owner

Buying a puppy with the right personality

One factor that is quite often overlooked by new people coming into the gundog world is to try to match a new puppy to the personality of the owner. If you are the type of person that has a short fuse then a fizzy little spaniel pup may not be the best breed for you. On the other hand, if you have the kind of personality where you like everything to be very exact and precise, training one of the retriever breeds may be right up your street.

It may seem strange but as well as picking a pup with a good pedigree, how it looks is also very important. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of your dog, but you will (hopefully) have to spend the next 12 to 14 years looking at the him, so take this into consideration when choosing a pup.

Buying a puppy

You may find a pup for sale that the owner of the stud dog has had back in lieu of a stud fee

A reputable breeder

Buying a puppy from a reputable breeder is probably the most important factor when starting out in the gundog world. Word of mouth is by far the best way to locate a suitable litter and as we all know we should always ask to see the dam with the pups. Occasionally you may find a pup for sale that the owner of the stud dog has had back in lieu of a stud fee, however they should still be able to put you in touch with the breeder and, of course, you may also have the added advantage of seeing the sire.

dog health

Health testing

Health testing has become a big issue in most of the gundog breeds and ultimately this will benefit the dogs. It’s worth researching into your chosen breed as to what health tests are recommended so you can make an informed decision. The pups will not be health tested but the dam and sire may be. Details can be found from the Kennel Club. 

cute puppies

The right time of year for a puppy

For most people the best time to acquire a gundog puppy is either spring or early summer. The longer warmer days give plenty of time to bond and you can start some basic conditioning as the pup gets older. The other advantage of getting a pup in spring is that your dog should be good to go the season after next. Winter pups are always a bit more difficult to manage . Practical matters like toilet training and developing basic retrieving skills are more problematic.

Long before you bring your pup home you will have had to make a very important choice, to live in or out. This has been a hotly debated subject over the years, but it is a personal choice. There is a train of thought that if a gundog pup lives indoors it can make training more difficult. I do not subscribe to this; however, it may mean that you will have to be more disciplined in keeping children’s toys, shoes out of the pup’s reach.

Gundog training

Do not be in a rush to start training your puppy, there is plenty of time. In fact, without even knowing you will be gradually “conditioning” the pup. It will quickly learn to come to its name, this is the beginning of the “recall”. Most people can teach a puppy to “sit” from an early age and this is obviously a behaviour trait that becomes more important as more formal training starts.


Labrador retrieving dummy

No matter what the breed is, ultimately retrieving will be one of the most important aspects of the dog’s work and from an early age you can develop this in a very informal way. Do not overdo this, a young pup can quickly become bored and you can end up with the puppy not wanting to pick anything up…preventing problems are easier than curing problems.


Finally, get help! Find someone that can help you with the dog’s more formal training. Learn as much as you can and enjoy your new gundog.