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16 things you need to know before buying a gundog puppy

What are the upfront costs of owning a gundog puppy? What are the running costs (so to speak) and what hidden costs should you allow for. It’s impossible to assess these accurately because owning a dog always comes with an element of surprise.

But one rule you should definitely stick to is resisting a bargain gundog puppy. There’s no such thing as a gundog puppy going cheap, particularly if you’re looking for a part-trained, or even fully-trained gundog. Let the buyer beware. To help matters along we’ve talked to various trainers and breeders and compiled a list of rules that you should follow before becoming an owner.

how to introduce a puppy to gunfire

There’s no such thing as a gundog puppy going cheap

16 rules to consider when buying a gundog puppy

  1. Don’t look at a puppy in the litter until it is running around the garden at seven or eight weeks of age
  2. Try and see the puppies first thing in the morning before they have been fed, as they will move around better on an empty stomach!
  3. If you buy a puppy from March onwards you have more light available in the evening for gundog training
  4. As the summer months arrive, the puppy can play in the garden
  5. Always resist a bargain because a good gundog puppy will never be a bargain.
  6. Well-bred puppies will cost hundreds of pounds. This is fair recompense for the time and investment that has gone into the process. The bitch having the pups will have had expensive health tests, plus there is the stud fee and cost of rearing a gundog puppy to a high standard of care and nutrition. The COVID pandemic has made puppies cost even more, as some breeders attempt to benefit from the increased demand for dogs.
  7. Your puppy should be bred from good working stock. (Here’s how to check the puppy’s pedigree.)
  8. Check the dam of the pups for temperament
  9. If you’re happy to spend hundreds of pounds on a day’s shooting – or on a decent gun – then it’s a small price to pay for a decade of work and companionship
  10. Don’t skimp on food quality, it’s false economy. Expect to pay around £6-8 a week. It will be slightly more in the shooting season.
  11. Jabs for the puppy will cost around £90
  12. If you are going to send your gundog puppy away for basic training at eight months old your weekly bills will be around £150 upwards.
  13. If you want a part-trained dog, only buy from a responsible breeder or someone you can trust
  14. Some gundog experts say that 70% of what a gundog achieves is down to the training and 30% down to the breeding
  15. Many field trial champions have been bred from good quality working gun dogs that have never competed in field trials
  16. If there was a right time to buy a pup it would have to be from March onwards as you always gain an extra hour of daylight in the evening which can be used for training.

And if you’d like your puppy trained first?

Jeremy Hunt advises: “A gundog puppy sent away for basic training at eight-months old is the preferred option for some. Costs vary but good boarding kennels now charge at least £10 a day, so adding training fees on top means weekly bills could be £150 upwards. Some trainers only charge £100 a week but you pay your money and you take your choice – always make sure the training methods and standard of care are acceptable.

“I would want to see a fully-trained dog on a shoot day before committing to it. That may not always be possible but the horror stories are not in short supply on this topic, so proceed with caution. Again, it’s a case of making sure you’re buying from a reputable source.

“Fully-trained dogs are advertised from around £3,000 upwards – still a snip in my book if the dog is good enough. If it’s a bitch and you can have a litter at some stage, this could even repay your investment.”

Other things to consider

You’ll need to build in the price of gundog insurance

The good, part-trained youngster is a real find. Some are totally genuine and ideal for those who don’t want the commitment of a baby pup. Others are being off-loaded because of a fault, or have been pushed-on hard by clever trainers – a situation that usually sees the wheels fall off the wobbly wagon as soon as the novice owner takes over.

If you want a part-trained dog you should consider ordering it well in advance. Some breeders would be prepared to run a gundog puppy on from a litter and sell it to you later once the training had reached whatever stage you required. If the dog is well-reared, well-trained and from a responsible breeder it won’t be cheap – but you only have to buy this dog once and all the preparation will have been done.