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My First Bird Dog – Stuck Between Two Litters

"My First Bird Dog" follows a pheasant hunter's journey into bird dog ownership.

The search for my first bird dog has entered the final stretch. I’ve selected a breed, breeder and am now in the position of preparing to put my name down on one of two upcoming litters. For those coming off summer vacation or new to this series, here are the first half dozen “My First Bird Dog” posts to get you up to speed (and there have been so many great reader-submitted comments that those alone are worth a look):

Now that you’re caught up…I’m in the unenviable position of selecting from two litters – both are fall breedings and puppies are expected in about a month – deadlocking me between a bird dog and a hard place.

Both expected litters have very solid pedigrees, and at various moments the past few days, I’ve found myself madly in love with the parents of each – in that “I could see me with one of your puppies” sort of way. Both litters appear to hold all the characteristics – hunting drive, temperament, bidability – I’m looking for. And not that it would have been an issue, but the price is the same for each. The color scheme of the respective litters is about as major a difference as I can see, and I’ve tried to avoid using that as my deciding factor. The rest is splitting hairs.

I angled to get one puppy from each litter, but Kaily, my partner in bird dog purchasing crime as well as our home’s resident voice of reason, squashed that in a hurry.

Have you or anyone you know been “stuck between two litters”? What were the “make” or “breaks” that led to the final decision?

Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauck.

This post appears in On the Wing, the monthly eNewsletter from Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. Return to On the Wing.

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14 Responses to “My First Bird Dog – Stuck Between Two Litters”

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  1. Look at the physique of the parents, are they too leggy/not leggy enough for your hunting style? Are they within their breed standard? Does one set of parents have a better coat length/thickness for the style of hunting that you do?

    All things being the same with the parents, how do you feel about the breeder’s knowledge level? Will they be able to help you with training and developmental questions that will come up? Do they treat you respectfully and follow up with you in a timely manner?

    Hope this gives you a few more items to consider, good luck!!

  2. Dennis Lynch says:

    spend time with the mother, which ever one you like the best go with that one

  3. Dave Scheer says:

    Sounds like you did your due diligence. Just pick the dog you like and don’t look back. You’ll have him/her for better or worse. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

  4. This is the advice I received from a very repeatable breeder.
    Put all the puppies in a box with a pigeon with clip wings.
    The puppies will do one of three things
    1. If the puppy lunges or go after the bird – That is a great display of high prey drive and lack of fear. These dogs usually end up the high-strung hard hunting types.
    2. IF the puppy does the inquisitive walk around – This shows the puppy is trying to process something new. It has some prey drive but doesn’t know what to do with it. These kinds of puppies make good house pets. If the dog has good training then they do have the ability to make good hunting dogs.
    3. Puppy ignores bird and shows little interest. Usually these dogs do not make great hunters because they lack the instinctual prey drive that is key to a good hunter.

    So if it were up to me I would do this test and get it down to one or two dogs. Then looks and personality take over.

    Good Luck

  5. talk to the breeder. explain the type of dog you want; high energy, couch potato, or in between. they have spent time with the puppies and know them better than you do. then pick the best match. This is the most important item. after you get the puppy, put in the time. give it all the loving you can, where ever you are, the puppy should be. If your wife wants to massively spoil it with lots of loving, and wants to let it sleep with you in your bed let it. the more it bonds with you, the more it will want to please you. he/she will charge hell with a thimble of water to make you happy.

  6. Jack Dennis says:

    I have learned my lesson by not having the parents hips and elbows x ray for hip dysplasia and elbows to make sure the are good to excellent. There is nothing worse the to spend a lot of money and time training and loving your hunting companion and 3 to 4 years later find out they have problems. If you are going through a reputabale breeder they should have had this done. Good luck on your choice. Jack

  7. Great advice all, thanks for sharing for other readers to see. – Anthony

  8. Brian says:

    I bought a Springer Spaniel from a farmer in Eastern Idaho for $100.00 eight years ago. I got her in December, and my wife sat with her on the couch until hunted her the following September. She slept on my son’s bed, ate chocolate and stray mac and cheese that he dropped, and genrally lived the high life. I have not lost one chukar, dove or grouse in those eight years. I lost exactly one pheasant. It kills me that so much thought goes into these things. We saw her, loved her and bought her. So many people said, “oh, don’t spoil her, she won’t hunt! Put her in a kennel, or she won’t hunt! Put a shock collar on her or she’ll run away!” BALONEY. If you love your dog, your dog will love you and do what you want her to do.

  9. Irving C says:

    Do your research, call other breeders get advise and imput. A good breeder will give you good leads if they don’t have a litter. I have a Lab with very bad hips, slipped up and took some bums word they were healthy. She’s a great dog, but it is sad to see her in pain.

  10. Rick Horn says:

    Best hunting dog I ever bought was a German Wirehaired Pointer out of Gun Dog magazine sight unseen for $250. He hunted hard for 15 years and was the best, but he had a fluffy coat type. Now I look at parents for correct coat type and health checks (hips, heart,eyes). I look at the pups for the wildest ones. They are the hunters, if you can handle the energy level.

  11. There is absolutely nothing like an English Setter for hunting birds of any kind. My dad had a kennel here in Lexington, Ky. when I was a child and the pups would point a quail wing by instinct, not to mention our Easter chicks. As an adult I took my best setter to Oklahoma and field trialed him on horseback. He outhunted all the other dogs and there were many. This breed is bred to hunt fowl and I would recommend the setter pup to anyone who was serious about a good bird dog.

  12. Jon says:

    Im a first time hunter with a first time hunting dog and we picked the breed upon our lifestyle. There were multiple litters for us to choose from. It came down to three of very similar pedigree and manors. We happened upon a year old Brittany that we loved and could see his interests. We chose him. A semi-started dog. Perfect for a first timer like me. Allowed me to ease into the hunting and training. It is an option but not for everyone though.

  13. @Jon – congrats on joining hunting’s ranks and your first bird dog. Happy hunting to you and your Brit this autumn! – Anthony

  14. dog training obedience…

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