Buyer Beware - When Buying a Hunting Dog - Page 2

Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

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First, stay away from breeds that are known to have a high incidence of orthopedic problems. For breeds with more than 100 evaluations by the OFA from 1974 to 1998, 48.8 percent of Clumber spaniels were diagnosed as dysplastic and only 2.9 percent received a rating of excellent. Ranking No.2 on the bad-risk chart for gundogs is the Boykin spaniel, as during the same period 45.6 percent of those examined were found to be dysplastic and only 0.4 percent were evaluated as excellent. On the other hand, only 8.6 percent of the English pointers examined came up dysplastic, and many of the versatile breeds, such as German shorthairs, German wirehairs and griffons, showed less than a 10-percent incidence of dysplasia. Make sure the parents of any puppy you're planning to buy have had their hips X-rayed. An added plus would be if the grandparents and great grandparents had theirs done as well. But even with this precaution, you cannot be sure a pup will not develop dysplasia. This disease can skip generations and rear its ugly head unexpectedly.

If possible, try to buy a pup from a repeat breeding. Contact owners of dogs from the previous breeding(s) and ask specific questions about the health, personalities, physical attributes and hunting abilities of their dogs. Keep in mind, however, that everyone's dog is the "world's best." Before purchasing a pup, ask for a writ- ten copy of the breeder's warranty and arrange for a two-week examination period in which to bring the pup to your own vet. On your initial visit to the vet, bring all paperwork pertaining to the pup. The breeder should have provided you with a health certificate from his/her vet stating that the pup showed no visible indications of health problems, had a normal temperature, and had no arrhythmia or other heart dysfunction. A complete record of all shots and wormings should accompany the paperwork. Your vet's job, in addition to prescribing a health care program for the pup, is to help ensure that you get what you paid for and expected.

An old adage in the dog world is that "It costs just as much to feed a bad dog as it does a good dog." Actually, associated vet bills could be substantially higher if a pup is unhealthy. Also, if your pup lacks blue-ribbon genetics, it may be more difficult to train, and a pup without strong hunting instincts may require lots more birds to "get going" before formal training. In the end, what you thought you were saving by buying a cheaper pup could be more than offset by the costs of training time, birds and medical expenses. So the initial purchase price should not be the deciding factor in buying a pup.

The breeder's reputation, the appearance of his/her kennel, the past performances of other dogs from that breeder, and comments of previous clients should all be carefully considered. Call the breeder's vet and tell him/her you are considering purchasing a dog from the breeder. Ask the vet's opinion and read between the lines. Go with your gut feeling.

Purchasing a dog whose hips and eyes have been checked and whose trainability, personality, birdiness and health you can ascertain is the best way to increase the probability of satisfaction.

But pups are fun too, and with a little legwork on your part, odds are that your pup will develop into a hunting companion who will bring you pleasure for a good long time.
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