|Introduced Dogs |
This brings the discussion around to introduced dogs. I must admit I feel the introduced dog is one heck of a strong contender in the best purchase category. An introduced dog is usually between six and 12 months old, and its personality, style and birdiness are apparent. The dog's raw potential is clearly visible. Although a dog cannot be certified dysplasia-free by OF A (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) until two years of age, an X-ray will give you a preliminary hip and joint report. Also, the dog's eyes can be checked for retinal dysplasia. Purchasing an introduced dog greatly reduces the chances you'll have to deal with this heart-breaking news down the road. An introduced dog has been exposed to birds, hunting and the gun. The dog has been checked out by a vet, and its personality is obvious. Now you can formally train a youngster that has a high probability of becoming the dog you want.
There are breeders who specialize in selling introduced, started and finished dogs. A field trial reject may fill your needs, but quite often these dogs were trained for tasks other than what the upland hunter desires. Sometimes there is more to the story than "the dog doesn't run big enough for field trials." Caveat emptor. If the price of the dog sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Far too often the gundog market is viewed by nose-in-the-air dog suppliers as a dumping ground for problem dogs. You want the dog that possesses all the qualities of a National Champion but hunts for your particular style. Don't think a problem dog will work out for you. Don't accept someone's leftover inventory or close-out special.
My clients who order introduced, started or finished dogs usually have specified well in advance what type of dog they want. Even at the introduced level, a dog is developed differently if it is slated for Texas quail than if its future is in close-working grouse hunts. Seek a professional who specializes in developing custom-tailored dogs. You'll have a much better chance of getting what you want.
A started dog offers all the advantages of the introduced dog but with a few more bells and whistles. In the pointing breeds, a started dog should hold point for longer than an introduced dog. Depending on the price and age of the dog, the prospect may hold point long enough for the gunner to walk in to flush the bird. However, don't expect the started dog to hold point while you go have lunch. This would be in the domain of the finished dog.
Dictated by the degree of training and the corresponding price, a started flusher/retriever will also vary in ability. A started flushing and retrieving dog should search for game, flush the game and retrieve shot game. The started dog will not sit down on the flush or the shot, sit down on command when tracking moving game, or handle to blind retrieves. A started dog might still meet all your requirements as a gundog. You may never expect it to do more than put up game and bring it back. So what if the dog hunts out of range sometimes or you have to be wearing track shoes to keep up with it? So do a lot of other hunters out there having fun.
A finished dog is the answer if you don't have time to train, don't have consistent access to birds, don't have proper training grounds or don't have the training knowledge to bring the dog to the desired level. Purchasing a finished dog simply requires the right balance in your checking account. Just as a Purdey costs more than a no-name shotgun, the difference in price between two finished dogs will be determined by style and performance.
There are a few things to look for when assessing the quality of a finished pointing dog. The dog should hold point. Period. In addition, the dog should honor its bracemate by backing, should be steady to flush and shot, should retrieve to hand, and should handle well to voice and whistle. The "Whoa" command should be absolutely solid. In other words, the dog should be a complete bragging-rights gundog. A fully finished dog should have handled wild birds. (My finished dogs are often used when I guide for grouse, woodcock, pheasants and quail.) A fully finished dog will usually be 2 1/2 or older.
A finished upland flusher or retriever should hunt in range, run the proper wind pattern, sit down upon flushing a bird and wait for its name to be called to retrieve, sit down on the shot, and be able to be stopped on running birds, allowing the gunner to keep up without having a coronary.
Dogs used for waterfowling need to have good manners in both the boat and blind. Dogs must be absolutely line steady, wait for the command to retrieve before leaving, and must perform blind retrieves under the direction of the handler.
I encourage you to look at your entire situation realistically, not through rose-colored glasses. If you weigh your lifestyle and your expectations along with the depth of your pocketbook, you'll find the dog that gives you the best bang for your buck.