Black Lab fetching Canada Goose

The process of picking a gun dog puppy begins way before the pup is born.

Finding a promising puppy means first finding the best breed for your hunting purposes.

Look at the strengths and weaknesses of each breed.

Next thing to look at is temperament, as hunting season is only two months of the year you want to find a dog that fits well with your family dynamics.

Trainability also what an important factor.


Researching the backgrounds of breeders who produce the kind of gun dog for which you are looking for.

“Though this process may sound simple enough, you might spend many days or weeks or months reading magazine articles and books on the subject and lots of time studying breed-specific Web sites. Do all this before making phone calls to breeders.

Most breeds of gun dogs are represented by CKC, AKC & UKC that have Web sites featuring a detailed description of the breed and its general history and background.


Lab Puppy

The Breed’s Health History
“Before picking any kind of puppy, make sure the lines of dogs from which it comes have certified sound genetics with major emphasis on normal hips and healthy eyes,” Joint and eye problems plague many breeds of gun dogs, so every puppy buyer needs to study each breed’s genetic background for a history of chronic hip dysplasia or eye disorders as well as any other genetic-related problems.

However, you still want to make sure the breeding stock has qualified health clearances.


Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) that aims to research and prevent orthopedic and hereditary diseases.

Centronuclear Myopathy Canine inherited disease testing. (CNM) DNA Disease Test.

Exercise-induced collapse (EIC) is a genetic syndrome. As shown

Affected dogs show signs of muscle weakness, loss of coordination, severe marked increase in body temperature and life-threatening collapse when participating in strenuous exercise or activity. Affected dogs can tolerate mild to moderate exercise, but just 5 to 20 minutes of strenuous activity, or even extreme excitement immediately after an episode of exercise-induced collapse so an affected dog’s exercise should be stopped at the first hint of incoordination or wobbliness.


CERF.the prevalence of certain heritable eye diseases in future generations of canines.


When buying any gun dog get a guarantee in writing from the breeder that your puppy will be free from any major debilitating genetic disorders and that the pup you have bought is healthy take your pup to your vet as soon as possible for a complete examination for genetic soundness and good general health.”

Don’t make an impulsive emotional decision, all puppies are cute!

Proven hunting dog bloodlines, do some research on bloodlines.

Buy from a breeder that is also a professional hunting dog trainer.

As a gun dog trainer, I am often asked by clients for help in selecting a puppy. My advice is to look for a pup that is independent but not the most dominant pup unless you have training experience. How can you tell, dominant pup’s after tilt curled forward vs docile pups have had their tail in a lower position, I personally preferred until in a 45° angle it’s not the top of the pecking order it’s not the bottom either?


Look at The Pup’s Parents
“One of the best ways to judge a puppy’s future as a gun dog is to see its parents for all the obvious reasons.”

If you can’t see the pup’s parents in person, I suggest asking the breeder to send a video of them in a real or simulated hunting situation.

dogs point a live bird such as a pigeon, track a running wild or pen-raised pheasant and fetch any species of game bird on land and out of water,

Ask the Breeder For assistance
Most breeders of well-bred gun dogs will ask prospective puppy buyers lots of personal questions the breeder wants to get sort of a profile of that person’s experiences with gun dogs in general, hunting with them, training experience and keeping the dog maintained.

The idea is to match individual pups from the litter with the hunting lifestyle of the buyers so that the new puppy owner will have a gun dog best suited to his expectations and needs

evaluating Temperament
“Don’t believe any puppy seller who says you can’t make some general judgments about a puppy’s temperament at seven weeks of age. Anyone who says that probably hasn’t spent enough time watching the pups at play or personally handling each individual pup.

“Sure, you can look at a litter of 10 black Labs as they charge around the yard and chase each other then decide there is no obvious difference in the temperament of any of them. But spend several hours watching them eat, play and have mock fights with one another and the pecking order will appear, along with some insights about the personality of each individual pup.

Pick A Well Socialized Pup
A socialized puppy is one that has been regularly handled by people, helping the young dog to become accustomed to the human touch and comfortable with human beings.

If a gun dog litter has had little or no contact on these levels, then the pups may be fearful and anxious around prospective buyers.

Puppies that are afraid of people are difficult to evaluate and hard to sell. So most responsible gun dog breeders make a specific point of spending time with any litter.

The idea is to develop pups that are friendly, happy and at ease around anyone who wants to hold them, play with them or just watch them.

With our puppies, my family and friends handle them a little every day from the birth of the litter, then play with them a lot starting when the pups are five weeks old we select pups for our head start program and start introducing them to marker training. By nine weeks these pups love to be handled and have the basic obedience down.

We continue to socialization for the pups not selected for this program to assist in the puppy selection process for clients that wish to pick up a pup at nine weeks.

Pup Conformation
By the time most gun dog pups are seven weeks old, you can make some accurate predictions about their future physical conformity.

Main physical features such as head shape, body type and tail set are usually evident when most breeds of puppies are seven weeks of age and become more apparent each week after that. Most experienced breeders of any kind of gun dog should be able to look at eight to 10 pups in a litter and tell with 75 percent success which ones will grow into small, medium or big dogs even if the rough estimates aren’t absolutely on target, the educated guesses should be close enough to be useful in picking a puppy.”

Bird / Fetching Ability
Testing seven-week puppies for hunting potential may seem like a real stretch. But in our experience, there are some consistent behaviors that can be identified to predict a young gun dog’s potential. In the process, they have developed a system that is relatively simple and effective.

We evaluate a litter of gun dog puppies in several categories of responses to physical stimulation as in other kinds of tests for canine temperament and learning aptitude.

What is different about our system is that there is more emphasis and focus on prospective hunting qualities. For example, each pup is exposed to a bird wing flipped on a string and a tethered live pigeon to see if there is a perceptible prey drive, self-confidence in a new experience and a willingness to pursue a moving object.

we don’t say this testing system is 100% complete, but we have a pretty good history of predicting the hunting behavior of pups when they become adult dogs

The UGD evaluation program is not the only one available, but it is the only one we know of with an emphasis on determining hunting potential in a wide range of gun dog breeds.”

Picking a puppy is hard to do–if you do it right. Research into breeds and lines, contacting breeders about their litters, evaluating a pup’s parents and choosing one pup according to some practical standards–all of this takes time and effort and a great amount of personal involvement. But as gun dog owners everywhere know, picking a good puppy is worth the time invested in your future hunting partner did to you will get to enjoy for a long time.

If there’s any way we can assist you in your goals regardless of what breed you decide is best for you?

Feel free to reach out.

Andre Draayer

Owner/trainer ultimate gun dog

black labrador retriever with cock pheasant