With the wild bird season rapidly approaching, many hunters are considering the purchase of a started dog to enhance their hunting experience to help put more birds in the bag this year. I know this because of the many confused hunters who have called me asking what skills a started dog should possess. Unfortunately, there is no governing body in the gun dog world to measure the level of competence of any hunting dog world to set a standard of performance or skill level by which you can gauge a potential candidate when considering purchasing a started dog. So when you’re considering purchasing a started dog, you’re on your own.
The term “started dog” is used for any dog with any amount of training under his belt. It can mean anything from a puppy that has had a mild course of obedience to a well-trained dog that take hand signals — I know, it’s crazy, but that’s the dilemma faced by sportsmen today.
It’s okay to have a preconceived idea as to the talent level of the prospective dog you would like to purchase. However, when talking to a seller it’s best to do most of the listening. If you are a novice hunter, you might consider hiring someone knowledgeable to help you assess the quality and training level of a dog you are considering purchasing. So you’re better educated, I have compiled a list of questions that should help anyone who is having trouble deciding.
# 1. How old is the dog? Keep in mind that the older the dog the more training he has — generally speaking of course.
# 2. Is the dog genetically sound and clear of ( EIC) exercise induced collapse? Not only the parents but grandparents should have OFA certificates for hips dysplasia.
# 3. What is his training level? Your decision, how well trained a dog do you want.
# 4. What is his pedigree? It’s always a good idea to purchase a dog with good blood lines, showing hunt titles and /or field trial titles in the near background.
# 5. If the dog is a bird dog, does he dog hold point and is he steady to shot. Does he quarter at a desired distance and does he retrieve downed birds? These skills are important gauges as to his training level.
If purchasing this started dog from a professional trainer, ask if there are any free lessons included with the purchase. Most trainers want you to be happy with your dog and will be willing to do so.
In my experience, many hunters expect too much. They want the animal to have all the skills of a field champion, and he only one year old. I often have to bring up that point to a prospective buyer’s attention and that it takes time to train a dog to become proficient at his job.
Fellow hunters, In my opinion, the best possible scenario is to purchase a dog that not only has learned his skills, but has at least one season of hunting under his belt; be advised, that dog will cost more.
Buying a 3- or 4-year old dog should be considered even though it's tempting to think, “I want to get as many years out of this dog as possible.” The joy of hunting over a well-trained dog cannot be measured in age or dollars and cents. Owning a well-trained, seasoned dog will elevate your hunting experience to a level that will bring you a sense of pride that you probably didn’t even know existed.
Still, one important factor remains when considering any individual dog. And it’s an intangible necessity, you’ve got to like the dog. If you don’t, do not purchase the dog. It won’t work. Although rare, the personality of a dog and man sometimes clash. So, if you don’t feel a genuine connection with the animal, it’s best to walk away, no matter how good the deal.
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Grady’s column appears in WON every other week and he can be reached at reibar.com