Great Advice for Puppy Season

I know of three litters born over the past two weeks and one more in the hopper. Translation: It’s puppy season. Pups whelped in early March are ready to leave for their new homes by the end of April. The timing is great, particularly up north, because the ground will be thawed and those 3 a.m. outings the first week or so won’t be so awfully cold. With longer days, late afternoon play and training sessions can be more relaxed. Above all, there are five solid months before hunting season, by which time the young pup should be ready to try a romp in the field to kick up a pheasant or a jaunt in the grouse woods looking for woodcock.
Puppy talk is number one in many dog-related conversations right now. Breeders in particular have a lot of intelligent information that can help prospective puppy buyers.
One specific piece of advice that seems extremely important came from Lynda Krull from vonTapferen Herzen Kennels in Harrold, South Dakota. She advised puppy buyers to look at more than just the parents. This means pups from a previous litter of that pairing (if there was one) or the parents’ littermates. Some breedings produce litters where the dogs are very similar in appearance and/or temperament; others produce litters with significant variations in appearance and temperament. Before assuming the offspring will look or behave like his or her parents, it’s well worth it to see what else the same genetics produced.
A corollary to that piece advice is to not make appearance a priority. Lots of people imagine what they want their next dog to look like, and they shop for those superficial characteristics. More important are temperament, drive, conformation, coat, instincts – the fundamental traits that will make your pup a great hunting dog.
Case in point: I love the way my older German shorthair looks, hunts and acts. He’s on the small side for a male, but elegant on point with a wonderful head and expressive face. One of his sisters, a large female, looks so much like him that they are the canine equivalent of twins. When she was being bred, I realized it was my best chance to get another one as much like them as possible. There were seven males and four females in the litter. I had pick of the males. My choice has turned out to be a gawky, tall, ribby, long-nosed, houndy-looking clown. But…like his uncle, he’s got a terrific nose, robust water drive, sensational points, a people-loving personality, and strong biddability. When we hunt, it just doesn’t matter that his legs fly in all different directions or that his chin is kind-of bald and lumpy. That dog can hunt. That’s what matters most.
Nancy Anisfield, an outdoor photographer/writer, sporting dog enthusiast and bird hunter, serves on Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. She resides in Hinesburg, Vermont.