Excellent dogs are born, not made — Henry Chappell
Sure, patience, love, and training can minimize a dog’s weaknesses, and the best trainers can make a passable gun dog out of a marginally talented pup. But in nearly all cases, the best dogs are excellent prospects at birth, born with an abundance of natural ability, most likely the result of careful breeding.
Obvious prospects are precocious. Talented pointed dog pups often start sight pointing butterflies, grasshoppers, or a rag twitched on the end of a fishing line as early as eight weeks of age. Retriever pups should readily pick up and carry anything they can handle at about the same age. Hound, feist, and cur pups should demonstrate early independence and a penchant for using their nose. All pups should be social and inquisitive if not outright bold.
Of course, these traits can be difficult to assess when contemplating a six-week old pile of floppy ears, freckled bellies, and whipping tails, but there are ways to maximize your odds:
- Go for the bloodlines. Pick a sire and dam first, and the individual puppy second.
- Choose both a sire and a dam with a proven record of excellent field performance, trainability, and sound temperament.
- Look for a sire and dam pairing that has consistently produced excellent progeny.
- Be impressed by AKC show ring titles. They mean nothing unless accompanied by field credentials.
- Choose pups from pure field trial lines. They’ll likely be too charged up for the average hunter. Instead, look for a sire and dam with solid shooting dog or utility dog credentials.