Yesterday I talked about making a list of everything you want from your new hunting dog before you do anything else. Now you have that list, so it’s time to decide on a breed.
Take a look at your list. Do you want to turn your dog loose in the brush to find pheasants? Or are you looking for a dog that can retrieve a wounded 12-pound Canada goose? Maybe you want a dog that can do both.
Do some research on the various hunting breeds. Find out what each one is meant to do. Read as much as you can about bird dogs. You’ll probably narrow your field pretty quickly. But don’t disqualify any breed until you know a little about it. You may think an Irish water spaniel is just too dang ugly to even consider, but when you find out what they can do, you might be able to overlook their appearance.
Once you have a handful of breeds you’re considering, do some more research. Dig deeper into the books and click more links on the Internet. But more importantly, find as many people as you can who own those breeds, and talk to them about their dogs. You would be well-served to look up a number of breeders, too. Respectable breeders aren’t like some salespeople you might have dealt with. If you’re looking for something their dogs can’t provide, they’ll tell you. Most responsible breeders offer some form of a return policy, and they don’t want to have to use it. If they sell you a dog, they want that dog to have a good home.
Tell the breeder what you’re looking for in a dog. But let them know you’re in the early stages of the selection process. Don’t lead them to believe you’re ready to buy a dog immediately. Remember, there are tons of breeds of hunting dogs. It doesn’t have to be either a Lab or a shorthair. When you learn all you can about those breeds, you may decide you want a Weimaraner. Or a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Or a Brittany spaniel. You get the idea.