Preparation is key in dog training, especially when it comes to getting a good gun dog.

These preparations start as soon as you pick your pup - which breeder you choose, and which pup you pick from the litter.

Don't buy your pup from just anyone

When buying a puppy, in my experience it's essential to find a breeder who has a dog that is just like the dog you want. You can use your breeder as a sparring partner, and a good breeder will guide you and help you move forward. You will have a lot of questions, especially if you are a first-time buyer, and it is natural for a breeder to advise you here.

Puppies eating

When it comes to choosing your puppy, there are no hard and fast rules. There are some basic things to look out for when you see a litter of tiny, cute, lively pups, where you might instantly be tempted to pick them all.

There is plenty of advice available on choosing the right pup for you. Some use expert options, others do a test, but for me there is no right method. Rather, it's your personal opinion.

When the puppies are old enough to be picked, they are far from fully developed yet, so you as the future dog owner will play an important role in their development. It's worth visiting the puppies a couple of times before picking one. However, I often think too that the more times you see a litter, the more doubtful you can become about your choice. The first time you visit, the litter is full of life, and the next time you visit, the pups may have already had their play time and come across as tired and uninspired - which is why your breeder is important when you pick your pup!

Breeder plays an important role

The breeder is, in many areas, crucial to you getting the right pup. That's why most serious breeders will help you pick your pup, because the breeder is the person who knows the pup best.

When you talk to your breeder, it's important that you are both clear on the expectations you have of the pup you want to buy. Talk about your expectations, whether you have children at home and about the level of activity you expect to use the pup for. Perhaps you're thinking about using it for trials? All this gives you and your breeder the optimal chance of finding the best match between pup and owner.

All pups have their own personality and temperament, and by talking to the breeder, you often get the best result and a clear idea of which pups do what.

As a buyer, perhaps you have a wishlist - do you want a dog or a bitch? And maybe the colours are important (black, brown, light, etc.), and the markings too. But the longer your wishlist, the harder it will be.

For me, it's about finding a fit and perky pup with plenty of gumption. My advice is therefore to pick a puppy based on how it behaves, not what colour it is.

Visit the breeder and see the litter

It's important to see both the pups and the mother. But wait visiting until the mother has recovered from the birth. It can be stressful for her to have a constant stream of visitors looking at her pups, and it's also better to see the pups once they are a few weeks old.

When I visit a litter before making a choice, I look long and hard at which pups are interested in people. Does the pup want attention, and does it come to you?

Puppies sleeping
Puppies

Once I have narrowed down my choice, I try to take each pup away for a bit. This is to see how the pup reacts - is it fearful and how does it react to being on its own? It's only natural for the pup to need some time to adjust to a new setting.
I always use my voice a lot, also when choosing a pup. Talk calmly to the puppy, do something that will catch its attention and, after a while, it should start following you and seem content.

The environment your puppy grows up in has a crucial effect on its future development. Puppies that are adapted to new environments (such as different areas in the house and garden), find it easier to handle completely new situations and surroundings later in life. They need to get to know 'house noises' - the vacuum cleaner, television, slamming doors and people who visit.

No hard and fast rules

Personally, I have picked puppies based on many different criteria, and it's hard to say what's best. I have listened a lot to experienced breeders' advice and I have had the last pup in the litter, the biggest and, not least, the liveliest. But my conclusion is that it's the environment that the puppy will live in that is essential to your relationship being a success.

Buy your puppy from a place where the pups more or less spend most of their time in a house, rather than being shut off from the world. The daily close contact is really important and it's in everyone's interest that you and your pup are a successful match. That's why it's also worth having a 'service agreement' in place between the buyer and the breeder, so that you can get advice and guidance moving forward.

If in doubt whether your pup is the right one, go home and think about it. Get advice and take some extra time to consider. Remember that you will be living with your dog for up to 10-15 years.

All puppies are cute - but remember: Buy a puppy with your head, not your heart.

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