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The Complete Bird Dog Buyer's Guide: Part 2 – Your Persona

Which breed best fits your lifestyle?

The Complete Bird Dog Buyer's Guide: Part 2 – Your Persona

Here are a few common first or next dog buyer personas that may assist you in your next puppy purchase. (Photo By: Steve Oehlenschlager)

Allies, Alliances, and Shopping Tips

Your search should start long before you’re ready to buy a pup. Attend training days and hunt tests. Subscribe to GUN DOG, watch videos. Get active in your local dog clubs.

Don't Miss Part 1 of the Bird Dog Buyer's Guide!

Ask current owners where they got their dog. Leave price out of your calculus—the cost of a dog is the least-expensive part of your new lifestyle.

Follow the breed club’s testing program. Try the European breed clubs’ North American counterparts (Verein Deutsch Drahthaar—Group North America, for example) or the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (all versatile breeds). Broader-based groups such as the Hunting Retriever Club, American Kennel Club, and United Kennel Club welcome visitors to events. Explore the “alliances” of dedicated breeders going beyond the minimum to ensure better genetics are passed on.

Ready to pull the trigger? Be certain your dog comes from proven hunting lines. Get written guarantees of a pup’s health, eyes, elbows, hips, genetics. Check references. Ask if the breeder will help you with training; answer your frantic phone calls. Get a sense of how they socialize pups from birth to “go home day.” More is better, especially if your pup remains with his litter until that day. Oh, and buy a lot of chew toys.

A puppy is a 10- to- 15-year commitment and if you’re unwilling to meet your dog’s genetic potential as a hunter, take up fishing. Be honest and maybe you’ll find yourself and your next dog. Here are a few common first or next dog buyer personas that may assist in your next puppy purchase.

Don't Miss Our Breed Profiles

complete bird dog buyer's guide
Picking your first or next puppy is not an easy task, but we're here to help you make the right choice. (GUN DOG photo)

The Newbie

I’m new to hunting, have kids, live in the city: Minimal training and maximum unconditional love are hallmarks of Labrador retrievers, creditable upland dogs and consummate water retrievers. They are the ultimate family dog and can’t be beat for a first gun dog. Got a little more time and energy? A field-bred cocker, Springer, or Golden retriever should be on your list. Consider a female pup as they are, by and large, more biddable.

The Drifter

I love wide-open spaces, have a tolerant spouse: Dive headfirst into the dazzling world of pointing dogs. You’ll need training birds, and grounds for training, and miles of exercise. Then, join the cult, get a GPS collar and start working with your new best friend—a shorthair, vizsla, Brittany, wirehair, griffon, pointer, or setter.


The Weekend Warrior

I hunt a couple times a year; most of the time I want a jogging buddy: Lab again. Teach two social skills—“come” and “stay”—and you’re golden. The fetch part is in their DNA. But maybe what you really need is a pool table.

The Challenger

I’ve had a (shorthair, Lab) and want to try something new: If you like shorthairs, try wirehaired breeds. Got one? Go farther afield with a Small Munsterlander or vizsla; Lab lover? Find a field-bred water spaniel or flat-coated retriever. Pointer person? Try a spaniel and fasten your seatbelt. Or take the plunge and couple a flusher with a pointer...and clear your training calendar.

The Down-Sizer

I’m retired, slowing down, but still love hunting with a dog: No judgment here, but if you mean an easy-keeping, slower-moving, closer-working dog you’re in luck because I’m adding to my list daily. Here’s what I have so far: Wirehaired pointing griffon, Spinone Italiano, Clumber spaniel, Bracco Italiano, and...wait for it—Labrador, again.

The Aristocrat

I drive a vintage MG, shoot old Parkers, live in a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright: You may be looking for a dog-with-a-difference. Shop carefully, selecting from a wide variety of outliers. Braque Francais, Braque Bourbonnais, Epagneul Breton, Curly-coated retriever, Czesky Fousek, Bracco Italiano. Each has a growing following and deeper gene pool than a few decades ago. Go all-in and join the breed’s governing club in the home country: Drahthaar, Kurzhaar, Epagneul Breton, among others, and turn your hobby into a (healthy) obsession.

complete bird dog buyer's guide
For many bird hunters, a pointing dog is a must-have in their narrative. (GUN DOG photo)

The One in Charge

I coach football, I’m a retired Marine: You’ll need a dog that can cope with your dominant personality. Shorthairs will do. Pointers and Chessies, too. Some German wirehairs can take it. Springers are tough. Stay away from usually “softer” breeds like setters, cockers, and French dogs that respond best to a light hand in training.

The No Bull, All Business Hunter

I just don’t need more angst in my life: Try pointing breeds such as Braque Francais, many wirehairs and their cousins (pudelpointers, griffons). You’ll still need to work on the birds-pointing-steadiness thing, though. Flushers might be more your style. Consider coat maintenance, and remember, Cockers will idolize you, Labs will wear your high-school ring, and neither needs to point.

The Lover

Gimme! I love them all, wish I could afford the feed bill on a kennel full: Until that day, I’m like you: searching for the “perfect” breed. The good news is, they’re all perfect if we’re honest with ourselves and our expectations.

If you can’t exercise a dog five times a week all year, or if you aren’t a passionate hunter, get an aquarium. But if you’re willing to live the life, welcome and good luck. I’m glad to recommend a Labrador breeder.


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