How Much Is That Puppy On The Corner?

There’s no doubt about it, one of the most exciting times in a sportsman’s life is when the decision has been made to add to the existing sporting family.   I’m not talking about a young couple choosing to have another child…oh no…this event is sometimes equally as important to that.   I’m talking about the decision and the process of adding a new puppy to the household.

Today I was driving to a local sporting goods store when I came to an intersection with a four-way stop.   On one corner was a flea market-like stand peddling flowers in advance of Mother’s Day (tomorrow), and on the other corner were two camo-clad adults with a small puppy pen and six energetic black lab puppies bouncing around with that “pick me, pick me” exuberance.

This got me thinking how puppies can be such a magnet for sportsmen.   There was literally a line of folks waiting to take their turn at playing with and holding a puppy.   There were children (who seem to be particularly attracted) as well as older adults who seemed mesmerized by the little black fur balls.

I, however, continued forward past the intersection and put the little impromptu puppy peddlers in my rearview mirror.   What I was not able to put behind me was the thought of what those sportsmen were trying to do on that particular intersection.

First off, I sincerely hope that nobody who stopped at that stand on this day decided to purchase a puppy on an impulse.   The fact is dogs can be a lot of work and can result in a real expense that needs to be carefully considered into the family budget.   And I’m not just talking about money here, either.   I’m also talking about the investment of time.   A pet, no matter what type you own, brings with it a set of responsibilities that any new potential pet owner should not take lightly.

But let’s get beyond the decision of whether or not a dog should be purchased.   My other big concern is doing your homework to make sure you get the right dog.   Once you determine what breed best fits your needs, you then need to move on and find a reputable breeder to fulfill your new puppy goals.   Take a lesson from me, DO NOT overlook the importance of this step.

My current hunting dog, Duchess, is a black lab that I purchased about six years ago.   I thought I did my homework as well as spoke to several sportsmen in the local retriever club.   I then settled on buying a dog from a reputable hunter, but albeit a new breeder.   I learned that sometimes buying a dog is much like a crapshoot.   You can do all the research necessary to hopefully make the gamble pay off…and in the end still end up somewhat a loser.

While Duchess has been a great companion she most certainly has also been a big cost to the wallet.   At just 22 months of age she tore her Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) as well as began developing early signs of canine hip dysplasia (CHD).   This condition, as I later learned, was also present in at least one of her other littermates.   In real money, the dog has cost me nearly $3,000 in surgeries and medications that I did not anticipate.   Moreover, I now have a dog that, in what should be the prime of her life gets sore quickly and must end the day’s hunt far too early for a dog of her age.

Even though I hold no hard feelings toward the seller of my dog…it certainly emphasizes the point to me that you can never be too careful when buying a new hunting dog.   Even when I thought I took all the necessary precautions and care, I ended up with a pooch that hasn’t quite met my expectations as far as her health.

My pointers when picking a new puppy:   1) Give it lots of careful thought and discuss how it will fit in with the family (for heavens sakes…don’t buy on an impulse); 2) Do your homework and spend the time necessary researching what breed and breeder seems to have the best fit for your situation; 3) Realize that to bring up a puppy properly it takes a real commitment of time…and be prepared to spend it; 4)  Discuss with the breeder the health history of the puppy’s parents and get a health guarantee in writing.   Usually most breeders will warrant their puppies for 24 months (sometimes longer) against genetic health difficulties; 5) Get the dog to the vet immediately for a baseline health inspection; 6) Talk to a qualified trainer early to get your dog scheduled for training, or at the very least pick up some tapes and books and do it yourself.

As you can see, if you follow the guidelines I have just described you will likely not want to stop at some intersection and purchase a puppy much like you would buy a package of gum at the grocery’s checkout line.   Buying a new hunting pal that will be part of your family’s life for the next 13 years or so needs much more careful thought than that.

I guess it comes down to this.   If you are really hard pressed to find a Mother’s Day gift it might be better to stop first at the flower stand on the opposite corner of that intersection.   Besides, it might take a huge bouquet of flowers to pave the way in convincing the “mom” of the household of your impending puppy purchase.

© 2005 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.