Summer is almost over, which means that the shooting season is just around the corner. This sport, which is the very essence of British culture, promotes a relationship between man and dog that requires trust, obedience and a relationship like no other. Therefore, getting the right dog for this role is crucial to cementing a partnership that stands the test of time.
When you buy any dog, whether it is required as a pet, or a working dog such as a gundog, prices will vary considerably based on factors such as breeding, pedigree, experience and age. The key is to look at getting the best dog for the best possible value.
Find a dog that fits your lifestyle
The Labrador and Springer Spaniels are arguably the most popular gundog breeds. However it is worth considering exactly what you require from your gundog to help you make the right choice.
A Spaniel is a high energy dog and will not be at his best sitting around at home all day. So if you are new to shooting and plan to incorporate it as an occasional hobby, a Spaniel may be too active unless you are prepared to engage it in other dog training activities or regular daily exercise.
A Labrador on the other hand, is a great shooting dog which rarely has the same high energy levels of the Spaniel. In my experience of working extensively with both breeds, the Spaniel seems to run on never ending Duracell batteries, whereas the Labrador is more of an Ever Ready battery, so by the time you are ready to drop, he’s not far behind you! This slightly slower paced dog also proves to be a calmer companion on a more formal driven shoot where long periods of waiting around are required.
Where to buy your puppy from
There will never be a shortage of Labrador pups on the market and it may be tempting to go for the first litter that you come across in your local paper. However, like many things in life, you often get what you pay for and good breeding comes at a price. Looking at gundog websites and classified advertisements in magazines will highlight the wide range of prices that you can pay. Generally speaking, the cheaper puppies are those that, while having a working pedigree, may not be well-bred in terms of having proven sire and dam lines.
That said, you will certainly come across owners who have picked up a cheap pup that has gone on to become an excellent working dog, and whilst this may be the case, there is a greater risk of your puppy having undesirable traits compared to a puppy that has come from proven breeding.
The difference in cost between proven and unproven stock
A puppy whose parents have not been eye or hip tested will set you back around £400 or less, compared with a proven well bred puppy who’s parents have been fully tested for both health and ability which will cost you circa £650/£800.
It may be tempting to go for the cheaper option, however this can prove false economy in the long run if the puppy develops any long term health issues. Remember that this dog is going to give you on average 10 years of service in the field, the extra money initially could save you thousands of pounds over the course of time.
It is also worth bearing in mind that if you buy a bitch that you plan to breed from, the value of the puppies will be higher if they are from a dam that is well bred and proven healthy.
For the owner new to shooting, buying a part trained gundog may seem a good option and this can be true, however there are pit falls to look out for in this area.
Be vigilant when purchasing a part-trained gundog. If you have no idea what you are doing, then it is imperative to take along some one who does. ‘Part-trained’ can cover a wide scope of what training has actually been undertaken. Do the math; you are looking at circa £100 per week to send a gun dog away to be trained, so if someone is offering you a well bred, part trained Labrador of around 14 months old for under £1000, listen to the alarm bells!
Fully Trained Gundogs
This may seem the ‘piste de resistance’ to the novice gun dog owner. However, I urge you to take someone along who knows exactly what they are looking for. You will most certainly come across ‘fully trained’ gun dogs for around £2000 – £2500, but the time, expertise and training that goes into these dogs is not reflected in this price. Double that figure and you will be somewhere close to a realistic fee for a well bred, well trained gun dog.
And finally, this dog will be with you for around 10 years and whilst he will predominately be a gun dog, he will also be your friend, so always take this into consideration when picking out your pup.