How to assess a hunting dog breeder?

Str8shooter

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I should say Ive owned two wirehairs (one from the pound, one from a rescue) and after a season of walking fields on wild birds, they both figured out the game and pointed and retrieved birds beautifully. I am looking to get a puppy (another wirehair, draht, griff or maybe pudel pointer....something about those beards...) and the breeder world/trial results/ lineage reports are all japanese to me. I could care less about show trial qualities like confirmation etc and Im a bit skeptical that field trial tests using dizzed up, uber stinky, pen raised birds really tells me much about the nose and hunting capabilities of an upland dog. Im interested in whether the lineage has proficiency on wild birds in western habitats. So to my questions... Short of hunting behind some of these dogs, how do you tell whether a breeder is producing good hunting dogs on wild birds? Do puppies pointing wings/pigeons at 5 or 8 weeks tell me anything? Anyone have experience with GWP breeders that have proven experience on this front? And what does proof look like? Thanks!
 

Okhotnik

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Im not familiar breeders that breed their dogs specifically for wild birds. Look for breeders that will only sell their dogs to go to active hunting homes and that is not typically a problems for the breeds you listed. I think health certs, temperament, sociability, drive are important to look at first. If the dog comes from a long established line of western hunting dogs you should be fine.

Obviously then the most important thing, after 3 to 8 months of basic training , socializing and getting prey drive and confidence set, is to get the dog on as many wild birds as possible when young. Something else that cannot be stressed enough is to establish a strong connection with your dog so it is not hunting for itself but hunts with you as a partner. I see this often hunting with guys who send their dogs away away for long periods of time for training. just my 2 cents
 
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Russp17

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I should say Ive owned two wirehairs (one from the pound, one from a rescue) and after a season of walking fields on wild birds, they both figured out the game and pointed and retrieved birds beautifully. I am looking to get a puppy (another wirehair, draht, griff or maybe pudel pointer....something about those beards...) and the breeder world/trial results/ lineage reports are all japanese to me. I could care less about show trial qualities like confirmation etc and Im a bit skeptical that field trial tests using dizzed up, uber stinky, pen raised birds really tells me much about the nose and hunting capabilities of an upland dog. Im interested in whether the lineage has proficiency on wild birds in western habitats. So to my questions... Short of hunting behind some of these dogs, how do you tell whether a breeder is producing good hunting dogs on wild birds? Do puppies pointing wings/pigeons at 5 or 8 weeks tell me anything? Anyone have experience with GWP breeders that have proven experience on this front? And what does proof look like? Thanks!

One way to take away some guess work is to buy a Draht if you want a bearded dog... They have all had health checks, and atleast have passed some hunt tests which I agree isn't a go no go, but it does say the dog does have ok cooperation and probably will be a decent bird dog.
 

2ski

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As said, look for a breeder than will only sell to hunters. Expect to be interviewed. I put out feelers for griffs in November and had some great conversations with breeders. As long as there's 4 pups I'm getting one the end of April, but if not I have a deposit on another litter. I put out lots of feelers and 2 breeders aren't breeding this year, one I could've had one of 2 spots left out of 3 litters, one I would've been 20th on the waiting list(guy that led me to that breeder is at the top of the list after 2 years of waiting and moving up) and so on. Had many good conversations with breeders. As far as pictures, look at coats. A DD would be a pretty safe bet for coat and confirmation. As would a PP. Because both breeds have controls on breeding and aren't AKC recognized. Griffs have become an it dog. Join a Facebook griff page and 90% of the dogs you see have sucky coats. The other day on one, someone asked how big people's dogs were. Too many people answered in the 80lb range. Breed standard is max 60/65 I believe. Shaggy coats are bad. I'm hoping for a 40-50 lb female with a tight coat.
 

tops911

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I like the German breeding system and testing of Drahthaars. It's hard to get a bad puppy with their system of testing and breeding, in my opinion and experience. The testing the Drafts do is against a standard to certify them to breed, its not a competition like trials. Look at the parents if possible, that will give you an idea of the puppies potential. I have had 3 Drahthaars. I currently have 2 Drafts (my first past away 2 years ago at the age of 14). I started hunting my newest puppy when she was about 4 months old this last fall. The puppy has hunted sage grouse, Huns, sharptail grouse, pheasants, and waterfowl. She has tracked and retrieved wound birds on her own. She has been along on 2 blood tracking for deer lost by hunters, although my Teckel found the deer first. The only training we worked on was her recall. After hunting this season now her training will start. Drahts are not for everyone but I like them and how they hunt. They tend to enjoy hunting fur as well. My 7 year old points all kinds of game to include porcupines, deer, coyotes, raccoons (and kill them), rabbits, foxes, rattle snakes and even a black bear (I was more than surprised when it flushed).
My dogs live in the house and have a good off switch. With all that said Drafts are not for everyone but I do believe it's hard to get a bad one
 

slvrslngr

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Pen raised or wild, to a dog, a bird is a bird. I wouldn't get too caught up in whether the dam and sire hunt preserves or out in the boonies. My PP's first exposure to pheasants was on pen raised birds and she knew exactly what they were, she then transitioned to wild pheasant with no issues.

As far as breeders, good ones will interview you, you should interview them. They should happily answer any questions. Ask for references. Try and go along on some hunts and/or training days with the sire and dam. Do as much research as you can and ask a lot of questions. Be honest with yourself and the breeder about how much hunting and training you're committed to, remember that the dog is going to be a pet most of the year. And when you decide on a breeder, get a contract in writing.
 

2ski

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What he said. If I wanted an almost guaranteed dog and didn't have connections that I've developed to let me know who good breeders are in the griff work, a DD ( drathaar) would be at the top of my list.

Note that a DD is a German wire haired pointer (gwp) but bred to a standard and as stated, tested to a norm for breeding purposes. If you go this route, do not stop when you find a gwp breeder. It's not the same. Start with the DD group and look for breeders from there. The true of the DK/German short-haired. A gwp will be a sharper dog.
 

DJB

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We are on our 3 and 4th DD's and they are great hunters. When I was looking for a pup I started out by contacting breeders in the general area I hunt (upper Midwest). For you it would be the western US. I would have a good idea of how I wanted the dog to hunt, for me it is 50 to 150 yards since half the hunting I do is for grouse and woodcock. My dogs will stretch it out when we are SD and the birds are scattered. Then I would have a set of questions for the breeder that cover what your looking for in a dog. One question that I think is important is what the breeder sees as the strong points in their dogs and what they are trying to improve. I would also try and see the parents work in a natural setting if possible. I would also ask the breeder if any of his previous puppy's are being tested and go watch the test to see how the pups do. Keep in mind that part of what you see is influenced by the handler so look at natural ability and cooperation more then obedience (does the dog check back with the handler or is it hunting for itself, does the dog seem to hunt cover well and target birdy looking areas). I would also ask the breeder for buyers that you can talk to that have had a pup out of one of the parents.
 

Okhotnik

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As said, look for a breeder than will only sell to hunters. Expect to be interviewed. I put out feelers for griffs in November and had some great conversations with breeders. As long as there's 4 pups I'm getting one the end of April, but if not I have a deposit on another litter. I put out lots of feelers and 2 breeders aren't breeding this year, one I could've had one of 2 spots left out of 3 litters, one I would've been 20th on the waiting list(guy that led me to that breeder is at the top of the list after 2 years of waiting and moving up) and so on. Had many good conversations with breeders. As far as pictures, look at coats. A DD would be a pretty safe bet for coat and confirmation. As would a PP. Because both breeds have controls on breeding and aren't AKC recognized. Griffs have become an it dog. Join a Facebook griff page and 90% of the dogs you see have sucky coats. The other day on one, someone asked how big people's dogs were. Too many people answered in the 80lb range. Breed standard is max 60/65 I believe. Shaggy coats are bad. I'm hoping for a 40-50 lb female with a tight coat.
I'm picking up another griff next week in Whitefish.
 
OP
Str8shooter

Str8shooter

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Anyone know of western state breeders who actively breed based on wild bird hunting prowess?
 

KurtR

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what the field tests will tell you is the dog is capable of learning and being a team player. Having killed thousands of wild birds guiding here in Sodak and some pen raised the dogs dont care and a bird is a bird. Health certs and a breeder who has the lineage in the pedigree will ask lots of questions and be very selective. i wish the lab world was as stringent as the Drahts. Just getting into the hunt test game with my new puppy and after being at a few tests and training days pedigree and titles and health are very important to hedge your bets on getting a good healthy dog
 

Slingblade

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I have Drahthaars, have breed them and Judged briefly in the German testing system. I believe wild bird “prowess” is more of a product of exposure then breeding. Nose and pointing are a product of breeding. If you take a pup at an early age with good nose and pointing and hunt preserve birds the dog is going to learn he can get on top of them and they are not going anywhere, he will carry it over to wild birds.

Wild birds keep a dog honest, but it takes a few bumped coveys for a smart dog to figure out how to work them, or how to get in front of a running rooster.

The German registered dogs gives you a dog that at least you know all six generations before have passed some hunt and health test. Coat and conformation are important if you hunt your dog a lot and don’t want to replace hips and knees, or pull burrs out all day.

I can say I have seen plenty of DDs that will not point for shit and would rather chase fur all day, so you need to do your homework. Go to some test, look for a breeder that has dogs that range and hunt the way you like and also have good noses and cooperation. Check out NAVHDA and VDD sponsored test and find what you like and then put the new pup on wild birds early and often and let them learn.

Out west, there are several DD breeders in Utah producing good dogs but If I were to get a wild bird hunting pup now, I would get one from

DD- vom Jagdkonig in Illinois

GSP – Sundance in Missouri
 

Russp17

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Can I ask why you would recommend Sundance breeders. I’m looking for another gsp puppy. Thanks


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Slingblade

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Can I ask why you would recommend Sundance breeders. I’m looking for another gsp puppy. Thanks


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The Sundance dogs that I have seen have all been really consistent... good nose, drive, pointing. I have only gunned over them at NAVHDA tests not wild birds, but they usually cleared the field finding birds left over from other dogs. I am not a GSP fan ( because there are sooo many) but it was enough to impress me. Maybe not as cooperative as a DD guy would like but they stood out.
 

Superdoo

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Op, where are you located?
I would highly recommend you talk to your nearest NAVHDA chapter.
Based on your original comment about field trials and pen raised birds I would also recommend that you expand past your naiveté on this subject. Once you spend some time around individuals truly committed to either getting the most out of their pup or taking all of the steps necessary to ensure they are producing pups that will have the best odds of being healthy great companions both in the field and in the house, I think you'll change some of your predispositions.

It's great that you had good luck with your previous animals and I'm glad to see you're not trying to rely on luck this time around.

As for the DD's, it will be important to have conversations with breeders about temperament. I know breeders that have struggled with throwing the occasional aggressive dog.

Things like the statement I made above make talking with locals that have their ears to the ground extremely important. There is not a single breeder out there (with the exception of one PP breeder I recently talked with) that will actually tell you "I'm just in it for the money" or "I don't care where my pups end up."
You'll have to get them to show you their cards. I always ask how they are health testing prior to breeding. Specifically are they doing Pen Hip? If they are doing hips, what is their go/ no go point on hips?
What traits are they breeding for? Running big? High prey drive?
What about their demeaner in the house? I hunt mine every weekend either birds or small game. That still is only 14% of the dogs time. I need to know that the other 86% of the time I won't hate them!

It's also important to see where the whelping area is and in general what happens with the pups during the 8 weeks before you pick one up.
What kind of socialization is being done? Are the pups getting outside and exploring?

There's so much to discuss!
 

huntineveryday

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I am currently in the process of finding a breeder for a bearded dog as well. Currently have an aging gwp. I am pretty sold on NAVHDA testing and will only be using a breeder that is involved with testing thier dogs. If a breeder is really interested in breeding good dogs that hunt well, they will want thier pups tested in the Natural Ability test (or DD variation of that test). I would ask any breeder how they are testing the ability of thier breeding stock and litters, what thier goal of those tests is, etc. It would be a red flag for me if they aren't interested in trying to have thier litters tested.

NAVHDA has lists of breeders and test results you can use to look for how specific breeders or lines of dogs are doing. The judges for NAVHDA or presidents of clubs in your area might have some insight to kennels or breeders they have seen good dogs from as well.
 
OP
Str8shooter

Str8shooter

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Op, where are you located?
I would highly recommend you talk to your nearest NAVHDA chapter.
Based on your original comment about field trials and pen raised birds I would also recommend that you expand past your naiveté on this subject. Once you spend some time around individuals truly committed to either getting the most out of their pup or taking all of the steps necessary to ensure they are producing pups that will have the best odds of being healthy great companions both in the field and in the house, I think you'll change some of your predispositions.

It's great that you had good luck with your previous animals and I'm glad to see you're not trying to rely on luck this time around.

As for the DD's, it will be important to have conversations with breeders about temperament. I know breeders that have struggled with throwing the occasional aggressive dog.

Things like the statement I made above make talking with locals that have their ears to the ground extremely important. There is not a single breeder out there (with the exception of one PP breeder I recently talked with) that will actually tell you "I'm just in it for the money" or "I don't care where my pups end up."
You'll have to get them to show you their cards. I always ask how they are health testing prior to breeding. Specifically are they doing Pen Hip? If they are doing hips, what is their go/ no go point on hips?
What traits are they breeding for? Running big? High prey drive?
What about their demeaner in the house? I hunt mine every weekend either birds or small game. That still is only 14% of the dogs time. I need to know that the other 86% of the time I won't hate them!

It's also important to see where the whelping area is and in general what happens with the pups during the 8 weeks before you pick one up.
What kind of socialization is being done? Are the pups getting outside and exploring?

There's so much to discuss!
Hey thanks for your thoughts, Im in Colorado. I dont mean to be entirely dismissive of the NAHVDA testing process and for sure would be interested in getting a dog from a line that has performed well in these tests. Post covid I hope to make some of these trials as truly I haven't seen them in person, only online videos. I only mean to say that wild birds are almost an entirely different animal when compared to pen raised birds. I have hunted enough preserves to know that these birds will hold with dogs pointing 3 feet from them, rarely run, have the same amount of predatory avoidance instinct as a pototo and put off much more scent than wild birds (which arent standing in poo jammed pens with 100 other birds). Its also a matter of how these dogs are looking for birds in habitat. How many preserves are dropping birds 50 yds into a cattail slough or quail 30 yds deep into a plum thicket? My discussion with breeders thus far (mostly in western Colorado) relay NAHVDA results but also stories about pen raised preserve prowess ("my dogs point more birds in a week than most dogs in a season"). I have to think there are breeders who are making decisions on breeding based not just on trial scores and temperment, but wild bird hunting proficiency. Am I totally off base here?
 

tops911

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Str8shooter you raise valid points. I would highly encourage you to attend the 2 puppy tests (VJP & HZP) for Drafts if possible. I went to observe the VJP before my first pup was born. Its a good way to meet and observe dogs from different kennels. As a side note I was originally from Colorado, but the far eastern side. I did live in Montrose for a while
 

Spoonbill

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Hey thanks for your thoughts, Im in Colorado. I dont mean to be entirely dismissive of the NAHVDA testing process and for sure would be interested in getting a dog from a line that has performed well in these tests. Post covid I hope to make some of these trials as truly I haven't seen them in person, only online videos. I only mean to say that wild birds are almost an entirely different animal when compared to pen raised birds. I have hunted enough preserves to know that these birds will hold with dogs pointing 3 feet from them, rarely run, have the same amount of predatory avoidance instinct as a pototo and put off much more scent than wild birds (which arent standing in poo jammed pens with 100 other birds). Its also a matter of how these dogs are looking for birds in habitat. How many preserves are dropping birds 50 yds into a cattail slough or quail 30 yds deep into a plum thicket? My discussion with breeders thus far (mostly in western Colorado) relay NAHVDA results but also stories about pen raised preserve prowess ("my dogs point more birds in a week than most dogs in a season"). I have to think there are breeders who are making decisions on breeding based not just on trial scores and temperment, but wild bird hunting proficiency. Am I totally off base here?
think of pen raised birds as practice. The more birds the dog points, the more opportunities the trainer has to correct mistakes. Same as shooting sporting clays to improve shooting wild birds.
I see your point on looking for a breeder whose dogs have wild bird hunting proficiency. I would look for a trainer that is also a hunter or at least will only sell dogs to hunters. You still may end up with a dud dog, but the chances are less.
 
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