When you are in the market for a puppy, there are so many things that can go through your mind.
If you are like most, you have spent hours and hours watching videos, researching different breeders, and daydreaming about the hunting adventures that you and your pup will one day embark on.
You may also be researching and thinking about how to pick the best puppy for you. If you are, then you are on the right track. The first step in picking a puppy that's right for you is finding the right breeder. If you haven't found a breeder yet, then you will want to read our blog post on How to Choose a Good Breeder and Get the Right Retriever.
Once you find a breeder, you can begin the journey of picking your puppy.
So how do you pick the right puppy for you?
Picking the right puppy for you doesn't boil down to an exact science, but there are definitely things that you should consider.
Picking the litter: Why picking the litter is just as important as picking the puppy.
We briefly discussed bloodlines in the first blog post in this series, but let's expound on this topic a bit.
Many people go to pick up a puppy with certain wants and desires. Some want their puppy to be fast and hard-charging, while others want it to be more laid back. Some want a smaller pup that can be picked up with one hand and loaded into the boat, while others want a larger pup that can handle a massive Canada goose with ease.
I imagine that you have certain wants and desires for your pup as well. We all do. Your best chance at making these wants and desires a reality is by picking the litter, so you need to know how to pick the litter rather than how to pick a puppy out of a litter. What does "picking the litter" actually mean?
If you think about it, the pup that you are picking is going to have similarities to the sire and dam. Not only will your pup share its parent's looks, but it will share their tendencies and personalities as well.
When you pick the litter, you are not choosing an exact clone of the parents, but you are getting a strong indication of what type of pup that you will potentially have.
What if you were to skip this step and just try and pick the pup based on how it is acting with its litter mates? Well, at that point, there's no telling what you will end up with. You may want a laid back dog, but if the parents were high drivers, then odds are, you aren't going to end up with the laid back dog that you wanted.
I think you're getting the picture here. Pick the litter, and you are going to be much better off when it comes to getting what you want.
With all of that in mind, let's talk about things to consider when picking the litter that may be important to you.
Choosing the right color.
When it comes to choosing the right color, this completely boils down to personal choice. As it relates to labs, do you want a black, chocolate, or yellow?
Odds are, no matter which of the retrieving dog breeds you've chosen, you probably already have a particular color in mind. This is a good thing! That's a great starting point because once you have a color in mind, you can start searching for the right pairing that checks the rest of your boxes.
Male or Female?
Once you've decided on a color, take time to think about what sex you would prefer. Some prefer a male and others prefer females.
Maybe you are asking the question: "Is there a difference?"
When choosing a male or female there are a few things to consider, but ultimately neither is necessarily better than the other. I have seen both male and female puppies turn out to be great retrievers.
Many times, females will mature a bit quicker than male dogs, but they end up similar with regard to maturity. With that in mind, it shouldn't be your deciding factor on whether or not to choose a male or female.
The overall biggest difference you will see between the male dog and the female dog is the size. The male will generally be a bit larger/heavier than the female dog. So if you are looking for a smaller dog, you may want to go the female route.
One other big consideration is neutering/spaying your dog. If you choose not to neuter/spay your dog, then with a female, you will have to work around heat cycles twice a year. This isn't that big of a deal, but it can be frustrating if it hits in prime hunting season or when you have a hunt test to run.
When it comes to performance, if you do your job right as a trainer, you won't see a difference between either a male or a female dog. Both will get the job done if trained properly.
So, when it comes to choosing sex, which one are you going to choose? Both male and female dogs are great!
Personality is the golden ticket.
Personality is something everyone should be looking for in a pup. This along with many things we are discussing on this topic can be subjective. With that in mind, the goal here is to help you pick the dog with the personality that you like and that you want - the perfect puppy for you.
As already mentioned above, picking the litter is imperative to have the best chance of success in getting what you want. Once you have your list of breeders down that you are considering, it would be wise to enlist their help with this. Your breeder will be the best resource that you have in helping you find the litter that will be most likely to produce the personality you are looking for.
Again, take the time to research each of the potential breedings that you are considering. If you have the opportunity, go see the dogs work in person. If you don't have that opportunity, then consume every bit of information that you can find about the lineage of that potential breeding.
You will most likely be able to find videos of both the male and female that will be paired together. If not, simply ask the breeder for some videos.
Also, don't be afraid to branch out and watch other dogs. Learn all of the different tendencies that you like and that you don't like. If you don't know what you like, then it will be hard to know exactly what you are searching for.
While I certainly encourage you to do your own research, once you have an idea of what you like, be sure to talk with your potential breeders about what you are looking for in a dog. A great, reputable breeder will do all they can to help you find the pup that fits your needs.
The one key that makes all the difference:
With everything that has been discussed here, there is one key that will make all the difference in the world.
The key is you.
No matter what pup you end up choosing, you have the opportunity to take and mold that pup into all that it can be. The more you put in, the more you will get out.
Helping your dog reach its full potential is something that can't be done overnight. It takes time, effort, and dedication. With that said, it is one of the most memorable experiences you can have. The investment you make in your dog can yield years of enjoyment and will make memories that last a lifetime.
Once you pick your puppy, you are going to need to be prepared to bring your puppy home. Go ahead and check out the next blog in this series here.