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So you want a dog?
Some advice on choosing a pup from Bruce Thibodeau

That's it. Your season ended you are tired of retrieving your own birds. You lost a couple you wouldn't have if you'd had a dog.

You look to your wife, and hear those words," NO DOGS!!". Thinking creatively, you decide to first get the kids on your side.

All seriousness aside though, this decision can be one of two - the greatest thing you ever do or the worst thing you ever do. How to decide? How to pick? ... and where do you start? Well I am going to try to answer this and then we will look into the training and methods and possibly even discuss the ways to determine what is best for you.

First thing anyone thinking of a pup, and especially a retriever, needs to remember. A dog, like children, are all different - some are chewers some are not. Some are mischievous, and others are perfect angels. A lot of what you get depends on what you pick, combined with how it was trained, and its genetics.

Oh don't worry we will not get into the chromosome levels on choosing your new companion. What to do and where to start.

Evaluate yourself and home, Do you have the time to devote to this pup? Will your home be ruined or will you lose your home if you get a pup? Do you have the room in your home and yard to allow this new addition to get the exercise they need?

If you still come to the conclusion you want a new dog, then the next questions, have you ever owned a dog before, as an adult?

Have you ever trained a dog? If you still are prepared for this step, then it is time to decide what type of dog you want.

There are many types and many kinds of dogs, each has its breeds strong points and weak points, the way to find out what to expect is to read up on the different breeds you are thinking about buying. A few books and a few weeks worth the study can save you years of heartache and headaches.

When you decide on the type of dog it is now time to decide who you will buy it from, also if you have chosen the labrador, might I suggest seriously to pick a colour that compliments your flooring in your home! yes a Black Lab and a white carpet means sometimes 3-4 times a day with the vacuum unless you want to own a grey carpet.

When choosing the breeder try to find one you like. Contact several and call them talk to them meet them and learn from them. A breeder will usually be more than willing to teach you about their animals. Look for a well organized clean kennel and loving environment. If you see something you don't like, then choose a different person. Well organized and clean does not mean antiseptic and hospital sterile, it means a clean one.

After finding a breeder, be certain to know if there are guarantees, about Hips, elbows, eyes, and liver. these in Labs are known to be the problems. Hip Displasia is a problem in larger dogs, and it can lead to thousands of dollars in expensive surgery or even the loss of the dog. Be sure of what you are buying.

OK, the day is here, you are going to pick your pup from the litter. What will you look for and how will you pick just one out of them all? This method starts when you are at home still. First find a few old feathers or a wing, take a training dummy, or bumper, and also take a few treats.

Now when you arrive be sure to go over all the papers and everything with the breeder. Then go out to see the pups. Otherwise you may find something is not to your liking, and it is a little difficult to turn away and start again when you have spent 1-2 hours picking out your cute little fur ball you now hold in your arms.

When you get to the pups, ask before doing anything, you do not want to anger the breeder. Watch the pups for a few, and see if you see any that are limping or any other flaw you may see, if you find one question the breeder. A reputable breeder will answer your questions honestly. Have any you do not want removed and placed aside.

Next while talking toss the wing out into the area near the group of pups. Watch for the ones who are attentive and pick out the new item. See which ones show interest in the feathers and want to chew and play with them. Remove any that have no interest.

Next sit down and see which ones will come to you and want to play. Pick them up, one at a time and roll them to their back. keep the ones who did not get to aggressive about being rolled over and held, meaning no growling and biting and frantic panic.

I usually tie the wing or feathers to a string and drag it now and try to keep the interest of some of the pups left those who do not have the desire to hunt and stalk it I remove. I also then use the treats I will give all those left one treat, I have the rest in a pocket that they can easily smell the treat inside. I then sit there and wait to see which one or two usually will discover were the treats are. This way you also have one that is willing to scent.

Now with all of this said you may have a few left, if more than one I then watch them to see which is the more aggressive, and if three I watch to see if one is possibly very shy around the other pups. I always choose the pup that is not over-aggressive, and not too shy. The aggressive ones are usually Alphas, and such and they are great dogs but I just don't like butting heads with my dog during training.

The biggest thing to remember is that there are many ways to choose that pup, including standing in the middle of them closing your eyes spinning around and pointing to that one! The above way will not always guarantee you a great dog, but it will help to stand a better chance at one you prefer to work with.

Remember what ever you choose this is an 8-15 year commitment when dealing with large breed dogs they will usually fall into that range for life expectancy.