Spring is on its way and it’s the time when many people think about taking on a new working dog puppy. The evenings are getting lighter and the weather is improving – both of which make training a youngster a little bit easier.

But how do you make the right choice when choosing a puppy, particularly a working breed like a spaniel or labrador?

Darren Kirk

Darren Kirk

We asked award-winning gundog trainer Darren Kirk of Kirkbourne Spaniels for his tips on choosing a working dog puppy. This is what he advised:

“First of all, decide how your dog will be working. Will it be a beating dog? A peg dog? A rough shooting dog? All dogs can do these things, but a spaniel would be the last dog I’d send for retrieving a goose from a river.

“It’s key to know that the training of any dog is right from the beginning. A little bit of fun training like ‘follow me’ will build a really nice recall. Maybe a sit before presenting the pup’s food. Training must be fun from day one. When they get to around six months the formal training can start.

“With a puppy you must ensure that it sees you as life’s sat nav. When the puppy takes a wrong turn we guide it back on track. Try your best not to fall out with the pup as this will only get the puppy resenting you and your methods.

“Finally don’t worry about the old saying that you should never choose the tired puppy in the corner. I think this is misleading. For all you know, the lazy pup has been playing with other puppies for hours and is just resting.”

More things to know when choosing a working dog puppy

  1. When you hear about a litter of puppies you are interested in, ALWAYS make sure you see the puppies with their mother.
  2. Word of mouth is the best way to find a puppy. Never buy a puppy unseen online.
  3. How large is your garden? Do you live in a rural setting or a town? Working cockers are high energy – could you cope?
  4. Pick a puppy with a personality that will suit yours. Retrievers are good for precise and exact types.
  5. Ask if you can handle the puppies (wash your hands first). Pick them up one by one and see if you like the look and feel of them.
  6. When running about the puppy’s legs should seem strong.
  7. The puppies should look bright and clean.
  8. Follow your instincts. If anything seems wrong do not proceed.
  9. Make sure all the paperwork is in order.
  10. Take your time, don’t rush.

You can see Darren Kirk in action at The National Shooting Show, hosted in Harrogate from Saturday 11 – Sunday 12 May 2024.