Pick of The Litter
Going to buy Pointers in Tennessee is one of the weeks I hold in high anticipation each year. Injecting young dogs in our kennel is a necessity and I simply love looking at young talent. I am fortunate these days. I have been purchasing my Pointers from the same source for several years. Ross knows what I like, I love what he has, so the feeling out process between the two of us has long run its course. Now when I show up to look at dogs, Ross has culled hard and has only the crème of the crop to show me.
Things did not always go as smooth as they go now. There are several train wrecks I could tell you about, but this one story should suffice for the point of this article. A few seasons ago we were plagued by injuries and I HAD to have 2 pointers ASAP. I called several breeders and most told me they did not have what I was looking for. Then I called what I thought was a reputable breeder in Honey Grove, Texas. He said he had exactly what I needed; problem solved! My daughter Taylor was home, so we loaded up and made the 10-hour drive that next day. He showed me the dogs and even though I was not overly impressed, I needed 2 dogs. One was a 3 year old and the other 2. The 3 year old was a well built, good looking male with a deep liver colored muzzle, mask and ears. It was only when we got home that we noticed the deep liver on his muzzle started to come off. They had put a dye on his muzzle to cover his age. When we took him to the vet, they said the dog was an older dog. Lesson learned end of story….
I tell this story to exhibit that someone like myself, who supposedly knows a little something about dogs can get hoodwinked.
Although we do not breed our pointers any longer, we do raise 20-30 Cockers each summer. For those of you who are considering adding a Cocker to your family, the following questions for the breeder and observations of the pups parents might be of some help.
1. How long have you been breeding dogs?
2. Have you bred the sire and dam of this litter before? If yes, what were the puppies like and do you have pictures or videos of them?
3. Are the mom and dad kid friendly? Were past puppies from this breeding good house/hunting dogs and kid friendly?
4. Have the sire and dam been OFA certified (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals)? This test is administered by X-Raying the dog’s hips for hip dysplasia. The dog is then scored excellent, good, fair or poor. Anyone using dogs in the lower 2 categories is doing their breed a disservice. Hip dysplasia is a heritable disease and using a lower grade dog in a breeding program is asking for problems down the road.
5. Are there any health related issues with either the dam or sire? Cancer, ear problems, allergies, over bite, under bite etc.
6. Is the dam and sire both Chagas negative? Chagas disease is rapidly gaining notoriety with the general public, and for good reason. If you are unfamiliar with Chagas Disease, please refer to our Blog on Chagas. Reputable breeders will test every puppy before you take possession to ensure the puppy is in perfect health!
7. How do you socialize, housebreak and kennel break your puppies?
8. Are the pups current on all vaccinations and what will they need when I get home.
9. What food should I feed my new puppy?
10. Do you provide a health guarantee on the puppy?
Some of you will note that I did not bring up bloodlines and pedigrees in my questioning. The reasoning? Pedigrees are only as good as the confirmation and disposition of the pups parents. I want to see that the dam and sire of a puppy have natural retrieving desire, natural hunting desire, intelligence, sound confirmation, great disposition and possess “the look” that I desire to inject into our breeding program. Then I will focus in on the bloodlines. The reality is that most people do not possess the knowledge of pedigrees to visit intelligently about the pros and cons of any given bloodline. That is why it is so important to dissect the parents confirmation and disposition; those flaws can’t be hidden. Our Cockers pedigrees are littered with field champions on one or both sides, but it is something I only bring up if asked. Our dogs are tested in the field, not field trials.
*The confirmation of a dog refers solely to the externally visible details of a dogs structure and appearance.
*The disposition of a dog refers to how the dog interacts with other dogs, people and overall personality of the dog.
1. Ask to see the sire and dam. Here you can evaluate each dogs confirmation. Females should look feminine, males masculine.
2. Look at the pictures of the Cockers we provided and take note of how they naturally stand. Their front paws are straight under the point of their shoulders, and stand wide exhibiting a deep chest. The dog is not pigeon toed, nor stands narrow in their front end. Their back paws are aligned with their hipbone. Again, paws are straight to pointing slightly to the outside of the dogs stance. We call this a squared up dog. The confirmation of the dog will be a determining factor as to their longevity in the field, productivity in the field, as well as how long the dog lives.
3. Watch the parents run and walk, this is called their Gait. The gait is accordingly characterized more by drive and the appearance of power than by great speed. They should cover ground effortlessly and with extension both in front and in the rear, appropriate to their angulation. This should be an effortless process. They should never hop on their back legs and only one back leg should be hitting the ground at any time when they walk or run. If they are bunny hopping on their backend, that is a sign of poor hips. Cockers are a dog of balance, both standing and moving, without exaggeration in any of their parts, the whole worth more than the sum of it’s parts.
4. Check the parents teeth for over and under bites. This is also a heritable trait.
5. Now ask yourself, do you like how the dam and sire look? If you like one, but not the other, you might want to look at another litter. If you like the overall looks of the dam and sire, then you are on the right path.
6. Now that you have looked at the confirmation of the dog, now evaluate their disposition.
7. The temperament of a Cocker as defined by the AKC is as follows: The English Cocker is merry and affectionate, of equable disposition, neither sluggish nor hyperactive, a willing worker and a faithful and engaging companion.
8. The expression of a Cocker should be soft, melting, yet dignified, alert and intelligent. The eyes should tell the story of the dog! Bright eyed dogs show the look of intensity, desire, engagement and an eagerness to please.
This approach is solely my opinion and should be taken as such. However, Cockers are the hottest breed going right now and there are folks putting two dogs together to manufacture litters with zero to little thought about the topics mentioned above. Good luck in your search and if anyone has questions, I am a phone call away.
Adios for now,
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