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Puppy Selection Tips

How to select the best pup from a litter
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  • photo by David Hogan II
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Among the most frequent questions I receive pertain to how to select the best pup from a litter.

No doubt, selection of the right pup to meet one's particular expectations is extremely important. Making a correct choice can improve the odds of producing an excellent retriever with the least amount of frustration and perhaps even avoid disappointment.

The first and most important point to consider is that one must approach puppy acquisition as a genetic selection process rather than trying to utilize methods to select a promising prospect from a particular litter. Focus not so much on picking a pup, rather pick litters.

The way to pick potentially successful liters is to pick a breeder who has proven brood stock and a credible reputation for producing healthy pups genetically predisposed to perform in a manner you desire. Carefully consider your expectations for your future gundog. What are the desirable traits? What will the dog's primary functions include? What breeds interest you and why?

Once you decide on a breed and the desired traits are defined based upon your intended uses, then seek a reputable breeder who has experience producing pups which exemplify the traits that best suit your purposes.

Genes determine the reaction of the dog to its environment, as well as, confirmation and soundness. Genes are the building blocks of heredity and are passed from parents to offspring in a predictable manner. The topic of genetics can quickly progress into a lengthy discussion unsuitable for this article but one can count on knowing this - like begets like.

Total outcrosses, matings of unrelated genetics, may produce the occasionally exceptional offspring, but this is an unpredictable undertaking. 

The only way to gain predictability of traits is to seek an experienced breeder with proven bloodlines which produce successful progeny. This will usually involve some form of line breeding. The mating of similar genetic relationships (line breeding) is conducted to intensify qualities within the line and to improve upon the predictable traits within litters.

Line breeding is successfully practiced in all forms of livestock. Line breeding itself produces nothing, good or bad, it merely intensifies what is genetically there in the bloodline.

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