The Started Dog Advantage

Posted by Tracy Breen on 17th Feb 2020

The Started Dog Advantage

Most of us love the idea of buying a new puppy. There are few things that compare to the love and joy you feel when you walk into a room full of wiggly puppies and get to pick one out and bring it home. The smell of a new puppy, the little whimpers they make, and their cute and cuddly faces are all valid reasons for purchasing a puppy at eight weeks old. The truth is there are also many reasons to purchase a started dog, especially if you plant use the dog as a hunting dog. A started dog can mean a lot of different things to different people, but what most trainers consider a started dog is one that has basic obedience mastered and can retrieve.

Purchase a Started Puppy

One trainer who sells a lot of started dogs is Roger Sigler from Antler Ridge Dog Kennels in Missouri. Sigler has devoted much of his life to training animals including dogs, dolphins and even dangerous animals like lions. Sigler sells started shed antler dogs every year and believes buying a started dog is one of the easiest ways for someone to get the type of dog they are looking for. “Not every dog in a litter of puppies is going to be a rockstar,” Sigler noted. “Many people think that with enough training, every dog can be an awesome hunting dog but that is not the case. When someone calls us and inquires about purchasing a started dog from us, I ask them what type of dog they are looking for. As a litter of dogs is maturing, we look for the traits the person needs in a dog in our puppies. We sell all of our dogs at 16 weeks and by then we can determine which dogs will be good hunting dogs and which ones will not. The dogs that will be good shed antler dogs or waterfowl retrievers go to homes that hunt. By 16 weeks of age, we will easily be able to see the dogs that will not be great hunting dogs and they go to homes that are just looking for a pet.”

One of the greatest reasons to buy a started dog is because it will have already been tested to make sure it can handle a lot of the things that hunters want a dog to do. “The dogs we send to hunting homes don’t mind the sound of a gun shot. They retrieve and show a lot of prey drive which are the things a hunter needs in a dog. Some puppies never overcome the sound of a loud gunshot or some lack prey drive. These are things we look for in puppies and one reason people opt to buy a started dog.”

Purchase an Adult Dog That Isn't Finished

Some breeders sell dogs that they call a started dog that is a year or two old but isn’t a completely finished gun dog. This is one of my favorite types of dogs to buy. A dog that is a year or two old most likely has spent some time hunting, isn’t gun shy, and knows a lot of different commands. When I was 20 years old, I bought my first gun dog, she was a 1.5-year-old German Shorthair. She was a dog that the breeder needed to get rid of because he had too many dogs in his kennel. She wasn’t a dud, but she wasn’t finished. She just needed someone to spend time with her and polish her up. A few months after I purchased her, she retrieved a half dozen ducks from a thick nasty marsh. Most of the ducks died in thick cover and she found every one. Was I an expert trainer? No, the breeder did a lot of the heavy lifting for me and I finished what he started. The truth is, many started dogs are better than a lot of hunting dogs that are sitting on the couch or in the kennel. Many people think that when they buy a started dog from a breeder they are getting a left over dog that didn’t make the cut. Sometimes that is true, but some trainers sell started dogs and sometimes breeders or average Joe’s need to get rid of a partially trained dog. For the people who don’t have time to spend training a dog, buying a started dog is a great option.

Have a Trainer Start Your Dog

One last option is to purchase a puppy from a good breeder and keep it for a few months and then have a trainer do some of the training. It is easy for the average person to mess up a good dog from a quality breeder if they have never trained a dog before. Having a trainer train a dog or help the owner train the dog is one way to ensure the dog has a good foundation and it still allows for the owner to have the dog during the puppy stage. Brent Pike, the owner of Pyke Gear which is an upland clothing brand, has had great success going this route. “I love bringing a puppy home and bonding with it for a few months before the training process begins,” Pike said. “I typically bring my puppies to a trainer and drop them off for a week or two when they are about 6 months old. The trainer starts to train the dog and the trainer can help me become a better trainer. After a couple weeks, I get my dog back and start to build on the foundation that the trainer started. I typically bring the dog back every year for a few weeks just to help keep the dog polished.”

Owning and training a dog can be challenging and rewarding. Sometimes the work and effort that is required to turn an average dog into a top notch hunting companion requires more work than some have time for. If that sounds like you, purchasing a started dog or having someone help you get your puppy off to a good start can be well worth the investment. After all, most of us want a dog we can be proud to bring in the field with our buddies. There is no sure way of knowing a puppy will ever turn into a rock star, but there is no question that the odds are much higher if you purchase a started dog from a professional trainer or have a trainer teach you how to properly train a puppy. The financial cost of buying a started dog or hiring a trainer to help get a puppy started is significant, but it pales in comparison to the overall amount of money that will be spent on a dog over the course of his lifetime. If you have the financial means and want to increase your odds of having a great dog, consider one of the options listed above.