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Selecting the Right Puppy
Part I

Greetings from Kervinshof Kennel,

Shelby L. Kervin, Professor of Criminal Justice (retired), Owner of vom Kervinshof Kennel, German Authorized Breeding Kennel for the German Drahthaar founded in 1988, International trainer and judge of versatile hunting and working dogs (Schutzhund), conducted classes, seminars and workshops to multiple organization’s such as; Ducks Unlimited, Quail Unlimited, Federal and State Wildlife agencies, Bass Pro, Cabela’s and Sportsman’s Clubs.



Puppy selection without a doubt is a very important part of the “gun dog” process. I frequently get calls from people who are in a hurry and want a puppy now and may not be very particular where the puppy comes from. However, many of our clients are rather serious about what they purchase and insist on quality. One of the important issues concerning purchasing a puppy focuses on “are you prepared to bring a puppy home”? Do you have adequate facilities, lodging, sanitation practices, vacation times, exercise and training areas, training equipment, access to live birds are just a few of the prerequisites that should be addressed.

No doubt, selection of the right pup to meet your expectations is extremely important. Making the correct selection can have a direct bearing on how well your puppy develops into the “gun dog” that you want with the least amount of frustration or perhaps even avoid the sad disappointment of the puppy not working out at all.

Where do you begin the search? It begins with the “breeder” and the definition of a “breeder” is not well defined in the USA. Anyone can profess to be a “breeder” or “trainer” and possess limited credentials or experience; the nonchalant mating of dogs has been to the detriment of many breeds in our country. I am sure our readers are aware of these problems as they have a long and highly publicized history.

I have purchased my share of working dogs (my wife says; more than my share) during my tenure as a professional breeder and trainer. I can assure you the breeding males and females that we purchase for our kennel are expensive and I am often reminded, some people could buy a new automobile for that price. When I begin my search for quality, what and who am I interested in as a breeder/trainer? I look for a professional and reputable breeder; I am not interested in the “politics” that engulf the dog world. I want to see evidence and positive results that include many years of experience, detailed knowledge of the breed and at least a basic understanding of genetics and statistical results. I want to see the type of dog a breeder produces within the breed standard. I want a strong dog, good size, excellent coat, pronounced beard and eyebrows, excellent temperament, emotionally stable and intelligence are just a few of the traits that I require. There is a type of dog in a line or strain of the breed that suits our breeding, training and hunting endeavors. I want the dog to look like the breed standard of the authentic German Drahthaar. Facilities, kennels, housing, equipment, how the dogs are transported, exercised, medical program, nutrition program, whelping areas for litters and documented credentials of that strain of dog within the breed are also important factors in the selection process. This may be too much detail for the person interested in buying a puppy, but rest assured we have done all the work for you.

Genetics: A brief look at the field of genetics, breeding, outcrosses, line breeding and the professional breeder or the casual mating of two dogs.

The only way to acquire the predictability of traits is to seek an experienced and competent breeder with established and proven bloodlines. This takes years to establish a successful line of “gun dog”, race horse, beef herd or any proven line in the animal kingdom. 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 predictable traits within a breeding program. Line breeding is designed to intensifies the positive characteristics genetically found the bloodline. Do not confuse this with INCEST in humans. Professional breeders generally use a form of line breeding to enhance a successful combination of genetics that allows them to predict significant traits they expect from an established breeding program. Genes determine the reaction of the dog to its environment, as well as conformation and soundness. Genes are the building blocks of heredity and are passed from parents to offspring in a predictable manner. Some breeds for example, have high rates of hip dysplasia, eye problems, aggression, shyness, and excessive hair shedding, breathing problems and are very difficult to train.

Outcrosses and random mating’s, despite the parents' apparent abilities or titles, only carries a “hope” the traits of the parents will be passed to the offspring. Total outcrosses, mating’s of unrelated genetics, may produce a few exceptional offspring, but may be a real issue if you are trying to establish or continue a sound breeding program.

Only line breeding has a predictive possibility. In line breeding you are trying to line up as many positive characteristics in your favor as possible and avoid the negative ones. The odds improve for the buyer when you only consider a puppy from an established reputable breeder. Outside of the dog world, if you were considering investing money a young colt that had the potential to win the Kentucky Derby which horse breeders would you contact?


Puppy Selection:

It is recommended to select litters with strong mother lines. Dams project more influence on the litter than the sire. Genetic inheritance is 50/50 from both parents, but the mother has the pups with her for at least 6 weeks and her influence is paramount. Research has indicated grandsires and grand dams prove to have more genetic influence upon the litter than the sire and dam; therefore, ancestry is very important as it provides a history of positive characteristics. It is also very important that the parents and ALL the ancestors for at least 5 generations be free of hip dysplasia, bone and joint problems, eyes problems, blood disease, emotional instability and other physical and mental defects that dominate many breeds today. I know this amount of information can be overwhelming and it may be somewhat confusing, but rest assured I have done all the research that will produce your puppy. The most frequent comment we get when the new owners arrive to select their new puppy is, “They all look alike; I don’t know which one to choose”. In most instances, it doesn’t matter which one you choose as the genetics are in place. Frequently you hear the comment, I want to try and pick the best puppy in the litter. For me, that decision probably borders on impossible because the “best puppy” is now in the hands of the new owner. The owner must assume the responsibility of how the puppy is managed daily by a health program, exercise and the level of training provided to become the “best puppy in the litter”. Our readers now have an idea about what we expect and look for in a breeding program. Whichever breed that you choose, it might be helpful to keep this article in mind.

Best regards and happy hunting,
Shelby L. Kervin

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