Get a puppy or started dog?
By Hookemharry

Posted: November 7, 2007

Pheasant and waterfowl seasons in Montana are well under way.

The pheasant season has produced in some areas and has not been so productive for hunters in others. Waterfowl hunters have been doing well with Canada geese but the mallard duck hunting has been slow.

Everyone seems to be waiting for the first big blast of cold air to come down from Canada and bring those big northern mallards down with it.

As for the pheasants, whether you’re in a great area or one that’s not as well-blessed with birds this year, you do your best to make the most of it.

Both pheasant and waterfowl hunters who take their sports seriously utilize a well-trained hunting dog to help them find birds and retrieve them.

When hunters think of getting a dog, there are many things to consider before making the choice of what’s the the right dog for you.

One question that Jeff Smith from Rocky Mountain Retrievers is asked by sportsman and women – and one you should consider – is “Should I get a puppy or a started dog?”

Some folks might know what a started dog is. Others may not.

A started dog is one that has had some training and is ready to go in the field for its first year of hunting.

“Basically, a started dog should be able to do a decent job running a Junior Hunter test as defined by the American Kennel Club (AKC),” Smith said.

The dog should have good obedience off lead. It can do a good job on single marks out of 100 yards or so on both land and water. It has been taught to retrieve birds to hand, in other words, a force fetched. The dog should be gun-conditioned and collar-conditioned. The dog should also be exposed to most of the equipment that a dog would see during a normal day of hunting like decoys and boats.

“The cost for a good started dog can start at $3,000 and go up from there,” Smith said. “The time spent training a dog properly from a professional trainer usually runs five-plus months.”

If you opt for the puppy route, a puppy with a good pedigree will easily run upwards of $1,000. So, many sportsmen might choose to go the puppy route when comparing the initial cost, says Smith.

“Like a lot of things in life, training a dog might look easier than actually is,” adds Smith, “And most folks have run out of time to properly train a puppy because of all the other obligations they have because of work and raising a family.”

If you decide that buying a started dog is the way for you to go, then Smith recommends that you consider a few things before deciding on the dog.

“First, I think pedigrees are important, but genetics are even more important,” Smith said. “Does the dog have a good personality and look good if looks are important to you.”

Making sure the dog is healthy and well-maintained is also recommended.

If the dog has a good pedigree, this could be beneficial down the line as it could be worth more money due to it’s breeding potential.

In the end, however, most important is how well the dog has been trained and the actual ability of the dog. “If you are an inexperienced buyer, than I would recommend you see the dog and see how the dog works,” Smith said.

If you have the time and the commitment to raise and train a dog from a puppy, then it can be a very rewarding experience for both you and the dog. If you don’t have the time, then a started dog might be the type of dog that will fit into your lifestyle.

For a wide array of topics on training and selecting dogs from Smith, log onto He can also be reached by phone at 360-3311.