May 22, 2023
You have made the big decision. The time is finally right to get your next duck dog. The mallards that migrated over your home by night have aligned the stars perfectly for you. And let’s be frank—you are tired of being cold, dog-less, tripping over yourself in waist deep water, trying not to find the nearest sinkhole.
In this very first installment of D.I.Y Duck Dog, we are going to be talking about one of the most important steps in finding the perfect duck dog for you—selecting a breeder.
Finding the Right Match
Let's assume you have thought long and hard about the type of dog you want. You have thought about climate and coat, your living situation, temperament to match your training style, and looks—because no one wants to hunt behind an ugly dog.
There are always trade-offs, so you made a list of your priorities.
Once you have envisioned the perfect duck dog, you must select a good breeder. Many people lack patience at this stage and look to grab the quickest available puppy. This is a mistake. You are placing a ton of trust in this individual and you need to vet them properly with a list of things in the back of your mind.
You will want to ask them about their breeding goals with a firm idea of your own wants and dislikes listed at this point. The right breeder for you will be producing dogs that mirror what you want in the blind and at home.
Always let them talk about their breeding philosophy first so you can get a feel if this might be a match. Think of it as your first date. Don't make it easy for them to tell you what you want to hear and fall head-over-waders. I have known too many 'fowlers who ended up on the wrong end of a foul deal.
What Makes a Good Dog Breeder?
A good breeder will take the time to speak with you about their dog's strengths, weaknesses, and individual tendencies. They should know their dogs inside out, and what they are producing if they have been bred before. You want to hear as much objectivity (the true mark of honesty) as possible.
Reputable breeders will never sacrifice quality for quantity. If they are producing too many dogs with inconsistent results, they are breeding for the wrong reasons. Make sure to speak with people who have dogs from their line, or better yet—this particular pairing of sire and dam.
They should also have just as many questions for you (often a questionnaire to match your needs), will have done extensive health testing on their breeding dogs and will have sound health guarantees. They more often than not will have a waiting list—but be patient. If you have taken the time to evaluate what you want and matched with the right breeder—don't fold now. You may just have found the perfect duck dog for you.
Nathan Ratchford is the Associate Editor at WILDFOWL and is a die-hard dog man dedicated to training his pack himself. Want to talk retrievers? Message him on IG @ratchfordnathan