The puppy dilemma

Choices, choices, choices… By Rod­er­ick Emery.

Shooting Gazette - - A dog’s life -


So how do you fi­nally pick a new dog from a lit­ter of uni­ver­sally adorable pup­pies? Time was when the ac­cepted wis­dom was to look for the ad­ven­tur­ous char­ac­ter. Lean into the whelp­ing box and snap the fin­gers. The pup that was first up and over and in­ves­ti­gat­ing was the one for you. Ea­ger, dy­namic, in­quis­i­tive, busy; that was what we were look­ing for. Was. I have spo­ken to many dog own­ers over the years – and dog breed­ers and han­dlers, and train­ers, as well as a bunch of keep­ers who all have a cou­ple of spaniels at least, and whose opin­ions I value above all oth­ers if I am hon­est, and their ad­vice has changed.

The mod­ern opin­ion is that the busiest dog in the lit­ter may not be the best choice after all. Nor is it the case that the pup ly­ing flat on its back in the cor­ner of the box tak­ing no in­ter­est what­ever in pro­ceed­ings is the one ei­ther. The cur­rent think­ing is that the busy adventurer will be head­strong and may – may – be harder to train. Or per­haps that should be to res­train. Might be com­pet­i­tive too, even pos­ses­sive. Prob­a­bly be a good hunter though, pos­si­bly a top beat­ing dog. Striver. Work till it drops. That sort of thing. Old – or rather young – dozy in the cor­ner, on the other hand, will be calmer, more bid­dable, re­laxed. Good in com­pany. Might be a great peg dog at that. If that’s what you want.

So what do we want? Well, we want a friendly, agree­able dog that isn’t go­ing to run us ragged. It must sit on a peg with me be­times, but it must hunt when we are beat­ing or pick­ing-up. It must fit in com­fort­ably at home and also fit in when we are in pub­lic or in com­pany. In other words a bit of both. Which gets us nowhere.

Un­der a bit of pres­sure, most of the folk whose views I value will ad­mit that a dog is prob­a­bly as much a re­flec­tion of its do­mes­tic life as it is the prod­uct of its genes. If it lives in a re­laxed and friendly en­vi­ron­ment, chances are it will be re­laxed and friendly. And if you train it right, it will prob­a­bly do as it is bid­den. So there you go. You pays your money and takes your choice.


I’ll tell you how to choose a puppy. It’s easy. Smell. Just sniff ’em. You’ll soon find out which is the one for you. You won’t want the one that ra­di­ates fear from ev­ery pore be­cause that will be no good to you. It won’t go into the woods alone, it will cry all day the minute you leave it be­hind; and it will scream ev­ery time an­other dog goes near it. And prob­a­bly wee all over the shop into the bar­gain. And you def­i­nitely don’t want the one that stinks of ag­gres­sion. It’ll be a scrap­per for sure and will chew ev­ery­thing around it to bits. It will chal­lenge you and it will chal­lenge me. And we are DEF­I­NITELY not hav­ing that.

But of course you can’t smell, can you? Be­cause you are not a dog. You could let me choose one for you, of course, but would you be will­ing to trust my judge­ment? How­ever good it might be? What would the Batty Spaniel Woman think of me look­ing over her lit­tle pre­ciouses and pick­ing one out for you? Eh? Well, ac­tu­ally, you may be right. She is just about batty enough to go along with the idea.

How­ever the sim­plest idea is just to pick the one you fancy and bring it home and I can take things from there. Don’t worry about a thing. I will have the lit­tle blighter sorted in two shakes of a batty spaniel’s stumpy lit­tle tail. Why? Be­cause I am the pack leader in our house. Oh, I know he thinks he is the Al­pha Male but that is merely a delu­sion, which the rest of us in­dulge. She rules the roost at home, I can tell you – just look at those cur­tains – and I run things when we are out in the field. I do as he sug­gests some of the time, be­cause when he is show­ing off in front of his friends it makes him happy if I get the long run­ner from the copse across the stream. But it makes me happy too; so that’s al­right.

And once I have ex­plained to this spaniel what its role in life is go­ing to be, it will be happy too. So don’t stand there wring­ing your hands and fuss­ing. Pay your money and take your choice. It’s tea-time.

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