Picking puppies: the unimportance of picking order

CH Dance Smartly (CH Northern Dancer x CH Vanidestine's Rail Lady, 1991 - 1999) was our first grouse champion and the beginning of our line of pointers.

Puppy buyers often become fixated on their order of pick in a litter. Betsy and I know—first hand—that the last pick can be the best.

The first grouse champion we owned was bought sight unseen from Maine. Not only was our puppy the last pick but the breeder changed his mind during the process.

We were excited about that that litter—a repeat breeding of a top-notch female grouse dog, 5X CH Vanidestine’s Rail Lady, to a spectacular male, 2X CH/RU-CH Northern Dancer,  trained and handled by fellow Minnesotan Jim Tande. Eddie Vanidestine first told us we were getting an orange-and-white female. We said, “Fine.” When he later called to tell us it would be a liver one, we again said, “Fine.”

Most of that litter went to grouse trialers and we never saw or heard anything about an orange-and-white female. But that liver puppy grew into our extraordinary 2X CH Dance Smartly and became the foundation of our pointer line, now four generations down.

Blue Shaquille (Houston x Blue Silk, 2004)

It’s hard to believe how close we came to not having what would become our best setter ever. When we bred Blue Silk to Paul Hauge’s Houston in 2004, our first pick was based on looks—a gorgeous, tri-color male with a solid head. After two other males were chosen, one was left. He had a big, blocky head, a patch on one side of his head and a small spot over the other eye. We named our first choice Kobe and the leftover pup, Shaq.


The all-female litter out of Northwoods Prancer by CH Westfall’s Black Ice in 2011 left us with an evenly marked, black and white one with a spot at the base of her tail. Jeff Hintz, good friend, neighbor and training helper, took her. Jeff will tell you in a heartbeat that he will take last pick any day if it turns out to be as good as his precocious, smart, talented young champion, JTH Izzie.

In a previous post, How To Pick a Puppy, I wrote that the essential concepts are to: first, choose the right breeder and, second, choose the right litter. The pick order is the least important. It is impossible to definitely know what a puppy will become when it is eight weeks old.

Others agree. John Wick, breeder of hundreds of coonhounds, writes, “It is absolutely impossible at 8, 10, 12 weeks of age to pick out the best pup or pups, no matter who you are or what you know.”


    Spotlight:  Northwoods Chalcedony

    Northwoods Chalcedony (CH Elhew G Force x Northwoods Vixen, 2016)

    Callie did a stellar job for her first season on the prairies, under some very tough conditions. All birds were pointed and retrieved to hand. She blew me away. I love this dog and cannot get enough of her.
    ~Tom Massaro, hunting in Montana

    Good stuff about puppies

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    A pointing dog’s first hunting season
    Bird and gun introduction
    Early development of puppies
    How to correct a dog
    How to pet a dog
    How to pick a puppy
    Patience and puppies
    Picking puppies: the unimportance of picking order
    Puppies and fireworks
    Puppy buying mistakes
    Raising puppies at Northwoods Bird Dogs
    The pointing instinct
    Training puppies on a stakeout chain

    Good stuff from previous posts

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    Finer points on...

    A brace of bird dogs
    Accuracy of location
    Bird finding
    How to flush grouse and woodcock
    Hunting pattern
    Running grouse
    Scenting ability
    Speed and scenting
    To point a bird, first a dog has to find it
    Using grouse dogs on pheasants


    A bump or a knock
    Backing point
    Bird dog basics:  hunt, handle, point birds
    Bumping grouse
    Electronic training collars...a little perspective
    How to correct a dog
    How to pet a dog
    Patience and puppies
    The pointing instinct
    Transition to wild birds
    Unproductive points
    WHOA and NO


    Dogs, not averages, matter in breeding
    Evaluating litters
    Pointers of Northwoods Bird Dogs
    Proper conformation
    The tail of a bird dog


    Bird dogs and hidden traps
    Feeding bird dogs
    Feeding for ideal body condition
    First aid kit for bird dogs
    Get your dog ready for the season
    Hazards in the grouse woods
    How to maintain a good weight for your dog
    Quick lesson on poisoning and how to induce vomiting
    Tick-borne diseases in dogs


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    Jerry: 651-492-7312     |      Betsy: 651-769-3159     |           |      Directions
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