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Which one will it be???

As I build my kennel line of Bracco Italianos, it’s always a challenge to pick out the dog with the greatest prospect as a superstar hunter. From my first two litters I kept females for the purpose of breeding my next two litters; these I paired with my kennel stud, Bravo, who I imported overseas from Hungary. I’ll keep another male from this new litter, as a future stud.

It’s a tough choice. For the first two weeks or so, it’s hard to make any decisions. The dogs just suckle and sleep, and that’s it. They can’t hear, they can’t see. But today, finally, they really started to come alive and show some differences. Some are sleepers but others are troublemakers. A few like to hear their own bark, or maybe they enjoy waking up the others, and some of them are getting interesting in wrestling with any other dog that they can goad into a match.

Their walking skills change like a human baby, but in fast motion. One day it’s all wobbles and the next day you need gates to keep them in one place. I wrap my whelping box with a course of PVC piping that gives them no grip and holds them in until they get a lot taller.

I’m hoping that one of the liver-colored males turns my head with something outstanding that’ll tell me he has what his Dad has. All pups chew and grab sticks in order to play tug-of-war, but there’s always one or two in a litter that’ll carry stuff in their mouth so much you think it’s a pacifier. It’s likely that those dogs will turn out to be natural retrievers. Other indicators could betray a shy dog, or a bold one. But in the end, what you get from a dog in the field often comes down to luck and what you put into the dog during its first year. And like most any project, the more you put into it the better it comes out. Early on, a pup needs lots of truck rides, lots of contact with people, other dogs, fields and water. Whichever male I choose for myself will be cutting his teeth on woodcock just eight months from now. By the end of next season, if everything goes well, he’ll already have pointed a grouse or pheasant for me.

This is my ninth litter of pointing dogs here at Dancing Duke Kennels. (The name comes from back when my three daughters were all young and in dance class all the time; when they’d come home, I’d indoctrinate them with John Wayne movies. Thus, Dancing Duke.)  I use an old tradition of using the alphabet to name litters. First was an A word, then a B word, and so on. I’m on the letter I, which isn’t great for boy names. But if you think of a good one, please go ahead and post it. Who knows? You might be naming the next famous bird dog.