What is a "Headstart" Pup?
Here at Trieven-Sungold Retrievers we usually keep several pups, if we have a number of litters on the ground. We keep them for a couple reasons: as replacement sires or dams or to start for others to enjoy. We think people should have the opportunity to purchase a pup which has been worked with and started.
Our “Headstart” pups are usually between 3-5 months of age when they go to their new home. They have been well socialized, been in the house, started on crate training (housebreaking), and started on retrieving on land and water (weather permitting). They are introduced to dead pheasants, ducks, goose wings, and dead and wing-clipped pigeons. We take them on walks in the field, introducing them to different terrain and cover, planting a few “wings” here and there to teach them to use their noses, and to “search” for things in the field ahead of us, the beginning of quartering. They are also introduced to the sound of a popper gun in the yard and in the field, when something is thrown.
Of course, they are started on puppy obedience, sit, here, stay, and down. They know the word “No”, for occasions in which they may grab something in the house, such as a shoe or other item we don’t want them playing with. They are taught to sit before eating, and are used to us putting our hand in and around them, while they are eating their food.
The advantages of starting with an older pup are many. The pup is old enough to be easily housebroken, where as a 7 week old pup doesn’t yet have the constitution, nor control, to be corrected in housetraining. It would be like scolding an infant for messing in their diaper. A younger pup isn’t ready yet for much serious training, as they are much like a tiny baby mentally and physically. The older pups have also been introduced to various situations such as being in a crate and riding in a vehicle. They are handled by many people, so they will easily adjust to their new owner. The “Headstart” pup is ready to go on and start more advanced training.
Some people are hooked up on the 49th day thing, started by Richard Wolters. A very good article on this subject, called “The 49th Day-Revisited”, can be found online (click on the title to visit the site). Dr. Bailey is a writer for Gundog magazine, and is a Professor emeritus in dog behavior. As he mentions in his article, he believes Mr. Wolters came up with his “exactly 49th” day suggestion by reading a couple of studies done on by Scott and Pfaffenberger, or one done by John Paul Scott and John Fuller, published in 1965. Dr. Bailey goes on to guess how Mr. Wolters came up with “exactly 49 days”, as neither study says anything about the “49th day”. As Dr. Bailey says, Wolters apparently added 2 and 2, and came up with 49. He goes on to describe what those and other studies have actually found, which is that the optimum time to get your pup is 10 weeks, or older, providing the pup has had daily handling, socialization, and has been started in training.