Started Dog or Puppy: Which Should A Hunter Choose?

Are you confused between training a puppy or going for a started hunting dog?

If your answer is yes, today is your lucky day! Today, I’ll put started dog vs. puppy training head to head, so you can pick your ideal fit!

What is the Difference Between a Puppy and a Started Dog?

Before heading into the main comparison points between a puppy and a started dog, we need to clear the difference between them.


Similar to humans, dogs develop through different stages in life. For example, the first 8 weeks are extremely important for dogs to learn some lifelong skills.

As a rule of thumb, a dog is considered a puppy for up to 2 years of age. However, there are different stages that puppies go through. This includes the neonatal stage all the way to the adolescence stage.

Training of your pup should start from the moment you hold him for the first time and increase gradually with time. Throughout that time, you start with the basics and work your way up the skill tree.

Started Dog

On the other hand, a started dog is an older dog you purchase after the dog has received the foundational hunting dog training. It’s not about a certain age but about the amount of skill that this dog has.

For example, a started dog might be young but has already been around birds and went out on hunts. Whether these dogs are mature or not, they can handle fieldwork efficiently and are well-developed to respond to your gun.

Also, they have learned basic obedience skills and know where to come and go. They can also respond to different simple commands like “whoa”, “heel”, “fetch” and more. In other words, you should be ready to take these dogs out on hunting directly.

Sometimes people confuse a started dog with a finished dog. As the names suggest, a finished dog is a started dog that’s fully trained and highly experienced in the field.

How Much Should a Puppy and a Started Dog Cost You?

Now that you know that difference between a puppy and a started dog. Let’s see how much can each of them set you back.

There’s a wide variety of aspects that controls the price of a puppy even in the same breed.

If you’re looking for a quality puppy breed that’s fit for hunting, you should expect to pay anywhere between $500 and $1,200.

When you’re thinking of a started puppy, you need to put in mind the amount of time and effort spent in training this dog into a gun dog. That’s why you should expect that a started dog would cost at least double the price of the same puppy with similar quality and breed.

Ideally, a started dog can cost you around $1,500 to $2,500. However, depending on the amount and quality of training they had, the price can go even higher.

At first glance, you might think that such a price is too expensive. However, you should also weigh in all the vet bills and special care a newborn puppy might need.

Not only that, but you should also add the cost of the training the started dog has already received. In a puppy’s case, you would still need to pay $500 to $1,000 a month for decent gun training.

Potty Training and Bladder Control in Puppies

One of the important aspects that you should consider while going for a hunting dog is bladder control, especially if you’re going for a puppy.

If you get a week’s old puppy, you should expect your pup to pee everywhere. However, you shouldn’t worry, as this is completely natural and happens to every dog owner. The reason behind that is that young puppies don’t have the best bladder control.

Potty training is a crucial skill that your puppy needs to learn when he or she grows up. Some experts believe that potty training should start as early as 8 weeks old.

Potty training teaches your dog to go outside when they need to pee. At first, training will be about preventing the puppy from having accidents. With time, the puppy will learn to go outside on its own.

Typically, potty training takes anywhere around 4 to 6 months. However, if you’re taking your puppy outside every couple of hours consistently, you can expect to train your puppy a lot quicker with no leaky accidents.

The Difference in Dietary Requirements

It goes without saying that a newborn puppy will require a different type of food from an older started dog.

Puppies’ Diet

To a certain extent, puppies from hunting breeds have similar dietary requirements. They’ll need to eat specialized food for puppies. These kinds of food help them develop their muscles, bones, and joints.

Their food is also their source to build a stronger immune system. A good food plan for a hunting breed puppy should have high-fat content to provide them with energy. Also, at least 30% of their diet should be proteins, minerals, and vitamins.

You should also know that each breed has its own qualities of food. For example, larger breeds need a bigger share of protein on their plate. A vet will give you an ideal specialized plan for your puppy.

Currently, Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Puppy Food is the best all-round food for hunting puppies.

Started Dogs’ Diet

A started dog is usually past the critical zone of nutrition. However, that doesn’t stop them from being nutritionally demanding.

Hunting dogs are highly active, so you need to provide them with the best nutrition to give them the energy they need. This way, you should expect them to perform efficiently while in the field.

Since they spend their day in the field running and or swimming, hunting dogs need high content of nutrition in their diets.

However, you should know that a fat-rich diet can cause obesity if your dog isn’t active enough.

Which One Has a Better Hunting Foundation?

When you’re buying a started dog, you get the perk of seeing what you’re paying for. While it’s not always as straightforward as you think, it’s still much clearer than going for a puppy.

One of the clearest differences that give a huge edge for the started dog is their better hunting foundation. Whether you’re purchasing the started dog from a direct owner or a trainer, they’ll always showcase the dog.

This means that you’re going to see their abilities and their level of skills. You can assess the dog’s personality, physical build, style of hunting and level of training your own.

The better the started dog, the more drive they have. Also, you’ll be able to take them to the hunting field a lot quicker. There’s no need for patience, as the dog will have already been into fields numerous times before.

Once you take a started dog to the field, you should expect a more professional level of behavior.

You should be able to quickly see if the dog would be a good match for your hunting style. You like a close working dog and you are searching the horizon for this dog, likely not a fit.

On top of hunting style, you can also evaluate the dog’s personality when not hunting. The vast majority of the time you spend with the dog will be as a family pet. It’s very important to understand if this dog would fit into your home before you buy. Going with a started dog gives you a better chance at getting to see the dog’s personality and fit before committing.

A Puppy is “Anyone’s Game”

While a seller can offer some kind of a guarantee on a started dog’s performance, you won’t likely get that with a puppy.

You’ll have to be extremely patient while handling the pup. Although you can start training your puppy from day one, you’ll still have to wait for about 8 to 11 months of consistent training before you’re able to take it on a real hunting trip.

Meanwhile, you need to get the puppy acquainted with people and other dogs in the house. Also, you’re going to go through obedience training and introduce it to dead birds to train it on retrieving.

Which One Has a Better Social Foundation?

This factor varies wildly between dogs. Of course, a started dog is more likely to have a better social foundation.

As I mentioned in the previous section, a trainer or a seller will have to demonstrate the dog’s skills. The dog’s social skills should be a part of this showcase.

A lot of dog trainers rely on established dogs to train their puppies. As a result, these started dogs have been around other dogs and people for a long time. So, you should expect a trained dog to have a better socialization foundation than an untrained puppy.

However, unlike the hunting background, you might not be able to tell about the dog’s social skills until you take it back home.

The real test is always when the dog meets new animals and humans. You never know how a started dog would react to a new environment. With a started dog you also might have missed a window where it would have been much easier to socialize the dog. Now that the dog is older it may be more difficult to correct a behavior that results from poor socialization.

This is why evaluating the started dogs socialization is critical.

Puppies are not without socialization risk too. If you are not familiar with how to properly socialize a puppy or are lazy about it, you would be much better off going with a well socialized started dog in this category.

Some Started Dogs Are Used to Different Commands

In some cases, you might find a perfect started dog. The seller has trained him on perfectly and the dog is showing a great promise. However, the dog might be used to different commands of what you know.

This can be a problem, especially if you have multiple dogs. It would be difficult for you and the dog to communicate properly.

You can avoid all these problems completely if you train a puppy yourself. Early-stage learning will ensure that your gun dog understands all your commands tailored to how you do them. You can even train them to obey your commands only for safety reasons.

Bonding With the New Owner

At first glance, you might think that bonding with the owner is a clear win for puppies. However, there are many dogs who are trained to be friendly with strangers.

Of course, there’s nothing much to say about a puppy that you’ve raised and trained yourself. Let’s discuss how a started dog bonds with a new owner.

Millions of dogs are adopted and assimalate well to their new owner. This is no different. You have to be patient and expect a rough start in the first few weeks. Treat the dog well, bond with it and you will be off to a good start.

In fact, there are many started dog owners who swear that their adopted or purchased dogs treat them the same as the puppies they raised. These dogs quickly settled in and became parts of the family!

The Started Dog’s Background

A puppy’s background is much easier to check than a started dog. It’s quite easy to check a puppy to make sure that it’s healthy. However, you never know the background of a started dog.

If a dog seems unhappy or frightened around your presence, you should take that as a bad sign. You can also notice if a dog tucks its tail and doesn’t want to talk to you. If you find any of these problems you should stop the sale and look elsewhere.

These are usually the signs for a troubled background that’s difficult to deal with. You also need to see the dog performing in areas other than their usual training field.

It’s highly crucial that the seller offers you a form of guarantee and communication, so you can ask him for advice if any issues arise when you take a started dog home.

What About Their Health Status?

Health should always be a concern no matter what kind of dog you’re getting. On one hand, puppies don’t have a fully developed immune system. As a result, you should expect them to get a lot of diseases throughout their early life if you’re not careful enough.

That’s another thing that you can add to the price factor. All the previous specialized diets, vaccinations, and medical appointments will cost you money. Yet, you’ll be able to monitor the puppy’s health from day one.

On the other hand, a started dog is already past all these medical bills. You might need to maintain a high-quality food plan to keep their performance.

However, you would wind up paying less in that category, as some of the money is compensated by the dog’s higher price.

Longevity and Service Time

Started dogs need a lot of time to gain experience. The more time they have on the field, the better they are in what they do. However, it’s also a timer that ticks until your senior dog is ready for retirement.

As the dogs age, their bones and joints start to get weaker. This affects their agility, speed, and ability to catch and fetch.

It goes without saying, having a puppy will give you the longest time before your dog is ready for retirement.

Cuteness Factor and Freedom of Choice

Even the fiercest hunter has a soft spot for a little puppy! Joining the puppy raising camp will guarantee that you choose a lot of aspects in your future hunting companion.

For example, you can choose between a male and a female. Additionally, you’ll be able to better control things like the breed and the color.

Although there’s a lot of money, work, and time to spend on your puppy, it’s one wholesome adventure with priceless memories

Which One to Go For?

For those that enjoy the challenge of training and competing with a dog that they trained themselves there is also obviously no choice but to go with a puppy.

If you aren’t interested in the training and don’t have time for it. Likely it would be best to skip the puppy stage and pick up a well-bred, well trained started dog and get hunting!

Scott Phelan

I came from a non-hunting family, in my teens I got interested in hunting and taught myself to hunt. I got my first hunting dog after college and became obsessed with all things hunting dog and hunting dog training. I have spent the last 10 years training and hunting with dogs. My dogs and I have hunted quail, chukar, huns, pheasants, grouse, woodcock, ducks, and geese all over the USA and Canada. Hunting dogs are my passion.

Recent Posts