I have recently acquired some new stalking permission in Hampshire which has large numbers of fallow, roe and muntjac. I do not currently have access to a dog that’s able to find dead or wounded deer so I feel it is now time that I should be looking to get my first deer specific puppy. Please can you advise on suitable breeds?

THE SPARSHOLT TEAM replies: Getting a new puppy is always something which requires a lot of thought and a deer dog is no exception. There are now some excellent non-profit groups such as UK Deer Track & Recovery (UKDTR) which offer a free tracking service to individuals who may have lost a dead or wounded deer.

If you still feel you would like your own puppy, you need to select your breed carefully. Any breed of dog is capable of following a trail but the obvious choice is one of the specific tracking breeds such as the Bavarian & Hanoverian scent hounds or the working dachshunds (teckels). However, these dogs need a lot of work to keep them interested and if you only plan to shoot a handful of animals per year these breeds probably aren’t going to be suitable as they can become bored. You may now be left with the standard working breeds such as the Labrador, spaniels and any of the HPR breeds. The Labrador is biddable yet confident enough to follow a blood trail and they are excellent tracking dogs which can be as capable as any of the scent hound breeds.

The training regime for a puppy requires lots of preparation as you have to continually source blood, skins and feet from shot deer – preferably one of the herding species due to having stronger scent. Training requires many hours of dedication and it should not be a rushed process. Niels Sondergaard has written an excellent book called ‘Working with dogs for deer’ which is based on many years of experience and it is a highly recommend read; this book will help you with the whole process of selecting and training your new puppy.