For over 200,000 years humans hunted ducks and other waterfowl as a form of luxury hunting. Weaponry just wasn’t as sophisticated as it is now. With the invention of the rifle and the muzzle loader, duck hunting became commonplace. And after the sport’s migration to the Americas in the 1600’s it eventually became known as an American Sport.
But where would duck hunting be without out its iconic duck hunting dog? The sport is almost never depicted without a duck hunting dog gracing the picture. Whether it be a labrador retriever grinning around a mouthful of mallard, or a spaniel bounding over the water as if he were flying.
Deciding on which duck hunting dog to get is very different from any other aspect or decision in contemporary hunting. Unlike deciding which gun to buy or which hunting boots to grab, you must decide on a companion, a living being, to accompany you on your hunt.
Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place to find information and make an informative decision. So let’s wade in and look at which hunting dog is best for your duck hunt.
1. Duck Hunting Dogs: Labrador Retriever
This dog has been the most popular breed in the United States for 25 consecutive years. And for good reason. The Labrador Retriever is known for a sweet disposition, whether that be a consistent love of people, the ability to fetch endlessly, the inexhaustible energy, or the dog’s classical looks. Despite its popularity as a lovable pet, the Labrador Retriever was bred to hunt waterfowl. Its lineage stems from a now extinct dog breed named the St. John’s Water dog which was taken to England and bred with Setters, Spaniels and other water dogs to form the Labrador Retriever. But why would the Labrador Retriever be right for you? Labrador Retrievers are first and foremost water dogs. With their webbed feet, wide tail, stocky body and double coat, they can stay afloat, swim distances efficiently, stay balanced, and stay warm. Their intelligence is above average for dogs, and they are easy to train and quick on the uptake. And they rarely have a problem remembering where the bird dropped. Like any bird dog, their mouth is soft, which means they will never tear your bird apart before dropping it at your feet. And, of course, this dog will be your most loyal companion.
2. Duck Hunting Dogs: German Shorthair Pointer
This descendant of the Spanish Pointer, English Foxhound, and German tracking hounds is probably the second most depicted dog in duck hunting portraits. They are regal and majestic, reminiscent of proper English hunting where Lords rode out together with their hounds. This dog is generally used to hunt upland game, grouse, and quail, but is quite useful in the wetlands as he has many of the same qualities of the Labrador Retriever. Brains, energy, and stamina.
Like the Labrador Retriever, the German Shorthair Pointer is a high energy dog. And its stamina might be the main advantage it has over the Labrador Retriever. This animal also has a strong prey drive. Since their immediate reward is finding the prey, the German Shorthair has the natural ability to learn hunting commands quickly.
3. Duck Hunting Dogs: Chesapeake Bay Retriever
As the story goes, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever originated in the cross breeding of two Newfoundland puppies from England who crash landed here in 1807. The locals bred the two dogs with unknown local dogs, and the mixing eventually produced the Chesapeake Bay Retriever. Chessies, as they’re known, have a beautiful sedge colored double coat which, just like the Labrador’s, is meant to protect the dog from harsh winter water.
Although possessing the same energy and stamina as a Labrador Retriever, the Chessie is a bit slow to learn and mature. This makes training these dogs a challenge that lasts throughout the dog’s lifetime. This dog may not be the best “family” dog as it is typically a one-person dog and is quite aloof to strangers. Yet, this could be an excellent trait when you are out in the wild by yourself. Because of this particular aspect of the Chessie’s temperament, a legend grew around the dog’s early uses. The Chesapeake Bay Retriever was certainly used as a hunting dog along the east coast, but in the evening, while the hunters cavorted inside pubs, the dog was tasked with guarding the gear outside and warding off strangers. No one can confirm this story, and the dog is not generally used as a guard dog. But with the dog’s personality, it is easy to believe the veracity of this tale.
4. Duck Hunting Dogs: Golden Retriever
The Golden Retriever comes in close to the Labrador Retriever when it comes to overall popularity with dog owners. Most likely this is due to both their temperament and their beautiful golden coat. The breed mostly came about because of a need for a medium-sized bird hunting dog in the early 1800’s. The Golden’s advantages come from an almost insatiable need to please. This is great when it comes to teaching dog commands. They are an intelligent breed that knows to watch for the bird before jetting after it.
The biggest downside to the breed is actually its popularity with the masses. The dog has been bred to please show dog standards instead of hunting dog standards, and just because you have a “papered” Golden, doesn’t mean you will have a well-bred hunting dog. Another downside to the Golden is its coat. Despite the beauty of the Golden’s coat, it’s thick long mane can get tangled in brush and brambles all too easily. And when you come back from a hunting trip, don’t be surprised if you have a to spend ample time brushing out your dog’s coat.
Conclusion: Pick The One
Only you know what dog is best suited for your purposes. Many people buy a dog for a perceived advantage and then later find out the advantage was false. This is only the beginning of your journey. Do your homework, and remember, owning an animal is owning a life. Go, choose, live, learn, and hunt safely.