The Right Breed — How to Select a Hunting Dog

Any Dog Can Hunt, but You Want a Hunting Dog

2013 saw 16,300 duck hunters take part in the hunting season, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. You spend plenty of time studying your hunting grounds, the behavior of the birds you hunt and your guns. You also want to put plenty of thought into the bird retriever dog breed you choose to help you out. The right breed makes the hunt that much better, but more should go into your selection than just picking the best-sounding dog on paper.


Ultimate Waterfowling recommends looking at the adult size of the dog breed as your primary consideration. While larger dog breeds may work out better in the long run during the hunting season, consider the rest of the year when the dog isn’t hunting with you. Larger breeds need more room to run, more food and may be prone to taking over your bed when you aren’t looking. If you have a smaller home not suitable for the needs of bigger breeds, stick with retriever breeds under the 30 pound mark.


Learn about the dog’s lineage before making a selection. You want to focus on puppies who come from hunting parents, according to Wildfowl Magazine. When a puppy comes from two parents who are great hunters, he already has a genetic advantage over puppies who come from good breeds, but without the same heritage. Ask the breeder whether the parents have won awards for hunting, what their hunting experience is and if they are active in hunting challenges. If possible, have the breeder take you on their next hunt so you see the dogs in action first hand. This also allows you a glimpse into how well the dogs can be trained.

Experience Level

If you’re an experienced dog trainer, or you’re working with one, you won’t have any problem with more difficult breeds. However, if you’re new to training hunting dogs, selecting a breed that picks up training easily allows you to get to the hunting with a minimum level of frustration related to a lack of progress. Tools such as e collars for dogs help with the training process, but the dog does need to be capable of learning commands that are then reinforced by these types of tools.

A  gaggle of geese coming in for a landing

Few sights will make a waterfowler’s heart jump like birds once they commit.

Don’t Jump the Gun

It’s hard to walk away from a group of puppies without bringing one home, regardless of whether or not you want one for hunting. However, when you’re selecting the best bird retriever for you, take the time to think the decision through. You may need to go back to that same breeder several times or canvass the area for additional breeders to compare your options.

Consider Started Dogs

A started dog is about a year or so in age and already has begun their training. If you want to get a leg up on training, or you don’t have the energy that a puppy requires, look into started dogs. The price goes up considerably, but you do have a solid foundation with a well trained, well socialized dog.

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