8 Dog Breeds that Make the Best Duck Hunters
When you conjure up the image of duck hunting essentials in your mind, you probably envision shotguns, camouflage, a duck boat or blind, some calls, and, of course, dogs!
Sure, you can duck hunt without a dog, but it takes the hunting experience to a whole different level when you’ve got a great duck hunting dog there with you.
Choosing the right breed of dog for duck hunting is just as important as any other choice you make when choosing gear and equipment. In fact, it’s actually probably the most important because you’re picking a long-term hunting partner as well.
So, without further ago, let’s take a look at eight dog breeds that make the best duck hunters.
What Makes a Good Duck Hunting Dog?
There are a lot of different traits to look for when picking out a good duck hunting dog.
You want the dog to be easy to train, smart, be athletic, have great endurance, have a strong prey drive, and more. Let’s take a look at some of these traits in a little more depth and explain why they are so important.
Receptive to Training
No matter the kind of hunting you do, if you use dogs, they have to be well trained. Some breeds are simply more receptive to training than others. Those that are very receptive to training can often be turned into great duck hunting dogs with your own training. Others may take a skilled and experienced trainer to make it stick. The important thing is that they are open to training on some level, otherwise, it’s a waste of time.
Endurance & Athleticism
The perfect weather and environment for duck hunting aren’t always great by regular standards. It can be cold and wet, and this can make for a miserable day hunting if your dog isn’t physically up to dealing with this.
They need to be able to spend a good portion of their day running, swimming, and retrieving ducks, and that can be exhausting for a breed that isn’t well suited to that kind of endurance and athleticism.
A Strong Prey Drive
If your dog doesn’t have a strong prey drive, then they won’t be driven to go out and get the ducks that you just harvested. Without that prey drive, you’ve negated one of the key essential traits of a duck hunting dog.
Best Duck Hunting Dogs
There’s no one best duck hunting dog out there, but there are some that are better suited to the task at hand than others. The list of dogs below contains some of the most popular and common breeds you’ll find in the boats and blinds of other duck hunters.
If you ask a bunch of people what they consider to be the best duck hunting dog, it’s highly likely that they’ll tell you it is the Labrador Retriever. These dogs have hunting and retrieving in their DNA. They’re perfect for marking, retrieving, and delivering ducks and other fowl directly to you. Their double fur coat keeps them warm and helps to repel water, while their webbed feet, muscular frame, and thick tail makes it easy for them to maneuver through the water.
Labrador Retrievers are also very smart and they learn quickly. Once you start training them, it won’t take long before you realize how well suited they are to this job.
Just like a Labrador, the Golden Retriever has sporting and hunting in their DNA, dating back into the 19th century. The Golden’s intelligence, energy, and generally good disposition make them a solid choice for hunting and sporting purposes, as well as a great family pet.
You won’t be disappointed if you choose a golden retriever for your next duck hunting dog.
Chesapeake Bay Retriever
There’s a lot of duck hunting that goes on in the Chesapeake Bay, and so it comes as no surprise that a retriever bearing its name would be perfectly suited for that purpose. Their double coat keeps them well-insulated in cold water, which is essential for long days out hunting in perfect duck hunting weather.
Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are very smart, but they can also be stubborn, so they may not be a good choice for someone who is trying to train a duck hunting dog for the first time.
Irish Water Spaniel
The Irish Water Spaniel has a long and storied history, dating back to the 1860s in the United States, but stretching all the way back into the 17th century in Ireland where they had been crossbred with a variety of other breeds suited to the same purpose. By the early 1920s, there were more of these spaniels registered in the Field Dog Stud Book than any other retriever breed. With their relatively long legs, Irish Water Spaniels are especially suited to hunting and retrieving in inland sloughs and tidal marshes.
This breed is very smart, and they’re quick learners to boot.
German Shorthaired Pointer
German Shorthaired Pointers are built for duck hunting. They can withstand long days in the field or on the water with ease. They’ve got a fantastic blend of power, speed, agility, and endurance.
This is an incredibly versatile breed of dog, and they’ll be right at home in the field, on the water, or hanging with the family in the house. You’ll probably get tired before one of these pointers does, so keep that in mind for their wellbeing when you’re not expending their energy out hunting.
Originally bred by South Carolina hunters for the purpose of hunting wild turkeys in the Wateree River Swamp during the early 1900s, the Boykin Spaniel is a great choice for a duck hunting dog, too. Their coat works well as camouflage and the Boykin Spaniel can hunt in the swamps, dove fields, and duck marshes, making them a multi-purpose hunting dog to keep you afield for multiple game seasons.
The Boykin Spaniel is also a very loyal dog, so they make fantastic companions no matter where you are.
Also known as the Hungarian Pointer, the Vizsla is a sporting dog first bred in medieval Hungary for hunters who used hawks. Their pointing and retrieving skills made for an easy transition to be used as gundogs, and they were quickly embraced by hunters of upland game, rabbits, and waterfowl.
Very active and incredibly driven, Vizslas are easy to train and they’re also great companions and are very affectionate.
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
Tollers weren’t originally retrievers. Instead, they used to run up and down the shoreline in an attempt to lure unsuspecting waterfowl within shooting range. Originally bred in the 19th century and crossed with a variety of other similar breeds, the final result of the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever was a comparably small dog that usually tops out around 50 pounds. Given their cold-weather heritage, these dogs have a water-repellent double coat perfect for duck hunting.
They’re great dogs, but they also take a skilled trainer, as they don’t perform their best when pressured.
Duck Hunting is Better with a Well-Trained Dog
Duck hunting is a lot of fun, and it’s even better when you’ve got a well-trained dog by your side. Any one of the breeds on this list would be a great choice, and you’re sure to be pleased with the results no matter which one you choose.
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