Here are the six best breeds of duck hunting dog.
Hunting dogs come and hunting dogs go, but the best duck hunting dog may be sleeping on your living room floor right now.
Waterfowl hunters everywhere have investigated and discussed the best waterfowl hunting dog breeds until they are blue in the face, and each have their own favorite.
The six included herein may not be the only ones that can do the job, but they are certainly the most capable. A good gun dog doesn’t necessarily need to be a cold water animal to be a successful duck hunting companion, but the breeds that are seem worth their weight in gold.
When hunting season demands that you leave the upland birds behind to chase waterfowl, the best dogs will shine. These popular breeds are high energy, intelligent, and easy to train. From California and the upper midwest to Maryland you can just feel the energy level when you read the names.
1. Golden Retriever
Make sure that the pup you choose comes from a hunting line, or you may be disappointed. Goldens that have the vigor and drive to hunt are as good in the blind as they are in the home. They’re a great family pet, and as water dogs go they have one of the most beautiful water repellent coats that there is.
2. Boykin Spaniel
One of the smaller breeds, usually weighing in at 40 pounds or less, the Boykin is a rugged dog built to sit tight in a small craft or chase wild turkeys in the field. Originally from South Carolina, this duck dog has all of the ingredients it takes to be a successful and reliable retriever.
3. American Water Spaniel
Roughly similar in size to the Boykin, the AWS is as tough as they come in the boat and can also be found searching the woods and fields for upland game birds. This is the animal that I originally set out to get as a hunting partner when the breeder in Wisconsin I sought out had sold all of their pups, leading me to look at the next breed.
4. German Shorthaired Pointer
The German Shorthaired Pointer is one of the most high energy, loyal, and biddable dogs that you could ever have as a hunting partner. I know from personal experience that the GSP is as capable of retrieving a duck through four-foot rollers on Lake Ontario as it is finding a crippled bird in a tangle of deep cattails. While I don’t recommend that a hunter take this breed out for a second-season, January hunt on the Great Lakes, the German Shorthair is as at home in the water at it is on your sofa.
5. Labrador Retriever
Maybe the number one duck hunting breed and most beloved pet, the hunting Lab is one of the most versatile and hardy dog breeds ever created. As a bird dog alone they are a solid hunter, but get them into their element–swamp, boat, lake, stream–and they will shine. Arguably the most popular hunting breed in the United States, the Lab is both an excellent pet and hunting partner.
6. Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Chessies are known to be as tough as they come in the hunting dog world. The woman that I hired to teach me the finer points of dog training owned only this breed, and would not sell her pups to anyone that she did not have well vetted. Their double coat makes them extremely well suited for the harsh winter hunts that they live for, and yet are great in a corn field goose blind or flushing pheasants from a hedgerow. While they can be hard-headed, they are very intelligent for those willing to put the time in.
Honorable mention: English Springer Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel, Newfoundland, Irish Water Spaniel, and Curly Coated Retriever. In fact, any dog that loves the water will make an ardent waterfowl hunter think it should be his or her next dog!
What is known throughout the duck hunting world is this: a good dog makes us a better hunter, but that same dog is only as good as its trainer.