If you are comfortable with dogs and are an avid hunter, then getting a hunting dog would be the most natural course to take. Hunting dogs or gundogs as they are also known as, add dimension to a hunt, which makes the whole process much more fun. These dogs are very popularly used in duck hunting, so here are 11 best duck hunting dogs that are widely used by hunters to enhance their hunting experience.
1. Labrador Retriever
Although Labrador retrievers are popular as house pets, they are extremely useful as duck hunting dogs as well. They come under the ‘retriever' class of dogs which is self-explanatory. They are suitable for duck hunting due to their love for water, and of course, they love to retrieve stuff, with the right kind of training.
Being loyal and obedient helps a great deal, as your Labrador retriever will be at your side wherever you go, and will be responsive to your commands. This trait is especially useful when you are tracking down a duck in undergrowth but do not want to be detected. This breed is so successful in duck hunting that you can even enter your dog into duck hunting competitions.
2. English Cocker Spaniel
This breed has some natural hunting instincts. Commonly adopted as house pets due to their loyalty, good temperament, and love for children, English cocker spaniels will always be nosing around, even at home, so they are in their element when taken out on a hunt.
With the right training, these dogs will be perfect for fetching shot birds and will be able to dig them out from the most inaccessible of locations. These animals are extremely sure-footed and can negotiate their way through the most difficult terrain to reach the prey.
The Beagle comes under the ‘hound' category. They have an exceptionally sharp sense of smell, which makes them useful not only in tracking down game but also drugs and illegal substances, which makes them useful for anti-narcotic squads as sniffer dogs.
They are hardy dogs, so you don't need to be too concerned about health issues which is a major consideration while selecting a particular breed of dog for home or professional/recreational purposes. Although it is a small breed, a beagle is surprisingly fast and agile, which makes it an excellent choice for duck hunting.
4. Brittany Springer
These are commonly considered as ‘upland bird retrievers' as they perform well out of the water. However, you will see that the Brittany Springer works quite well in the water as well, which makes this breed suitable for duck hunting. As they are from the spaniel class of dogs, they have most of the spaniel traits.
This breed is loyal and obedient, and they are quick learners and eager to please, which makes it a pleasure just training them. They have a good temperament, so will be good company for you on long waiting periods during a hunt. They are good swimmers as well, which is a useful qualification for a dog that is going to assist you in duck hunting.
5. Chesapeake Bay Retriever
This particular breed has abundant endurance and brains to match and is an active animal which you can rely on during duck hunting trips. Originally, the Chesapeake Bay retriever was used as a working dog. However, in time, it was realized that this dog made an excellent hunting dog and today it is among the best duck hunting dogs around.
The Chesapeake Bay retriever is a sturdily-built dog with stamina to match its size. With the tireless energy of these dogs, you can plan long, extended duck hunts without the risk of fatigue setting in with your dog. Strong, loyal and dependable are the words that come to mind while describing this dog. They also make good companions, so you will not be alone on your duck hunts.
This hunting dog will appeal to you for its sheer patience and impressive retrieving capabilities. The Weimaraner is also fast and are versatile in retrieving different game. This breed has a history of over 1,000 years and sports the nickname of ‘gray ghost’ due to its slightly spooky appearance and silvery coat.
Despite its rather scary appearance, the Weimaraner is a loyal canine that will make a good companion for you. The main USP of this dog is its excellent running capabilities. It is inherently a runner and has been known to outrun judges on horseback during hunt tests. You can use them for some particularly long-range shooting, and they will just love the challenge.
7. Italian Spinone
Not a very well-known name in dog breeds, this is a breed of hunting dog that is as reliable as they get. Italian Spinones are distinctive in their structure and easily recognizable. They are a hardy breed and are extremely aligned to humans. These dogs were first bred in Italy and came to the UK in the 1980s, and a few years later they started to appear in the United States. They come under the category of large dogs.
Italian Spinones are excellent all-purpose gun dogs and are known more for stamina than speed, which is a useful trait for duck hunting. They love to swim and retrieve, which is, of course, much required in a duck hunting dog. Once you have trained an Italian Spinone, you have a trusted duck hunting buddy for life!
8. Golden Retriever
Here is a real all-rounder breed which is just as good in the house as out on a duck hunt. Golden retrievers are excellent house dogs and are superb with children. But out on a hunt, the dog practically changes its avatar and becomes a ruthless tracker which loves what it does.
Golden retrievers are good at all sorts of retrieving and are equally good in field trials and similar competitions. This breed is built for both stamina and speed, and despite their size, these dogs have surprisingly soft mouths when it comes to retrieving a bird. These dogs also love to swim and are really in their element on a hunt. Golden retrievers are unanimously among the best duck hunting dogs around.
9. German Shorthaired Pointer
Although popularly used for hunting inland game, the German shorthaired pointer makes and excellent duck hunting dog as well. Check out the smooth, efficient retrieving skills of his German shorthaired pointer in this neat video. As you can see, this is a powerful breed, with lots of stamina and a strong swimmer as well which the qualities you look for are in a good duck hunting dog.
There is a downside, however, because due to their thin coats, these dogs have the tendency to get cold after extended exposure to the water, so are not recommended for long duck hunts.
The fact that this breed of dogs is suitable for duck hunting might come as a surprise to many, but they make excellent gundogs and have a talent for water retrieving. Poodles are very smart and are easy to train. They make good companions as well.
Despite being a small breed, the standard poodle is considerably larger and exhibits high energy levels. These dogs are very enthusiastic about retrieving and eager to please which makes a good combination for a good duck hunting dog, contrary to the belief that poodles are only fit for the sitting-room couch, dog shows or a circus.
11. Deutsch Drahthaar
Here is another breed that is not known to many. The Deutsch Drahthaar, often confused with German wirehairs are ideal for duck hunting. These dogs are highly robust and have been described as a breed that “points like an English setter and retrieves like a Labrador." These dogs are tireless and capable of swimming a mile in freezing water with minimal effort.
The Drahthaar has a thick waterproof coat which gives it an advantage while in the water and makes it possible to swim in freezing water. They are also very loyal and make excellent companions.
Quest for the Best Duck Hunting Dogs
Suitable hunting dogs are something that we all look for if we are into duck hunting using gun dogs. If you look at each of these breeds, you will see that they all vary slightly from one breed to the other. Further, if you start using dogs for duck hunting, you will notice that even within the same breed, there will be a slight variance in the temperament of the dogs from one to another.
We can safely conclude that there are no actual "best duck hunting dogs." A best duck hunting dog is an ideal scenario, which can only remain hypothetical. It is a standard that you can aim for in an attempt to make a suitable choice for an excellent gundog. This way, you will have some idea of what you are looking for and are likely to end up with a duck hunting dog which will work well for you.
We hope you have found this article informative. Please feel free to send in your comments, feedback, and queries to which we will be glad to respond.