The 10 Best Duck Hunting Dogs

After getting hunted with an excellent retriever, you want one as your individual hunting dog. A duck canine enables you to hunt locations you couldn’t in any other case hunt—and take pictures you wouldn’t in any other case take, for concern of shedding a hen. It saves you the effort and time of constructing your individual retrieves, an actual blessing whenever you’re searching in boot-sucking mud. And, most retrievers could make the transition to upland dogs, too. Past the sensible advantages of searching with a waterfowl canine, there may be the satisfaction you’re feeling in watching your individual canine work, the inspiration you’re taking from its drive, and the enjoyment of your canine’s companionship within the blind and at house. Most retriever breeds make affectionate home canine.

Your journey to proudly owning your individual retriever begins with researching breeds. Duck retrieving canine have been bred in all styles and sizes, whereas sharing in frequent the mandatory traits of a water canine: hardiness, monitoring skill, and the intelligence to study complicated duties like blind retrieves. Among the breeds right here, just like the Labrador retriever, are extraordinarily well-liked, whereas others, like true searching poodles, are uncommon. Any of them could make a discover duck canine and searching accomplice. That can assist you select the most effective duck searching canine for you, right here, in no explicit order, is an inventory of prime retrievers.

1) Labrador Retriever

black labrador on a duck hunt
Labs—particularly younger ones—have loads of vitality. John Hafner


  • Clever and biddable
  • Nice household canine
  • Good upland canine


  • Liable to hip dysplasia and joint drawback
  • Reputation means there are various breeders, so it’s essential to do your analysis to choose a wholesome searching bloodline

By far America’s hottest retriever, the Labrador had its origins within the chilly waters of Newfoundland. There, fishermen developed the larger and lesser St. John canine, two sizes of a working breed that helped haul nets and retrieve floats. The larger St. John’s canine would grow to be the Newfoundland, whereas the lesser caught the attention of visiting English hunters within the early 1800s. They introduced St. John’s canine house and bred them to retrieve birds.

Labs have been acknowledged as a breed in England in 1903 and in the US in 1920. And though they aren’t separate breeds, English and American Labs are totally different in look, with American Labs being taller and heavier than English Labs. Typically, males weigh 65 to 80 kilos; females, 55 to 70—though there are some that get to be a 100 kilos. Labs have water-repellent coats, additional webbing between their toes, and thick tails to assist them steer within the water. They arrive in black, yellow, and chocolate, with black the preferred shade.

Clever, extremely trainable and desperate to please, Labs make nice duck searching canine and glorious home pets. Their demeanor and biddability permits them to serve in lots of different roles as properly, comparable to bomb- and drug-detecting canine, they usually make excellent service canine, too. Labs are additionally well-liked amongst many upland hunters, and there additionally pointing Labs out there from some breeders. Labs have grow to be one in every of America’s favourite canine breeds amongst hunters and non-hunters alike, which implies it is advisable to take care when selecting a breeder and discover a respected operation that focuses on searching retrievers.

2) Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Chesapeake bay retriever on a duck hunt
Chessies are fiercely loyal canine. John Hafner


  • Hardy sufficient to hunt huge water and make many retrieves in a day
  • Loyal, with some guard intuition


  • Repute for aggressiveness
  • More durable to coach than different breeds

The legend goes that in 1807, a ship certain from Newfoundland to England foundered off Norfolk, Virginia. Among the many rescued passengers have been two St. John’s canine, the water canine of Newfoundland fisherman. The nephew of the rescue ship’s proprietor purchased the 2 canine and took them to Baltimore, the place they grow to be the ancestors of all Chesapeake Bay retrievers. Whether or not the story is true or not, it’s completely true that market hunters in that space bred St. John’s canine into Chesapeake Bay retrievers. They wanted a waterfowl canine with stamina and drive to retrieve dozens of geese a day from the bay, in addition to guard these invaluable geese on the way in which to promote them at market.

The Chesapeake Bay retriever was acknowledged a breed by the AKC in 1878. They weigh as much as 80 kilos and have a wavy, oily coat to maintain them heat. Chessies are available in numerous shades of brown to assist them mix in to the marsh. As a result of they’ve the drive and conformation to hunt the roughest, coldest situations, Chessies want homeowners that hunt as arduous as they do. They may bond with your loved ones however retain some protecting intuition. A Chesapeake Bay retriever isn’t a guard canine per se, however whereas a Lab’s first intuition is to greet strangers, a Chessie shall be prepared to guard its household.

3) Boykin Spaniel

Boykin spaniel on vintage Field & Stream cover
A Boykin graced the February 1935 cowl of F&S. Discipline & Stream


  • Small to suit into small boats and small houses
  • Tolerates sizzling climate


  • Not bred for excessive chilly

Boykin spaniels aren’t generally seen within the area as duck searching canine, and the breed is a latecomer to American waterfowling, because it wasn’t developed till the early 1900s. Coach L. Whitaker Boykin of South Carolina began with “Dumpy” a shopper’s brown spaniel, outcrossing it to springers, Chessies, and American water spaniels. The outcome was a small retriever weighing 40 kilos at most, with a curly dark-brown coat.

Boykins have been bred to satisfy a particular want. A lot of the searching in South Carolina’s takes place in swamps and river bottoms and, on the time, one of the best ways to achieve them was in small “part boats” carried in items in wagons and assembled within the area. Boykins have been the proper, compact measurement to trip within the boat, and as soon as onshore they may flush and retrieve a wide range of recreation. Bred for the delicate climate of South Carolina, they have been additionally capable of face up to sizzling climate, and made glorious retrievers within the dove area. They’re generally seen as “pick-up” canine at quail plantations, the place they wait till after the hunters shoot over the tips that could make the retrieve. They’ll flush upland birds and a few are even used as blood-trailing dogs by deer hunters.

Boykins are very talked-about of their house state. The truth is, they’re the official State Canine of the South Carolina, however they’re much less well-known throughout the remainder of the nation. For a hunter who desires a canine for searching wooden geese and puddlers in small waters, in addition to upland birds, and a canine that may stay in a small place, the Boykin is likely to be a superb selection.

4) Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever

Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever
You don’t see many tollers in duck blinds, however they’re pure retrievers. Pexels



  • Practice with a light-weight contact
  • Few breeders out there, not all breed searching canine

Distinctive amongst retrievers, tollers have been used to lure geese to shore. Tollers have been possible developed from “cage canine,” as soon as utilized in Europe to lure geese into nets the place they could possibly be trapped for market. Capering up and down alongside the shore as they performed fetch, red-coated, typically white-spotted, tollers have been thought to resemble foxes, that are stated to trick curious geese shut by prancing on the financial institution. Whereas cage canine had no must retrieve netted geese, tollers had to enter the water after the shot to carry again birds. Hunters in Nova Scotia possible began with cage canine and crossed them with numerous retriever breeds till they’d a canine would lure geese shut, then decide them up.

Tollers can be utilized as common retrievers, too. They make a good selection for a hunter who desires a handsome retriever on the smaller facet. And a toller is one thing totally different. You don’t see many within the blind. Tollers have reddish coats, some with white markings on the tail, toes, and head. Their coats are of medium size, with feathered tails. They can be utilized within the uplands, and a few discover work as remedy canine on account of their mild nature. Tollers are pure retrievers, provided that enjoying fetch is a part of their searching technique. You’ll have to look arduous for a breeder, as there aren’t many, and never all breed searching canine.

5) Golden Retriever

golden retriever puppy
Future searching buddy. John Hafner


  • Repute for having a superb nostril
  • Good wanting
  • Adapts properly to upland searching


  • They shed lengthy golden hairs onto the whole lot
  • Consumers should select breeders rigorously
  • Liable to hip dysplasia

The golden retriever is greater than only a fairly face. Underrated by many who suppose the searching intuition has been bred out of them, golden retrievers make glorious duck canine. The golden retriever was the brainchild of 1 man, Sir Dudley Marjoribanks, later Lord Tweedmouth, who began with a yellow flat-coated retriever within the 1860s when growing a canine to maintain picking-up duties at his property in Scotland. He crossed the canine with water spaniels, Labs, and crimson setters till he had a giant canine with an extended golden-red coat with the drive to choose up scores of birds from land or water throughout huge shoots.

Goldens have been first acknowledged as a definite breed by the AKC in 1932, and the canine grew to become well-liked within the U.S. and Canada. Their attractiveness and affable nature made them well-liked as pets and present canine. Like Labs, they make glorious service and remedy canine and in addition drug-, bomb- and contraband-sniffing canine, they usually rank persistently because the third or fourth hottest breed in America yearly. That signifies that whereas there are many good goldens from searching inventory, there are much more that come from non-hunting kennels. It’s essential to carry out your due diligence whenever you seek for a breeder. Be sure you get a golden from searching inventory. Goldens are sometimes seen within the uplands as pheasant canine, too, and make glorious home canine.

6) Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

Wirehaired griffon retrieves a wood duck
Ore Financial institution’s Sauge returns to the blind with a retrieved drake wooden duck. Gary Kephart/AWPGA


  • Nice noses and monitoring instincts
  • Will each retrieve geese and level upland birds


  • They adapt poorly to kennel life
  • Beards make them sloppy drinkers and eaters in the home

The individuals who introduced you the drilling, a rifle-shotgun prepared for any recreation, utilized the identical philosophy to searching canine. German canine exemplify the best of versatility and are anticipated to level, retrieve, path wounded recreation, hunt furred recreation, assist with pest management, and generally hunt wild boar. A kind of breeds, the wirehaired pointing griffon, makes a superb searching canine for hunters who need a hardy retriever that may additionally discover, level, and retrieve upland recreation.

The wirehaired pointing griffon dates to the Center Ages, though the breed didn’t attain its fashionable kind till the latter a part of the nineteenth century. A Dutch breeder named Eduard Kornthals began breeding griffons in Germany, later transferring to France. Kornthals was so carefully related to the breed that was recognized to some as Kornthal’s griffon. The canine he perfected weighted as much as 65 kilos with a tough outercoat, bushy eyebrows, and a beard. The coat retains the canine heat in chilly water and attracts surprisingly few burrs within the uplands. Though most griffon homeowners in the US use them as close-working hen canine, they’re very succesful waterdogs and may face up to pretty chilly temperatures. For the hunter who desires an clever, trainable, all-around canine that may hunt birds, decide up geese, tree raccoons, and blood-trail deer, a correctly skilled Griff can do all of it.

7) Normal Poodle

Standard poodle retrieves a mallard
A poodle retrieves a greenhead—with model. Louter Creek Hunting Poodles


  • Clever and desperate to please
  • Their hypoallergenic coats make them a good selection for hunters with dog-hair allergic reactions


  • Not as hardy as most retriever breeds
  • Whereas poodles are frequent, searching poodles are tougher to seek out

Poodle, or “pudelin” within the authentic German, means “splashing,” which ought to clue you in to the truth that poodles have been initially water canine. The distinctive poodle haircut was supposed to maintain the canine heat whereas permitting it free use of its legs for swimming. Poodles date to the Center Ages, after they have been utilized by as “cage canine” to herd wild geese into nets. With the arrival of gunpowder, poodles made the transition from cage canine to retriever. Poodles got here to the U.S. within the late 1800s, finally turning into the preferred breed within the nation from the mid-Fifties to the ’70s.

Due to the poodle’s mass reputation, it may be arduous to discover a breeder of hunting poodles, that are as uncommon as non-hunting poodles are frequent. If you do discover a poodle you’ll have a keen searching accomplice, if one which isn’t as hardy as another retriever breeds. Poodles are trainable and have good inclinations that make them good service canine. As a bonus, poodle’s coats are hypoallergenic so that they are good selection for homeowners with pet allergic reactions. Poodles weigh between 45 and 65 kilos and their curly coats are available in grey, brown, black, and white.

8) Irish Water Spaniel

Irish water spaniel
Irish water spaniels carry out nice on cold-weather hunts. Irish Water Spaniel Club of America


  • In a position to hunt in chilly situations
  • Robust swimmers that may additionally hunt the uplands
  • Extremely trainable


  • There are only a few breeders within the U.S.
  • Liable to medical issues so it’s essential to discover a wholesome line

Bred in Eire to face up to the pains of searching within the chilly North Sea, Irish water spaniels first appeared within the 1830s. They grew to become well-liked with Irish and English waterfowlers, and have been among the many waves of Irish immigrants coming to North America in the course of the nineteenth century. By 1870, the Irish water spaniel was one of many prime three hottest searching canine within the U.S. Since then, their reputation has declined right here, though the breed nonetheless finds favor amongst hunters in Eire.

No canine seems to be like an Irish water spaniel. Weighing as much as 65 kilos, it has an extended, curly, liver-colored coat that covers the whole lot from its toes to the distinctive topknot on its head. Solely the tail, often described unflatteringly, however precisely, as a “rat tail,” is curl-free. Within the area they’re hardy and have glorious eyesight to mark falls and good noses. They’ll adapt to upland searching as properly. They make good pets as properly, and are simply skilled.

9) American Water Spaniel


  • Hardy retriever in a compact package deal
  • Sometimes has quite a lot of drive to hunt


  • May be troublesome to coach
  • Can exhibit dominant personalities

Hailing from the Higher Midwest, the American Water spaniel, just like the Boykin spaniel, was bred to be a smaller canine that would hunt out of small boats, and the canine might properly have been first utilized by market hunters in jap Wisconsin within the 1860s. And, just like the Boykin, it has been named the official state canine of its house state—though there nowhere close to as many American water spaniels as there are Boykins. One of many smaller retriever breeds, they’re nonetheless well-equipped to deal with chilly water, and can stand watch over harvested recreation, generally aggressively. Weighing 45 kilos, at most, and lined with curly black or darkish brown hair, the American water spaniel wants an proprietor who will hunt it typically and has earlier dog-training expertise.

10) Pudelpointer


  • Equally at house searching on land and within the water
  • Brief coat withstands moist and chilly surprisingly properly
  • Pudelpointer breeding is managed so all canine have searching intuition


  • It may be arduous to discover a pudelpointer breeder

The pudelpointer, as its title suggests, is the results of a cross between poodles and pointers. The primary breeding occurred in 1870 in Germany, with the purpose of manufacturing a canine that would hunt the uplands and retrieve geese. Pudelpointers didn’t attain North America till 1956, and are nonetheless little recognized right here. Those that are conscious of the breed understand it as an clever, affectionate canine at house and within the area. They’ll face up to chilly situations within the marsh, they usually discover, level, and retrieve upland birds. They are often skilled to hunt small recreation as properly. One cause pudelpointers aren’t better-known is by design: to make sure the breed stays true to its objective as an all-around searching canine, the Pudelpointer Club of North America carefully displays breeding. You’ll have to look arduous to discover a pet for those who’re set on proudly owning a pudelpointer.

Pudelpointers weigh 45 to 65 kilos and have brief, tough, insulating coats and are available in liver, chestnut, or black. Their faces sport beards and eyebrows. Some pudelpointers are virtually as shaggy as griffons; others have very brief coats and sparse hair on their brows and muzzles. Both means, they’re intriguing selection for the duck hunter who additionally hunts upland birds.

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