You can’t go wrong with these dog breeds if you frequent the duck blind
Finding the right waterfowl dog to meet your individual needs can either be extremely easy or very difficult. There are a ton of dogs in the game that can retrieve birds, but some dogs were bred for it. So if you’re finding yourself looking for your first duck dog or are a hunting veteran who wants to explore another breed, consider these three options.
Let’s face it: Labrador retrievers are synonymous with waterfowl hunting.
Interestingly, labradors descend from working dogs that were used to retrieve nets and fish for fishermen, but once they were sent to England in the 1800s they developed into what most hunters know today (Ansfield, 2018). According to a profile on Labradors by Project Upland, British Labradors are calmer and more collected after generations of breeding to work larger numbers of birds, while American Labradors tend to have a higher drive for retrieving work in larger bodies of water and smaller numbers of birds per hunt.
Labs are also resilient. Because of their coat that has evolved over time, they can work longer than, say, a German shorthaired pointer on colder days on the water. According to the AKC, Labradors can range between 21 1/2 to 24 1/2 inches tall and can weigh between 55-80 pounds, depending on the sex. Further, labs tend to live between 10-12 years.
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
Nova Scotia duck tolling retrievers are an interesting breed, developed to draw waterfowl closer to the shore so hunters could shoot them.
According to Craig Koshyk in an article for Project Upland, the Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever was originally called the Little River Duck Dog for the region that holds Little River Harbour in Nova Scotia but was eventually renamed in 1945 by the Canadian Kennel Club.
The American Kennel Club notes that today’s breed ranges between 35-50 pounds, are relatively short (18-21 inches tall for males, 17-20 inches tall for females), and are expected to live for 12-14 years. With a medium, double coat, the breed is still an exceptional choice for duck hunters who want to look outside the standard choices but not risk losing a dog with good drive and longevity in the field.
German shorthaired pointers
It seems as the years go on that more hunters are recognizing the versatility of the German shorthaired pointer–especially for waterfowl hunting.
While some may look at their coat as a downside, GSPs still maintain a high drive and can work well in many situations. Still, keep this in mind when temperatures drop – they can work for a little bit, but will need to be pulled away from the water quicker than a lab or other double-coated dog. Still, GSPs can be well trained, though they need an owner who will spend a lot of time with them.
GSPs are medium-sized dogs, as males can stand between 23-25 inches and weigh between 55-70 pounds, while females are roughly two inches shorter and 10 pounds lighter on average, according to the AKC. Expected to live between 10-12 years, hunters can’t go wrong with a versatile dog like a GSP, especially if they are both upland and waterfowl hunters.