Hunting Dogs –
It doesn’t take long after getting into duck hunting to become addicted. Before you know it you have a garage full of decoys, a duck boat and a wife wondering who’s paying for all of this? So what do you do? Pick out a puppy. A new puppy can easily take the attention off your duck hunting obsession. Little does your wife know that puppy is about to become your duck hunting partner for life. Well maybe your wife is like mine and she sees right through you. I knew I wanted a duck hunting dog ever since I started hunting. My wife wanted to make sure that our dog would be not only a hunting buddy but a family dog as well. Therefore we went on a search to find the top duck hunting dogs that could be great around a family and in the blind as well.
Top Duck Hunting Dogs –
Having a duck hunting dog is no easy chore. It requires a lot of obedience, gun, and bird training. However having a dog to mark, find and recover birds has to be one of the most rewarding opportunities to watch. Duck hunting dogs require a lot of patience and investment. More than likely you will spend the first year or two exposing your dog to training scenarios that resemble duck hunting. Thanks to waterfowl hunters passion for hunting with dogs, they have created hunt tests and field tests that allow your dog to train year round.
It’s easy to do a simple online search for duck dog trainers and kennels. Trainers provide you with a lesson plan of how to make a puppy become a fine duck dog. However if you have the time to train your own dog, it sure ads to the achievement of watching their first retrieve. The one thing I can almost assure you is that a hunting dog will never sleep in on opening day. Duck hunting breeds have a long history of pleasing their owners while retrieving game over land and water. Therefore taking a look at some of the top duck hunting dogs will provide you with what type of breed and dog is right for your style of hunting and family.
Labrador Retriever –
It’s no surprise that the Labrador Retriever is a breed on the Top Duck Hunting Dogs list. Having been listed as the number one registered breed since the AKC started counting. Labrador Retriever’s origins can be traced back to the islands of Newfoundland. Labrador Retrievers have been cited as far back as the early 1800’s, showing signs being easy to train for retrieving wild game. They became sought after and imported across England and North America.
Labs today are most often categorized either as an American or English Lab. There are some apparent behavior traits and training aspects that differentiate the two. However, the easiest way to tell the difference is in their appearance. English labs have a more “blocky” head shape and larger build. Whereas the American Labs have a more narrow head and leaner body shape. Some owners have a certain preference for the style of dog they desire. English Labs are thought to be easier to train and a little less energetic compared to the American Labs. However, the American style lab tends to have more stamina and drive. The thing they have in common is that they are bred for being duck dogs with a family side to them.
Males can range from 60-80 pounds
Females can range from 50-70 pounds
English is bred to be a little shorter and stocky and heavier frame.
American Labradors are bred to be leaner and taller than their English counterparts.
Labradors have a short and dense coat of hair. The hair is water-resistant helping them stay dry as they leave the water. This especially helps in cold weather hunting. Labs tend to have a more oily coat that helps protect them from water as well. They can be found in Black, Yellow and Chocolate. Black is the first to be bred. Then yellow was bred in the late 1800’s and the chocolate coming in the early 1900’s.
Labs are kind, people-pleasing breeds. They want to make you look good as a duck hunter. However, I will contest they may make you frustrated every now and again. They are dogs. However, they are great with kids which is why so many families choose a lab as a family pet. They can be quite athletic and energetic. Which usually goes well when you plan on using your lab as a duck dog. They usually won’t turn down a bumper being thrown every day.
Pure-bred labs from reputable kennels tend to have great health pedigrees. However, labs have been known for obesity and the most common health issue being hip dysplasia. Most kennels do offer a guarantee with their breed lines for hip dysplasia. Make sure to ask.
Golden Retriever –
Predominantly known as the family dog, Golden Retrievers make for great duck hunting dogs. Goldens are underused in the gun dog world. However, if you have been to a duck dog trainer they usually will have a couple they are training. Golden retrievers don’t seem to fall too far from the “Labrador Tree”. Golden’s are a very easy breed to train and take to learning quite well for their ability to please their handler. They have a history dating back to the early 1800’s residing in Scotland and England. Trained and used for hunting both upland and waterfowl. Golden’s get their name from their wavy long golden hair. They may not have that dark and rugged look of a black lab, but they do make for smart duck hunting dogs that can handle the elements.
Similar to the Labrador Retriever you can find a few variations in the Golden Retriever. They are categorized in both American and British with similar attributes to the Labrador Retriever. American Golden’s have a slimmer face and taller frame. Whereas their British counterpart tends to have a more blocky shaped head with a shorter more prominent muzzle shape. Neither of the breed lines is more or less used in duck hunting, but rather they are more of a preference in appearance.
Males can range from 60-80 pounds
Females can range from 50-65 pounds
British Goldens tend to have a more broad-shouldered and muscular frame.
American Goldens will have a leaner more lanky build and frame. They tend to be a little taller.
Goldens have thick wavy long hair. American types tend to have the darker tones whereas their British friends have the lighter more white tones. Even though they have a less oily coat, their top coat is still fitted to be water-resistant when duck hunting. I will have to say though Goldens seem to shed more throughout the year than Labs do. However, it could be that their hair is three times as long. They do require monthly grooming as well. Especially as a duck dog, they can attract a lot more mud and dirt in their coat.
Golden Retrievers are loving, kind dogs making them the perfect family hunting dog. They play well with kids and adults. They have an active demeanor that does require daily activity. However, with any duck dog, you should be getting them regular retrieves and visits to the duck pond.
Golden Retrievers tend to have a lifespan of anywhere from 10-12 years. However, they are susceptible to various forms of cancer and hip dysplasia.
Chesapeake Bay Retriever –
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever was officially recognized in 1878 by the AKC. They are less used in duck hunting compared to the Lab and Golden Retriever. Even though they have a frame and coat designed for the hunters who call big bodies of water their hunting grounds. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers better know as Chessies make a great family pet. However, they’re known love for water, which makes them one of the top duck hunting dogs available. They have a great drive and willingness to work. So if you have some tough marshy conditions to hunt this may be the dog that gets the job done for you. They have a never give up attitude and a companion demeanor that makes them a trusted family pet.
The Chessie’s derived from a set of pups that came from a shipwreck off the coast of Maryland that were then bred with other American breeds. This makes Chesapeake Bay Retriever an American breed and gives many owners a sense of pride. Chessies have gotten some bad press over time as being stubborn but in fact, they are quite intelligent dogs. Most of the time they just need to learn a drill or command multiple times because they believe they have a better solution to a problem. Chessies tend to be a confident dog.
Males can range from 65-80 pounds
Females can range from 50-70 pounds
Chessies have a medium to large build similar to the Labrador retriever. They are muscular but without the stocky build of an English Labrador.
Chesapeake Bay Retrievers have an amber gold-bronze colored coat. They have medium length wavy hair. Chessies have a more oily rough coat that helps repel and withstand tough icy water conditions. If you are a duck hunter on the coast or great lakes this dog has a coat that can keep them warm in the worst conditions. They can have some variations in their coat color across a bronze/brown spectrum.
Chessies have a kind and happy disposition. They are known for their intelligence and marking ability in the field. Chessies do make good family pets, however, they do require some proper family exposure to ensure that they remain kind and outgoing around people. They are truly a versatile breed with a lot of drive when it comes to hunting ducks with great stamina to help them last on long duck days.
With an average life expectancy of 10 years, they tend to live quite long for a medium to large dog. They are prone to hip dysplasia and hereditary diseases as well.
So What are the Top Duck Hunting Dogs?
There isn’t one breed that will outperform the rest, but rather it’s a personal preference. Retrievers are made for the rough conditions duck hunters go through. If you have the ability to check out the various breeds you may just fall in love with your next duck hunting puppy. It might even be a breed that you hadn’t considered before.