Best Duck Hunting Dogs
The bond between man and dog is a special one. In the field, there’s an unspoken trust between the pair, one that’s been built on frigid mornings in a duck blind and countless retrieves. But mostly, our dogs are more like family, curling up with us on our favorite chair.
My family has had hunting dogs as long as I can remember - pointers for upland birds and beagles for rabbits. But for me, our Labrador has always held a special place in my heart. Labs are some of the best duck hunting dogs around. And they’re loyal, friendly and always willing to please although several breeds serve as excellent companions in the duck blind. We’ve listed the best ones, those that have been bred specifically for duck hunting.
Labs aren’t just favored by duck hunters, the breed is the most popular in the entire country. Two aspects that make them the best duck hunting dogs are their ability to learn quickly and their agility in the water. Webbed feet, a long tail that acts like a rudder, and a thick coat of fur makes them ideal for swimming in cold weather. Labs naturally want to retrieve, and they’re quick to learn the discipline to grow into a perfect blind companion.
While golden retrievers are generally known as family pets, they were originally bred as waterfowl dogs. That big, curly coat of golden fur is water-repellent to keep them warm on cold days. Their gentle disposition, obedience and intelligence makes them perfect for the blind and the household.
Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Chesapeake Bay retrievers were bred specifically for duck hunters in Maryland, where winter is extremely cold and wet. Their double coat keeps them warm in nasty weather and they’re toughness and energy ensure they’ll keep going as long as you’re afield. While these dogs are intelligent, they’re more difficult to handle than Labs. It takes a seasoned dog trainer to keep them focused.
While a fluffy poodle isn’t what typically comes to mind when you think of a duck dog, it is one of the oldest sporting breeds around. In the 1400s, the poodle was created to aid in retrieving game. That instinct still exists today - they’re strong swimmers and highly intelligent.
American Water Spaniel
The American Water Spaniel is smaller than your typical duck dog so they can easily fit in small watercrafts. This makes it perfect for coastal hunters who use boat blinds, but also those with smaller, fixed blinds. The Upper Midwestern winters shaped the breed into a tough dog with a strong work ethic, perfect for northern waterfowlers.