5 Favorite Waterfowling Breeds
Looking for your next hunting partner? These are the best breeds for the job and the important qualities to know about each before bringing home a pup.
Labs are trainable, tough, and intelligent. These dogs love to work hard, can swim with the best of ‘em, and tolerate brutal conditions well. They make great upland dogs and loving family pets too — probably why the breed has been one of the most popular in the US for decades.
Because these pups have plenty of energy to burn, they need lots of exercise to prevent hyperactivity and weight gain. Labs can also be prone to joint problems, so thoroughly researching reputable breeders and having any potential hunting partners evaluated by a professional is important.
Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Bred to retrieve high numbers of ducks off the Eastern Shore, Chessies are hard-working, strong, and driven. They aren’t afraid of frigid waters or harsh currents and will work for hours.
Because they’re so headstrong, these dogs can be stubborn and tougher to train than some other waterfowling breeds. Chesapeake Bay retrievers are loyal and protective of their owners but are typically less friendly to strangers.
American Water Spaniel
For waterfowlers who hunt from small water crafts, the compact American water spaniel is a great option. Unlike most duck dogs, this breed rarely exceeds 45 pounds. Their smaller stature also makes them excellent pets in tighter living quarters, but it leaves them slightly less powerful than bigger breeds. American water spaniels are hardy, friendly dogs, but they’re best-suited for owners who already have experience training dogs to hunt.
Friendly, beautiful, and eager to please, golden retrievers make great duck dogs that can also sniff out upland birds, thanks to their powerful noses. They’re generally easier to train than many other breeds, making them a great choice for beginners. Their excellent disposition has made them one of the most popular family dogs for years — although their fur can make them a messy choice. Because many are bred for show rather than the field, finding a golden retriever from a solid hunting line and without a history of hip dysplasia is critical.
Another compact breed, the Boykin spaniel is versatile enough to hunt ducks, doves, and quail — some deer hunters even use them to follow blood trails. They’re sweet, mellow dogs that are highly trainable and beginner-friendly. Boykins aren’t the best choice for retrieving in extreme cold, but they can tolerate heat better than most duck dogs.