Dogs have always been great companions and family pets. However, their role in history has always been more for service and work. Keeping them as pets is a recent convention. Back in the days, dogs were guards, protectors, and hunting companions.
Some dogs deter predators that threaten humans, some help in shepherding livestock, and others are great at catching rodents at industrial factories. Some dogs are also great companions for finding and flushing birds when you go game hunting. Over the years, there are notably great dog breeds that can find, flush, and retrieve birds for their human companions. But before we look at each one of them, let us first read more about the different types of bird dogs.
Types of Bird Dogs
There are various types of bird-hunting dogs. Some are crossovers, while some excel at both. The majority of these hunting pets fall into two birding dogs.
Waterfowl Bird Hunting Dogs
Wetland bird dogs and those working in aquatic habitats are more focused on retrieving waterfowls such as ducks and geese. Pets trained as duck hunting dog breeds and they do not pursue game on foot. They just hide and pounce on the birds near the water.
Accordingly, these dogs do not need to learn how to find or flush birds from their hiding. They just wait for their owners to down a passing bird that they will retrieve. But the tough part is that they must observe where the bird falls and swim in the water to fetch it. More so, since this is typically a winter activity, dogs bred for such hunting have thick double coats, thick built and have adaptations that help them swim in cold water – such as webbed feet.
Upland Bird Hunting Dogs
Most upland bird hunter dogs are after doves, quails, pheasants, and other birds of the forest or fields. These dogs typically prey on their games on foot and find fowls hiding in shrubs or tall grass. These dogs generally are taught to point at hiding places of birds by staring at it, extending their tail backward, and raising one leg towards it.
Knowing the location will help the hunter anticipate the possible flight path of the birds. The birds may flee on their own, but the hunter may command its dog to flush when necessary. “Flushing” is done when the dog leaps on the vegetation to scare the bird for it to fly away. Once the dog starts flushing, the hunter aims and fires on the game. Bird-hunting pets will watch where the bird falls and retrieve them.
Upland bird dogs are typically athletically built, easy to train, and have a strong sense of smell. They help owners find games and lessen the amount of walking around. These dogs also have shaggy or fluffy coats that protect them against thorny bushes.
The Best Bird Hunting Dogs
1. German Wirehaired Pointer
Hunters looking for a skilled pointing dog will be impressed with the ruggedly intelligent German Wirehair breed. These dogs perform well in upland search, point, or flush. They are also excellent retrievers of waterfowls, whether on land or water. Though they seem to lack the elegance of their Shorthaired or English Pointer counterparts, German wirehaired presents a powerful robust built. They are quite intense, but they cooperate extraordinarily well with their human companion.
German wirehaired pointer is brilliant, even as a puppy. They quickly learn commands, even novice bird dog owners can make errors, but these dogs can recover and relearn. Like most wirehairs, they love people, are very loyal and make excellent companions. And although they have a high drive, these dogs are seldom hyper and remain level-headed. If you want one-on-one bird dogs for hunting partners, you will appreciate its devotion and strong work ethic.
2. German Shorthaired Pointer
One of the most popular versatile bird dog breeds in hunting dog associations is the German Shorthaired Pointer. These dogs have excellent versatile hunting skills and a snazzy point. They can also be quirky and funny; thus, they easily steal their owners’ hearts. Most German shorthaired pointers develop their point early, along with their love for the water making them one of
the best duck hunting dogs. Pet owners are impressed with the German Shorthaired for its eagerness for work and their intelligence in quickly developing their hunting skills. They are steady, can do quartering, retrieving, and have range control, which is honed at a young age. If it is your first time to train bird dogs, German shorthairs are resilient, and they can relearn corrections and handle mistakes easily.
On the other hand, shorthairs are affectionate, friendly, and low-maintenance pets at home. German shorthaired pets are ideal pets for families with an active lifestyle or children because of their high energy levels.
3. Labrador Retriever
Labrador retriever is always on the top of dog popularity charts. And it’s no wonder, and these pets are the best choice for first-time dog owners whether as a home companion or an outdoor partner. They are playful, friendly, energetic, and are forever in search of game.
As puppies, Labs are always full of energy. You can channel this into field or water training. These pooches are also brilliant, and they are easy to train to become hunting partners from a young age. They are excellent flushers and retrievers. Labs, whether American or British, can work at a moderate pace within range of the hunter. Most of these pets have a “birdy” tail that often signals the presence of birds.
Physically, British Labrador Retriever has thicker necks, fuller chests, and shorter legs compared to the American Labs. However, breeders agree that the British are also quieter and calmer; thus, they are ideal for first-time bird dog owners.
4. Brittany Dog
Brittanys are sometimes associated with spaniels; however, they are more akin to setters. But their skills make them fall somewhere between these two types of hunting dogs. And while experts are having a hard time sorting where they belong, it only proves that they are incredibly versatile when hunting.
These dogs are among the top choices for hunters who need an all-in dog companion to flush, point, retrieve, or showcase in agility competitions. Brittany requires minimal grooming, but they are handsome looking canines. If you’re interested in having them as a hunting partner, pet companion, or adventure buddy, make sure to give them plenty of exercises. They tend to become restless when they don’t have adequate training or physical activity.
5. Jack Russel Terrier
Although small and adorable looking, Jack Russel Terriers are sturdy pets that can keep up with its human hunting partner. They are like tiny powder kegs that are explosive when unleashed. They have a high energy level, and they remain active for a long time. Though you may think that they are only suitable for small games, Jack Russels are great bird flushers, and they can hunt squirmy prey like any other bigger dog.
If you want a compact field partner that will chase out birds, these canines are excellent for your outdoor adventures. Keep in mind, though, and their high energy levels will require you to exercise them often. These dogs are brilliant and loving pets. And as long as you keep their energy in check, you’ll have a loyal pet and hunting partner in a Jack Russel.
6. Chesapeake Bay Retriever
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a US-bred hunting dog that is highly-rated by owners. They have an athletic build, are tireless when they have a task, and they are great for hunting waterfowls because of their affinity to water.
These dogs are gifted with waterproof coats so they won’t be bogged down when they retrieve downed ducks and geese or other birds in the wetlands. And similar to other retriever breeds, Chesapeakes are loyal, loving, and brilliant companion pets. They are excellent partners, whether for home or hunting activities.
7. Golden Retriever
Golden retriever breeds are among the most popular canine pets, not only in the US but around the world. Most people think that they are excellent companion pets to have, but they are more of a hard-working bird hunting dog. Golden retriever also is one of the popular service dogs.
These dogs have a beautiful and elegant appearance, and it hides the fact that they are extremely intelligent and determined. They suit suburban living, but they do well outdoors too. A Golden retriever has high stamina, and they have a happy disposition. These qualities, mixed with their intelligence, make them excellent field companions. So if you want a pet that’s easy to train, a versatile companion and one who would eagerly go on a trip with you – get a Golden Retriever dog!
8. Irish Setter
Contrary to their luxurious coat and appearance, Irish Setters are well-built for day-in and day-out of fieldwork. These dogs have high stamina and energy to accompany you on game or hunting trips. Likewise, they are skilled retrievers, smart, determined, and resourceful breed of canines. Irish setters are notably unstoppable when they are on the field.
As home companions, we know of the Irish’s loving and rambunctious nature. They may be harder to train than others, but once they learn, they become excellent partners in upland hunting. These dogs have been popular partners of sportsmen and hunters in the past 200 years. It is probably because of their love for everybody. They are sure to greet friends or strangers like they’re bound to be together, and they get along with other pets too.
9. English Springer Spaniel
The English Springer Spaniel dog is an excellent companion for first-time bird-dog downers. These breeds specialize in flushing and require less training than multitasking pointers.
Springers are animated hunters, eager-to-please retrievers, and flushers. If you are a new bird dog owner, you will easily read their body language. It shows how freely they search, work up a scent, and get close to the game.
Physically, these breeds are solidly built with short, light coats that need less grooming. They can quickly bust through thick bushes. They are great pheasant dogs and may need range control. On the other hand, they learn quickly and are always willing students. As family pets, they are mild-tempered, active, and happy to be around their loved ones.
10. English Cocker
First-time dog owners who prefer a smaller canine companion will have an excellent package with the English Cocker. These breeds are exuberant with a compact build. And because of that, they are suited for smaller living spaces, more comfortable transport and efficient handling.
Compared with other flushers, cockers are less likely to quarter, and they are likely to penetrate when seeking. These canines are quite tenacious when pursuing behind thick bushes. They are also soft when it comes to training; thus, first-timers will have an easier time teaching them commands.
Compared with other hunting dogs, the English cockers have medium energy levels, but those that work on the field show more enthusiasm than most. Working cockers are always filled with happiness, and it can be noted in how they wag their tails and move about. Field cockers are developed with field lines. They are also a bit heavier-boned, taller, and more athletically built than show-ring cockers.
11. German Spaniel
German Spaniel or Deutscher Wachtelhund are slowly gaining popularity in the field. They are solidly built with big bones and muscles. They look similar to the Dutch Partridge Dog and are known for their versatile skills in upland flushing. These dogs are intelligent, passionate, lively, docile, and friendly that are always eager to join you out for a game.
These breeds seem to do everything with excellent skills. They flush birds, track furry games, and retrieve waterfowl. More so, they can also pursue larger games like boars and stags. In Germany, these canines are only allowed for hunters. While in Canada, they accompany hunters for tracking and flushing black bears.
12. English Setter
The English Setters are a classic upland dog with graceful movements and an elegant point. Hunters who relish tradition will love having the English setter as their companion. This breed is very adaptable when it comes to range and patterning. They are an ideal companion for scrubs, grasslands, and woodlands. They are brilliant searchers, and they have this iconic point characterized by a feathered tail pointing straight out at 12 o’clock.
More so, new bird dog owners should also understand that this breed starts at sight point early. However, they mature at a moderate rate. Thus, they need some extra patience when training and favoring template handlings. Their natural instincts’ come out at their own pace. Apart from being versatile hunting dog companions, English setters are very affectionate family pets, and they are also sweet and playful with children and strangers.
13. Gordon Setter
Hunters looking to have an energetic and brilliant pointing dog, the Gordon Setter, is another excellent choice. They are the heaviest of the setter breeds and less popular compared to their English and Irish counterparts. These breeds have strong legs, and they will push you to have intense exercise with them. A lazy game of fetch will not do with this breed as they need about 60 to 80 minutes of exercise. They will be ecstatic to have rigorous dashing and running. However, puppies are not yet ready for such physical activity. So until they reach 18 months of age, Gordon setters should have mild exercise. More so, these dogs should have agility training when they are already well-developed.
Similar to other setter breeds, Gordons tend to mature gently. Even in their later years, they keep that puppy-like and playful attitude. And because of their lasting innocence, they grew best in a caring and loving environment where they get lots of attention. They reward owners with loyalty and affection. So if you want a perfect family pet and an enthusiastic hunting companion, this breed is an excellent choice for you.
Hunters and hunting pets are an essential pair almost as old as the sporting game. But not all canines are hunters, and hunting dogs are not created equal. You cannot merely pick out a dog and bring them out on a field. And while Poodles are versatile hunting dog companions, various other breeds have a natural hunting instinct. For some, it is surprising to learn that some breeds are not just for pet-companions or family pets. They are great hunters too!
For instance, bird dogs have inane skills in pointing, flushing, and retrieving downed game. Our lists are just some of the best picks of seasoned bird hunters that are ideal for first-timers. You can have a German Shorthair Pointer or an English Cocker Spaniel for starters. Most of these dogs are “soft” when it comes to training, so they will quickly adapt and relearn despite committing mistakes. But the best hunting partner will depend on your needs and the type of hunting you engage in. But one thing is for sure, having a bird dog guarantees you have a skilled partner who’s also fun to be around.