When it comes to hunting pheasants, ducks, geese, and other wildfowl, it’s very common for hunters to bring along a four-legged companion to assist with the work. Dogs truly are man’s best friend, and that relationship is undeniable when it comes time to head out into the field together. Not only is it a thrill to watch your dog perform exactly what he or she was bred to do, but it’s also great knowing that they are just as excited as you are to be out there.
Advantages of Hunting with a Bird Dog
There are many reasons why you would want to go hunting with a trained gun dog. The main reason these days is because it’s a great opportunity to bond with your dog and see them express their innate talents. Hunting gives you a reason to train your dog, and allows them to use their natural gifts in an activity they are sure to enjoy.
The other obvious reason is they can help you increase your yield, whether they are flushing, pointing out the location of the bird, or retrieving your marks. Not only do you get to spend quality time with your dog, but you get an excellent hunting companion who can help you improve the results of your hunting trip.
History of Hunting Dogs
Hunting has been in our culture ever since the dawn of man and it was essential to survival all the way until man began to cultivate crops and domesticate livestock about 9,000 years ago. For many of the years when man had to hunt in order to eat, dogs were used as hunting aids. In fact, it’s believed that dogs were used for hunting as long as 20,000 years ago. When domesticated livestock became more common, dogs adapted to a new role of herding and overseeing animals instead of hunting them.
Now that hunting is no longer a necessity, hunting with bird dogs has become a sport enjoyed by many. While there are many breeds available today, there are still a chosen few breeds that are regularly used for hunting.
Best Breeds for Gun Dogs
These days, dogs are bred for specific traits for a variety of reasons. When you are looking for the perfect hunting companion, take into consideration which breeds are best suited for performing out in the field. In addition to developing their breed characteristics, all hunting dogs will have to be trained to remain obedient and work in the presence of gunfire. Here are the best breeds for hunting wildfowl.
Pointing Breeds: This includes German shorthairs, Brittanys, Wirehairs, English setters, and English pointers, among others. Pointers are best known for the stance they take when they notice prey. They are bred to go out in front of the party and track down prey. These traits make pointers perfect for the upland hunter who is hunting quail, pheasant, partridge, or grouse.
Flushing Breeds: Spaniels, such as cocker spaniels and English springer spaniels, are often chosen for their ability to find and drive flocks of birds from a variety of different cover, including tall grass, brush, and wetlands.
Retrievers: All retrievers have long attention spans, which makes them fairly easy to train. Labrador retrievers are very versatile, athletic dogs and are well-suited for both upland and waterfowl hunting. Labs are very tough and hardy in harsh conditions, and are great for retrieving shot waterfowl. Golden retrievers are also very versatile and can double as both upland and waterfowl hunting dogs. They have soft mouths, which help them handle the game delicately, and are excellent swimmers.
It should be noted that these qualities are not exclusive to the respective breeds. There are many retrievers that can be trained to be great flushing dogs, and flushing dogs and pointers can also be trained to retrieve.
What to Look For in a Puppy
With any hunting breed, you’ll need to do your homework in order to find a high quality bird dog. Ensure that the bloodlines are top notch and health clearances on the parents and previous generations have been confirmed. Also, it can be beneficial to select a puppy from a sire or dam who is already a successful hunting dog. In general, it doesn’t matter whether you choose a male or female puppy, as both genders can be trained to become bird dogs.
Most hunting dogs need a lot of exercise and attention, so keep that in mind before you go out and buy a hunting breed. Their energy levels are bred to be higher so they can perform all day in the field, so you’ll need to be ready to give them the attention and exercise they deserve.
It’s best to begin training your pup as soon as possible, in order to form tight bonds and give them the basic obedience lessons they need. Many people look to purchase their gun dog as young as seven weeks, when they can be weaned from their mother. That being said, most hunters cover the training basics with their gun dog for a year or more before their dog is ready for real action in the field.
Hunting with a Gun Dog at Double P Ranch
pheasant hunting with golden retrievers at double p ranchIt’s easy to plan a South Dakota pheasant hunting trip with your dog at Double P Ranch. Bird dogs also enjoy hunting for waterfowl and doves with us at Double P. All dogs are welcome and we provide heated rooms for visiting dogs. If you’re coming with a group, we recommend no more than three to five dogs per hunt.
If you’re interested in hunting with dogs but do not have a trained gun dog yourself, you can schedule guided hunts for pheasant, waterfowl, and dove with one of our Double P Ranch guides and he will bring his dogs along. It’s a great chance to familiarize yourself with how hunting dogs work in the field and get tips on how you can train your own companion for the task. Visit our site to learn more about some of our guides and their hunting dogs.