The search for a hunting dog is always a mixed bag. Of course, it's exciting, and the process requires a tremendous amount of research. When you're looking at 8-week old pups there is a dash of luck required when you make your pick. It's a big time commitment, for there is hunting to be done. But care and training take up a big chunk, too. The fact that you'll likely have your pup for over a decade puts a lot of pressure on your pick. No one wants to make a bad choice because when the pup comes home, you're committed.
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Yet with three dogs in the kennel and a new pup coming in two weeks, I'm all in. Hard-charging hunting dogs might not always be the best house dogs, but here are a few breeds that can perform double duty equally well in the woods, waters, and in the home.
Pointers are sporty which is why they are coveted by field trialers and dog handlers looking for a pup with some giddy up and go. They cover ground, are athletic as heck, and are beloved for quail. They're not just kennel dogs though. Bring 'em in the house and give 'em some attention and they'll be among the sweetest of companions. As with most bird dogs, regular exercise takes off the edge.
Keep a Britt at home, and you'd swear you've got a house dog. Load them up in a dog box and their switch is flipped. One minute they asleep on the floor and when they're given the signal they're ready to hunt. That combination appeals to a lot of quail hunters, especially those who want a dog to point, retrieve, and please.
From English to Gordon to Red, Irish and Red and Whites, the setter occupies a place in many quail hunters' hearts. Some run big, others run inside of bell range while many cast much closer. When their flags fly signaling a point their feathers add magic to the air. Setters are biddable and aim to please, and their loving disposition makes them a great companion at home and in the field.
For an indoor bird dog a Springer's size is nearly perfect, their disposition is friendly, calm, and sweet, but cut one loose in an upland field and you've got a hunting buddy for life. They'll crash brush just as easily as they'll work thick grasses, so if a flushing grouse dog is your style then take a hard look at the Springer. They're calm at your feet and explosive in the field.
German Shorthaired Pointer
GSP's have long been favorites among bird hunters. Their range is ideal for the foot hunter, they pull double duty in upland bird points and with waterfowl or dove retrieves, and their coat makes them ideal for Southern tier heat. In the home, these biddable dogs reciprocate the kindness they receive.
German Wirehaired Pointer
Not to be confused with the Drahthaar which have an intensity probably not best suited for the home, the German wirehaired pointer has a more mellow disposition. These versatile dogs do it all; they point, they retrieve, they've got thick coats which is ideal for rugged terrain, and they're loyal to their owners.
The Labrador retriever has been America's Sweetheart for over a quarter of a century. The breed has occupied that top slot for a few reasons. They're biddable and friendly, they're built for all types of upland terrain. Labs love to retrieve on land or in water so much so that if you're playing fetch with a tennis ball they'll wear out your rotator cuffs. Black, red, yellow or chocolate, there is a size and shade to match anyone's tastes.
There are a lot of different breeds from which to choose, so if I've missed your favorite don't be chapped. The North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA) recognizes about 30 breeds alone, so we'd need a book to thoroughly cover all options. Research a breed that best matches your hunting needs and work to define the characteristics you want in a dog. Watch them work in the fields, coverts, and waters. Cross-reference your thoughts with your hunting buddies. If you're still focused on a particular breed, then review available dogs from professional trainers and kennels. Other pals might know of good litters from amateur breeders coming up or on the ground. Take your time until you find the one that matches most of your criterion. And when that moment comes don't hesitate to put down a deposit. You won't want to miss getting on that list.