Many duck hunters consider their bird dog an essential part of their hunt. Because of their loyalty and passion for the hunt, these dogs jump into cold water, or retrieve over rough terrain to get the bird their master has killed. A good bird dog is definitely worth his weight in gold to the serious bird hunter. If not for the dog, hunters would lose many a downed bird. A well-trained bird dog adds an entirely new dimension to the hunt.
There are three types of bird dog, all with a slightly different angle for hunting; the pointing breeds, the flushing breeds, and the retrievers. Pointers are very disciplined and able to locate and freeze when they find prey. They stand motionless, allowing the hunter to get into position and then they flush the bird. Pointers are also able to retrieve downed birds. They are loyal, affectionate, and make a great family pet. English pointers, German shorthair pointers, Irish setters, and German wirehaired pointers are all examples within this category.
Flushing dogs consist mainly of the spaniel breeds; the English springer spaniel is the best known in this category. These dogs have been used for hundreds of years and have been trained to stay close to the hunter, within 30-40 yards. The English springer makes a great housedog; he’s intelligent, loyal, compassionate, with natural hunting abilities.
There are many different types of retrievers, the Labrador retriever being the most widely known. They excel at retrieving game because of their soft mouths. They’ve also become one of the most popular family pets because of their sweet temperament, trainability, and their eagerness to please. The retriever also stands out because of it’s ability to learn hand signals; a hunter motions for the dog to look up, and the dog is able to follow the bird’s fall and know where to go to retrieve it. They are also extremely good at “retrieving to hand”, meaning they put the bird directly into the hunter’s hands upon retrieval.
When choosing a bird dog, a hunter’s choice will lean heavily upon his own preference. While a dog should be eager to please and have a love for the hunt, the most important thing a hunter must have with the dog is a rapport. Oftentimes a hunter is simply just drawn to a certain dog, and as long as the dog exhibits all of the other basic traits, that’s the right dog for him.