View Full Version : Best breed of dog for waterfowl retrieving

08-23-2008, 04:40 PM
I don't know a great amount about dogs for waterfowl hunting, but a dog is a important tool depending on how you hunt. What breeds make the best retriever and is the easiest to train?

08-23-2008, 04:54 PM
Best Chessy, easiest to train, Lab's.

Just my $0.02

08-23-2008, 07:13 PM
The Chesapeake Bay retriever was bred specifically for hunting waterfowl and where used by market hunters to retrieve 150-200 ducks a day, braking through ice with their chest to retrieve. Their coats are more suited for harsh cold water environments. They make great dogs for hunting Sea ducks off the rocks or a shoreline. The water just bead right off a Chessie when it comes out of the water. I have two labs as well and the Chessie dries off twice as fast.

Labs seem to train easier and it’s due to the fact that Chessies are so smart they want to think for themselves and they can be stubborn at times.:-P

Chessies make excellent waterfowl dogs; they have tones of drive, energy, endurance, and never want to give up once they’ve been sent off to retrieve.

From my experience if this was your first dog I’d say go with a Labrador from a good line of hunting stock and not from a puppy mill or pet store. Ask the breeder for titles to prove he at least has the potential to be a decent dog. You’re going to pay more but you’ll hopefully get twice the dog.

Join a retriever club and then after this dog grows up and retires and you want to try something different then consider a Chessie or stick with a Lab, whatever floats your boat.

Chessies and Labs are like Ford and Chevy trucks you'll always have a difference of opinions.


08-23-2008, 08:18 PM
The male Lab I have is way smarter and was way easier to train than the one Chesapeake I had 25 yrs. ago. ( But then again so am I and a dog is only as good as his handler/trainer, breeding and all else being equal). He also has a terrific nose for searching out cripples and hunting pheasants. He has marked (all on his own,no help from me) several fly-away-and-die birds that dropped 200 or more yards away, both on open water and in fields. He's aggressive in what he does and will keep going 'til he drops in winter conditions. That's a real risk with any good dog and it's up to the owner to protect them from themselves in harsh cold conditions. For snow and ice get your dog a neoprene vest and each time he comes out of the water use your hands to squeegy the water out of his/her fur and fluff him/her up. I even cut off an old pair of chest waders just below the crotch and on really cold days or if he's swimming in ice/snow filled water I put his head thru one leg and the body of the wader fits over the rest of him like a tent. It really warms him up quick and helps stave off hypothermia ( yes, your lab will become hypothermic if you don't look after him----it's happened to mine before I learned my lesson and I know of one lab around here who actually stopped breathing due to hypothermia [he was revived]. Hmmm, seem to have gone off on a tangent here but, coming back to your original question, I have no hesitation in recommending you get a lab. There are several good breeders in B.C. Both my labs are from Someday Kennels in Kamloops and the younger black female is almost as good as the older chocolate. She'd probably be just as good if I'd spent as much time training her as I did him.Once you get your dog spend lots of time training . I found it really helpful at the start to get involved in hunt trialing.

08-23-2008, 08:22 PM
I run labs and love them as all round hunting companions. My next would be a Golden, and the Chessie is a classic retriever. The old line about training a lab with a 2x4 could be adjusted for the Chessie to training them with a 4x4 !!

Start with good blood, the good stuff always comes out in the end.

08-23-2008, 09:55 PM
thanks for the good info, this would be the first time i got a dog for hunting purposes, i probably won't be getting one any time soon though, how much would one expect to pay for a good quality lab?

08-23-2008, 10:00 PM
You're looking in the ball park of $1000.00 for a dog from a reputable breeder with hips, and eyes guaranteed. This is just a pup and you can pick up started dogs as well but the more the dog is trained the more you’re going to pay.

08-23-2008, 10:36 PM
Labradour Retreiver... the only dog you'll ever need.

Ian F.
08-24-2008, 07:14 AM
Geeze man why not ask who's got the best looking wife as the answer would be easier to get too!

80% plus of all retrieving titles ever awarded in tests, trials and otherwise have gone to Labs. It is much easier to get a good lab then the other breeds


You only get out of a dog, what YOU put into a dog.

I'd suggest doing some reading on training, particularly mike lardy before you go too far down the road.

Very best,


08-24-2008, 07:20 AM
For water fowling l would say its a toss up of either labs or chessies. For an all round hunting dog, the chessie is a superb hunter, and hard to beat.

08-24-2008, 09:18 AM
I think the reason people say labs are better (or at least one of them) is the fact they are easy to train, so you will see results faster. A chessie though, once it decides it wants to do something - nothing will stop it.

I read a great quote about retreivers (it may have been here): You tell a Lab, You ask a Golden, and You negotiate (sp) with a Chessie :)

Either way you go, like its been sadi already, find a good breeder and spend alot of time with them. You can't really go wrong with either a lab or cbr.

08-24-2008, 10:24 AM
Isn't any body going to recommend the Standard Poodle?

They are good at it.

08-24-2008, 10:34 AM
If you are a serious duck hunter, you can't go wrong with a Chessy or a Lab.

However, if you like to hunt upland also, I would choose a versatile. Not that you can't hunt upland with a Chess or a Lab, you just will miss out on watching them point.

08-24-2008, 10:38 AM
Labs will point.

08-24-2008, 04:37 PM
i probably wouldn't be hunting hardcore for waterfowl, just whenever i had the chance and get out for some hunting and bring back some grub, i don't think i would need the best dog for the amount of hunting i would be doing, just one thats affordable and dependable, is buying the most top notch lab a must or do alot of them just have the natural instinct and ability?

08-24-2008, 05:05 PM
Be aware that puppy mills sell their dogs for 750 to 1000 so you can buy pet quality too for this amount of money. Listen, you need to decide how committed you are to a quality hunting dog period. They need training and time. There are no short cuts. Research the blood lines of the Dam and Sire. Post your questions about prospective pups here and you will be helped. Expect to pay 1000 for a quality,fired up hunting retriever.

That is all.

08-24-2008, 05:37 PM
"What breeds make the best retriever and is the easiest to train?"

This is really 2 separate questions. Best retriever would be a Chesapeake or a hard driving Lab. Easiest to train would be Golden Retriever or placid Lab. Ask yourself, honestly, what is your training experience and how much time are you willing to put into this ? For a pet dog that hunts a few times a season, look for a Golden with a hunting background. Labs cover a wide spectrum of ability, from dopey show dogs to fire breathing field trial champs. Chessies are serious waterfowling dogs for people with dog training experience.

08-24-2008, 05:54 PM
I appreciate all the info and understand what you all are saying, commitment and hard work is what it would take. I don't have experience in dog training i admit that, I was just asking some questions so in the future i would know a little more, I don't have the time required right now for training a dog. I would have to do a lot of research and talk to some people and get advice before i committed to such a task. Thanks everyone for the info

08-24-2008, 05:58 PM
Good point Jimbo, the dog will only be as good as the amount of time you invest in him. It's sad to see dogs with such potential that have been neglected to the point that they lose their drive or natural instinct to retrieve.

It's not fair to have a dog penned up outside and the only time they see you is when you bring out their food and water. Retrievers are very social animals and like to be part of the pack. I try to spend at least an hour a day either doing retrieving work, basic obedience or just out in the boat on the chuck catching crabs with the new dog or playing around in the duck boat so he gets used to it. That doesn't include the many hours I spend with my dogs while surfing the website.

One day my wife made the comment that I didn't spend enough time with the dogs (trying to get me off the internet.) So I moved my computer into the dogs room.:mrgreen: So now every night I spend at least 2-4 hours with the dogs and they come up to me and I play/socialize with all 3 of them.

08-25-2008, 08:32 PM
I'm maybe going to take some flak for this but if you want a pet that also retrieves most labs will fit this bill. They really don't need to be from field trial champions and that kind of dog might not make the best house pet. If you spend lots of time playing and interacting with the dog and then take it hunting they seem to pick up on the fact that hunting is more serious. I've seen some half labs and mixed breeds that worked fine as casual retrievers and the fact is just about any dog is better than no dog when it comes to duck hunting. You can spend as much or as little time training as your life and temperament allow and still end up with a dog that will help you recover ducks. I guess my point is not to be intimidated by the you need to spend 1000 dollars on a pup and become a master trainer field of thought.

08-25-2008, 09:21 PM
I agree with you on certain points, you can have some great half-breds or even mutts that pick up the ability to retrieve or flush birds but I've seen my share of dogs ruin hunts compared to the statement any dog is better then no dog when it comes to duck hunting. Sure it may restrict some areas to where you can hunt but my dads hunted without a dog for 35 years. He's always just had farm or family dogs never wanting a trained waterfowl dog.

I see the uses of working dogs, though they arent for me I have to honestly say. The quotes likes "If I couldnt hunt with my dog I wouldnt hunt at all" I can see where guys are coming from spending all the time training and when they do finally make that perfect retrieve I guess its very satisfying to them, but I just see anyother dog bringing back a duck or goose.

Duck hunting I love dogs for bringing them back from the water instead of wading out to get it, but out in the fields where I hunt 90% I'd rather just walk out and get my own birds. You need a well trained calm dog in fields, either in their own blind becuase running up and down the field tends to flare geese alot, I'd also hate to have to tie them each time they come back after a retrieve, you have to worry about shooting then untieing him as he's going mental with geese on the ground. I guess they should be trained not to brake when the geese are 10 yards away and coming in. I ran into that problem a few times last year but I believe my brothers dog "Hank" is far more prepared for this season then last so I believe they'll be less swearing this year.:smile:

08-25-2008, 09:36 PM
Well I am in the process of see just what is better.

We have these two

The chessie "Sitka" is now 10 yo and is slowing down a lot, although she still loves to retieve. She is amazing, very strong (both in will and mind:)), has a great nose and eye sight and goes absolutely crazy when she see the gun case out. She was a little harder to train, but I stuck with it and she ended up a terrific retiever.

The yellow lab "Kaza" is now a year and a half and loves the water. She is a dock jumper and loves to retieve in the water. On land she has not had much training, so I am hoping to get Sitka to train her as she did in the water.

I am not big into waterfowl any more, so the training will be more for fun and games, although I hope Kaza will take to grouse like Sitka did.

Since Kaza is a smaller lab, 50 lbs, we are thinking of putting her in Dock Jumping and agility training, so the wife can get involved.

You cannot go wrong with any of the retieveing breeds, just remember that you will need to spend lots of time on them and as some one all ready pointed out, you will only get out of them, what you put into them.

Have fun and enjoy them as they WILL be come your kids.



08-25-2008, 10:04 PM
I've got a lab, she works well. Hunts pretty much anything other than wolves and coyotes - she comes hunting for everything other than wt's. She's saved my hide from a couple bears that wanted to eat me and also trees a couple of bears every year. We haven't done too much waterfowling but what we have done she's gone in full bore and does very well. Does well with the upland stuff too.

I'm not sure spending the big $ is the ticket. I get the impression that sometimes expensive dogs are like expensive guns - a lot of guys don't use them to their full potential. I think training and spending time with the dog is the big thing. Just my opinion...........

Oh yeah, her name's Kaza as well. There's a bit of history with that name :mrgreen:

08-25-2008, 11:19 PM
"If I couldnt hunt with my dog I wouldnt hunt at all"
That pretty much sums it up for me. I love dogs and have lots of reasons to own one.
I can pick up my own ducks but only 1 in 5 is stone dead. Dogs are best at chasing down runners, swimmers, and hiders. In a open field, nothing is funnier than a lab tackling a goose making a run for it.
My dog knows the difference between ducks and other birds by the wing beat. Often she sees the ducks long before I do. I just look where she looking and there they are.
Also, I hunt alone alot and I enjoy the company of a good dog.
I am fortunate enough to have our own training grounds at home so it is easy to find time for them. Training is good reason to go to the lake and see who is fishing or water skiing.
Here is a picture of our training area with all the dekes set up.

08-26-2008, 07:36 AM
shotgunjohn, you make a valid point. It's definitely better to put more time into training then it is to spend more money on a dog. That being said you have a higher chance of getting a good dog if you purchase it from a breeder that has titles under their dogs. I got lucky with my first lab Nash who is now 12 years old. He was an awesome hunter but developed hip dysplasia at the age of 2. So we got a replacement dog from the same breeder and the dog turned out to be a total dud. She's a great pet but that's where it ends. She's about as smart as a stump. :mrgreen: The breeder I picked up both dogs from where more into show and pets with no real titles to their dogs. My first pure breed and my first mistake.

I've also hunted over a lab X chessie and it was a good retriever. You don't have to train a dog to the point where it will do 400 yard blinds to hunt ducks but your dog should still have basic obedience so when you tell him down, sit, or stay that he knows what's expected of him.

When I'm hunting with my dog I enjoy watching the dog work more then actually shooting the ducks. I guess when you've been hunting with a dog for 10 years it just feels unnatural to do it without one.

I guess the answers we've been seeing so far are more related to the topic of the thread then the quality of dog. He was asking for the "Best" breed of dog for waterfowl retrieving. A dog breed doesn't become the best without training.

08-26-2008, 12:02 PM
everyone put great points and info on here, thanks everyone for your imput

08-27-2008, 07:11 AM
While I did say that you don't need to be a master trainer I do agree that any dog needs basic obedience training. They certainly shouldn't break before the shot. My personal preference is for them to start at the shot but this is mostly dictated by the fact that we hunt in an area that has swift flowing rivers and heavy cover. A bird that makes it to the river or creek is usually a lost bird and sometimes that extra jump of the dog going on the shot makes the difference. Of course you need to be able to call the dog back in, in those occasional instances when you miss.

08-27-2008, 09:04 AM
I agree john, it doesn't take much to lose a bird where you hunt as I got to witness first hand last fall. I was no more than 20 feet from a duck with the dog on his trail and bingo it was gone no clue where it went. Unfortunately it doesn't matter how well a dog is trained it's inevitable sooner or later a bird is going to be lost hunting over water like that.

I think we've kind of gotten off the beaten path here with the original question. I guess what it all comes down to is a Chessie, Lab, Golden, and even a Nova Scotia duck Toller will make a good retriever if the owner puts in the time to at least get the basic obedience ( come, sit , down, stay) and does some retrieving and scent drills with the dog. Half the fun of hunting over a retriever is in the training.

I guess what I'm trying to say is you can't expect your dog to be a retriever with no training just because it's of a retriever breed. They do have some natural instincts that helps out a lot but they still need guidance.

08-27-2008, 12:15 PM
Lot of interesting points. I do breed labs so I would be a bit one sided as to the breed selection. I would like to comment on the cost of pups and what you may or may not get. Buying a pup is like getting the foundation of a house put in. If the parents are not sound, trainable and have a desire to hunt, its unlikely the pup will to. Pups on the higher end of the $ scale are to some extent more predictable in regards to the above traits.
Buy what suits your needs but do your homework.

Regards Jim