When choosing a bird dog, the first thing you need to ask yourself is “What do I want this dog to do?” This will obviously depend on your favorite gamebird and your personal hunting style. Are you looking for a dog that will get birds in the air and bring them to hand once you and your shotgun have done your job, or are you more interested in a leisurely stroll through the coverts, complimented by a beautiful point by your favorite hunting partner announcing the presence of game? The battle rages between owners of pointers and flushing breeds as to which makes the best hunting dog. Read on and discover which one is best for you.
The pointer category includes breeds like the German short haired and wired haired pointers, Brittany spaniels, and English and Irish setters. These dogs are bred to find (or make) game birds.
When a pointing dog’s nose tells him a bird is close, he locks into point, alerting the hunter that a flush is imminent. This tactic works great on woodcock, bobwhite quail, and ruffed grouse, but wild pheasants and mountain birds like sage grouse and Mearn’s quail have a tendency to run from a pointing dog, leaving the hunter (and the dog) scratching his head as to where exactly the bird is.
Pointing dogs are great for hunters looking to cover a lot of ground. Their wide-ranging tendencies and uncanny energy will provide upland hunters who choose a pointing breed with a full day of shooting. There are few sights more beautiful to a bird hunter than a dog locked up on point.
Some pointing breeds enjoy retrieving downed birds, while others simply head out on a search for more once the object of their point has been dispatched.
Flushing breeds include the likes of Labrador retrievers, Golden retrievers, and Springer spaniels. Their job in the field is to find birds and flush them within shotgun range of their hunters.
As a rule, flushing breeds are better retrievers than their pointing counterparts, a trait that comes in handy when a bird is knocked from the air but trying to escape. Flushers can handle any species of bird, but really excel when pursuing pheasants or retrieving waterfowl. Although they don’t stop to alert you of nearby game birds, a hunter who knows his dog can often tell when he’s getting “birdy.”
The key to hunting with a flushing dog is keeping them within shotgun range. The dog should range between 15 and 25 yards to ensure good shooting if they put a bird up. A dog that flushes birds out of range is worse than having no dog at all. Proper training with a check cord and E-collar will keep your pooch in check and help you get more shots in the field.
Like human hunters, hunting dogs are individuals with their own strengths and weaknesses. By spending as much time as possible training and hunting with your dog, you will learn each other’s personalities and hunting styles and become a better team. There is no such thing as a “perfect hunting dog,” but through careful research and consistent training, you can create the perfect dog for you.