Dogs are intelligent creatures that can adapt to different environments. The way we raise these animals shapes their personality.
Unlike some animals, dogs can learn many useful skills. If you want to keep them as pets, you can teach them how to play catch and fetch.
If you want these canines to protect you, teach them to identify suspicious strangers and other dangers in your house.
In addition to companionship and protection, some dogs are raised to be hunting companions. These are known as duck dogs.
However, what exactly is a duck dog? And what breeds of dogs are best for duck hunting? Keep reading to find out.
What Is a Duck Dog?
A duck dog is a specific dog breed that helps hunters catch ducks.
Dogs have more acute senses of sight, hearing, and smell than humans. Having a duck dog by your side when hunting can be a significant help.
Additionally, some duck species spend most of their time near swamps, lakes, or ponds. Duck dogs help in fetching these ducks once the hunter has shot the birds down.
Can Any Dog Be a Duck Hunting Dog?
Although most dogs are trainable, not every dog breed is naturally equipped to be a duck dog. There are a few criteria that breeds should have in order to be good hunters.
For instance, the dog’s fur or coat should repel water to keep its body dry and warm, in case it ventures into a wet area. It also needs webbed paws to help it swim and stay afloat in water.
A duck dog should also have a natural desire to hunt animals. Some big dog breeds can be athletic and agile, but if they are too laid-back and aren’t eager to hunt, they aren’t the right fit.
A good duck dog should have killer instinct, sharp senses, and the ability to follow orders.
Best Dog Breeds for Duck Hunting
Here are the 11 best duck hunting dog breeds you should know about:
1. American Water Spaniel
American Water Spaniels are believed to have descended from English Water Spaniels.
These medium-sized dogs are well-known for their swimming abilities, sturdy bodies, and athleticism. With their waterproof coat, these dogs can swim and paddle through water to fetch ducks.
Furthermore, if you’re planning to hunt for other small land animals, these dogs can run on different types of terrains.
American Water Spaniels typically stand between 15 and 18 inches tall (around 1.5 feet) and weigh between 25 and 45 pounds.
These dogs are great for children; they are calm, protective, and highly alert to danger. On average, you can expect American Water Spaniels to live 12 years.
2. Golden Retriever
One of the most popular breeds in the world, Golden Retrievers are also one of the best breeds for duck hunting.
As their name suggests, they can fetch and retrieve ducks while hunting. These medium-sized dogs generally stand between 21 and 24 inches tall (around 2 feet) at the shoulder and weigh between 55 and 75 pounds.
Golden Retrievers have thick long coats that can be yellow or cream. They need frequent brushing to remove dead or fallen hair, especially when they shed.
These dogs are athletic, energetic, and loyal to their owners. They make great family pets, watchdogs, or even show dogs.
With their cheerful and intelligent personalities, training golden retrievers should not be too difficult to train to hunt with you.
Although poodles are commonly raised as show dogs or luxury pets, these fluffy dogs are agile and energetic enough to retrieve ducks in the wild.
With their sturdy, athletic, and agile bodies, Poodles can navigate any type of terrain.
Poodles were originally bred to retrieve waterfowl, so you can be sure they’ll have no problem swimming across lakes or ponds.
These German-born dogs come in different sizes, ranging from miniature to medium to standard heights. Poodle heights range between 10 to 22 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh as little as 6 pounds or as much as 70 depending on which variant they are.
Due to their thick and curly coat, Poodles require a lot of grooming to remove dead and tangled hairs. They are intelligent, eager to please, and require a lot of attention from their owners.
4. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
Even the name tells you these dogs are genetically equipped to be duck dogs. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers are native to Nova Scotia in Canada.
They have a thick, medium-length reddish-orange coat that repels water and webbed feet that help them while swimming or fetching ducks in water.
These dogs generally stand between 18 and 20 inches tall (around 1.5 feet) at the shoulder and weigh between 37 and 50 pounds.
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling retrievers are agile, athletic, and loyal to their owners.
However, they are less protective compared to other breeds and won’t make good guard dogs. You can have them around your children and train them to be great family pets.
5. Chesapeake Bay Retriever
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is one of the oldest dog breeds raised specifically for hunting ducks and waterfowl. They have some of the features that a great duck dog should have.
For instance, their short, wavy dense coat can repel water and their physical features are great for running and retrieving ducks in different environments.
Moreover, they are easy to train, highly energetic, and obedient to their owners.
These dogs stand between 23 and 26 inches tall (around 2 feet) at the shoulder and weigh between 55 to 80 pounds.
With their tenacious attitude, they are very protective of their owners and don’t get along well with strangers or other dogs.
6. American Foxhound
Although these dogs may not look as attractive as other long-haired breeds, American Foxhounds were born for outdoor activities that require frequent running and fetching.
American Foxhounds are highly energetic, playful, and easy to train. They are also loyal to their owners and get along well with children and other animals.
These medium-sized dogs stand between 21 and 28 inches tall (around 2 feet) at the shoulder and weigh between 65 and 75 pounds.
With their short dense coat, they don’t need frequent brushing, like most medium-length or long-haired breeds.
If you manage to raise and keep an American Foxhound healthy, it can live up to 15 years.
7. German Shorthaired Pointer
Similar to American Foxhounds, German Shorthaired Pointers have a thick and short coat that is easy to care for and doesn’t require a lot of grooming.
This breed’s webbed feet help it swim quickly across any body of water. Moreover, their coat can repel water, which prevents their bodies from getting too wet or cold.
German Shorthaired Pointers stand between 21 and 25 inches tall (around 2 feet) at the shoulder and weigh between 45 and 70 pounds.
Aside from the ability to retrieve ducks, they also have good hunting and tracking skills.
Moreover, their playfulness, athleticism, and friendliness with people and other animals make them great family pets.
8. Irish Water Spaniel
Irish Water Spaniels are medium to large-sized dogs.
These dogs were originally raised to retrieve waterfowl in a cold, wet region of Ireland.
Thanks to their thick and long double curly coat, they rarely risk hypothermia. With their webbed feet, Irish Water Spaniels are also good swimmers.
These dogs stand between 21 and 24 inches tall (around 2 feet) at the shoulder and weigh between 45 and 65 pounds.
Irish Water Spaniels are energetic, loyal, and protective of their owners. Due to the thickness of their coat, these dogs require frequent brushing to remove dead and tangled hairs, especially when they shed.
9. Labrador Retriever
These sturdy and athletic dogs were born for rigorous and challenging outdoor activities. Labrador Retrievers will have no trouble swimming in any type of water to retrieve waterfowl.
Labrador Retrievers stand between 22 and 25 inches tall (around 2 feet) at the shoulder and weigh between 55 and 80 pounds.
They don’t require a lot of grooming like most thick-coated breeds. However, Labrador Retrievers do shed, and brushing their coat every once in a while can promote better fur growth.
These large-sized dogs are intelligent and easy to train. They are eager to please, energetic, and friendly toward strangers and other animals.
If you keep them healthy, they can live up to 13 years.
10. English Springer Spaniel
English Springer Spaniels were originally raised for hunting and game activities. In fact, they descended from an old spaniel breed in England raised specifically to hunt, making them great for retrieving ducks in the wild.
These medium-sized dogs stand between 19 and 20 inches tall (around 1.6 feet) at the shoulder and weigh between 40 and 50 pounds.
They have medium-length wavy coats that can be bicolor or tricolor. Frequent grooming is a must to remove dead or tangled hair.
English Springer Spaniels are active, hardworking, and interact well with humans.
They are also energetic and require a lot of exercise. Keep them entertained and active, as they tend to rebel when bored.
11. Curly-Coated Retriever
Similar to English Springer Spaniels, Curly-Coated Retrievers were originally bred in England as a game dog.
You can recognize Curly-Coated Retrievers by their thick, curly coat that comes in dark brown or black.
They generally stand between 23 and 27 inches tall (around 2 feet) at the shoulder and weigh between 60 and 95 pounds.
These medium to large-sized dogs are energetic, playful, and intelligent. They are also easy to train and love being outdoors.
Occasional grooming is necessary to remove dead or tangled hair. Thankfully, they don’t shed frequently.
Curly-Coated Retrievers love being around children and other animals. They require a lot of socialization and tend to rebel when bored.
Though a dog may have qualities that would make it good for duck hunting, remember that all dogs have different personalities and needs.
Treat your dog like a member of your family to ensure it is happy and obedient.