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My First Bird Dog – What I’m Looking For

The search for the right breed continues...

A few years ago, I fully expected that when I got my first bird dog, it’d be a German shorthaired pointer or a Lab; a GSP because it’s what I’d grown up with, or a Lab because, well, you really can’t beat a good Lab. But I’m a bit more open minded these days. Or confused.

Being on assignment for Pheasants Forever and hunting with at least a dozen different breeds (that I can remember) gave me plenty more to think about. There’s also a future Mrs. Hauck in the picture now, meaning “My First Bird Dog” also means “Our First Bird Dog,” and that means she has some say in the matter.

Together, Kaily (she’s the future Mrs.) and I jotted down a list of factors to help narrow down our breed search:

  • We’re apartment dwellers. Thanks to the NRA American Hunter’s Kyle Wintersteen for his blog post Five Bird Dog’s For Today’s Suburbs. We’re trending toward a smaller dog.
  • Ringnecks, naturally, top my favorites list, but I want a dog capable of hunting other upland birds and waterfowl. I told Kaily this is what she wants too.
  • I’ll bet someday I’ll have a pointing dog, but that day won’t be the day I get my first dog. Retrievers and flushers, please move to the front of the line.
  • Hair. Despite having an abundance of it herself, the soon-to-be Mrs. does not want long hair on her dog. This, regrettably, eliminated the Golden Retriever from my wish list.
  • Maybe we’ve seen one overweight, suburban Lab too many. Maybe we’re just suffering from Lab overload. Maybe it’s as simple as we want to be different. Whatever the reason, the Lab’s stock is dropping on our list. Are we crazy?
  • Standard Poodle has been crossed off. It was never on the list, but just making sure.

That’s where the process of elimination currently stands. What breed is it looking like to you?

Previous: Introducing “My First Bird Dog”

Up Next: Path Goes Through Pheasant Fest

Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.org and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauck.

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46 Responses to “My First Bird Dog – What I’m Looking For”

  1. jeff says:

    I would look into a springer spaniel. It seems to fit what you are looking for. There are several world class breeders in Minnesota, including Pine Shadows and others.

  2. Dr. Sherry McKenzie says:

    English Setters are an excellent field dog. As far as the hair issue, I have found it is much easier to clean up longer hair than shorter hair (from clothes, etc.). Your Golden Retriever dream is still an excellent choice. I have hunted with Setters, Retrievers, and Labs; as well as Pointers. Head to some field trials and continue your research by watching and interviewing the many trainers, owners, and hunters who will each have their own reason for choosing the dog they enjoy. Whichever ‘First Bird Dog’ you choose and for whatever reason, it will be right choice. Enjoy! I look forward to seeing you in Alaska hunting Ptarmigan.

  3. I am a shorthair guy, so I would still recommend one. There are several breeders I could recommend who are breeding shorthairs with calm(er) dispositions, who still do an amazing job in the field. My Jake is great in the house, with the exception of the occassional cat chase. He thinks he is a lap dog most of the time. The other thought I had was looking into a started dog, whichever breed you choose. A reputable breeder should have a good idea if a started dog’s personality and temperment meets your needs for apartment living.

  4. Amanda says:

    Small Munsterlander

  5. @Jeff – springers definitely in consideration. @Sherry, great to hear from you, great advice. Went to a Hunt Test recently, more on that in upcoming post. @Jeremy and @Amanda, way to support your breeds, duly noted! – Anthony

  6. Monte says:

    I’m a Springer guy so I gravitate towards that – but in an apartment? A puppy may be a problem – too much activity. Have you ever considered buying an adult dog that’s already trained – maybe done with trialing or for some reason has been washed out from the trial scene. They still are mostly excellent hunting dogs and are wonderfully trained. Plus they would be a bit more calm…

    Good luck with your decision.

  7. DJ Williams says:

    Check out DeCoverly Kennels

  8. Josh says:

    Brittany Spaniel, an all around perfect dog. The Brittany can point, flush and retrieve in water and on land. Not to mention the “beautiful dog” you will get from your suburban neighbors. Just one mans experience. Good luck!

  9. Matthew says:

    That reads like a Springer to me. While there is seldom consensus among hunting dog folks- many agree that the Springer is the ringneck’s ultimate nemesis. It is also more than capable in other duties. Jeff’s suggestion about Pine Shadows kennel is a good one. I have been researching my next Springer and those guys are at the top of the list. Enjoy the search and your new dog.

  10. Dodd proctor says:

    gsp would be a excellent choice i have one thats an indoor pet and shes very laid back she has a kennel indoors and usually shes in there sleeping. but at 6 she still loves to play usually a good 20 minute run and throw the dummy about 20 times and shes got her excerise for the day.she is also an excellent hunter i hunt more upland birds than waterfowl but she has been waterfowl hunting and does a great job in the blind.a gsp would make a great dog for you

  11. Dodd proctor says:

    gsp would be a great choice i have one indoors and she is usually asleep on my couch or in her kennel she is an excellent hunter of both upland and waterfowl i think a german shorthaired pointer would be a great choice

  12. Leslie Rosedahl says:

    Sounds like you are looking for a British Lab – smaller and calmer. Our female is 50 pounds an amazing bird dog.

  13. Brian says:

    Braque du Bourbonnais!

    Great out Rufnit Kennels @ http://www.RufnitKennels.com

  14. Caleb says:

    A year ago my then fiance (now wife) and I went through this same process. We also live in an apartment in the city. We decided on a Brittany and it was a great choice. I was looking for a pointing breed that would naturally retrieve, even in water and that is what I got. My wife wasn’t concerned about the dogs hunting ablity she just wanted a great companion for the house. The Brittany has been a great size for the apartment as well as being a beutiful dog. My wife was sold instantly and I get a great easily tainable hunting dog. Win, Win for us both.

  15. Jay Kumar says:

    Anthony, when you figure this out, let me know — I’m in the same boat. But am leaning toward a French Britt (smaller dog, allegedly calmer than an American), maybe a Small Munsterlander (still don’t know enough), possibly a GSP, definitely started. Would love a Setter but retrieving ability is a must….

  16. Steve says:

    Get a Lab. Their laid back disposition makes them better house dogs than many of the pointing/flushing breeds, they will retrieve better than almost all the other breeds, so important hunting pheasants, and if once they figure out the game they will flush many birds the so called “bird dogs” ran past on their way to the horizon.

  17. Brent says:

    Sounds to me like you need a springer. Who doesn’t? I know nothing of your living/apartment situation, but regardless of the breed, make sure you’ve got access to someplace to let him/her run REGULARLY!!!! Goes without saying, but all dogs (particularly young hunting breeds) need LOTS of exercise.

  18. LaRance Lough says:

    The two best inside birddogs I ever had were an Irish Setter which was not AKC so it didn’t have the real long hair. The other is my current dog, he is a Large Munster Lander. Both are calmer when at home and both were very versatile hunters. Great family pets as well.

  19. Luke says:

    “Maybe we’ve seen one overweight, suburban Lab too many. Maybe we’re just suffering from Lab overload. Maybe it’s as simple as we want to be different. Whatever the reason, the Lab’s stock is dropping on our list. Are we crazy?”
    YES you are crazy! There are some amazing field breed labs out there that barely resemble the typical suburban, couch potato ,overweight lab you are talking about. These field bred labs are designed to run in a CRP field all day flushing every rooster in the field, all within gun range, then they will retrieve that bird back better than any other breed on the planet. Then the next day you can take them out to the marsh and have a world class waterfowl retrieving machine. There are several good gun dog options out there but I hope you don’t chose against a lab because you have seen too many suburban labs.

  20. Derek Lodermeier says:

    Get a french britt. Small, they point and you won’t be disappointed I hunt phez, ruffs, huns, sharpies, woodcock and duck with myes pup.

  21. Pete says:

    How about a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever? They’re small. Hunt upland. And excel at waterfowl hunting. They look like mini-goldens. I’ve only met a couple of these dogs and have never had the pleasure to hunt over one. I plan on having one eventually.

    It’s just so damn hard to say no to my favorite. The Black Lab.

  22. Pete says:

    Oh yeah! And what’s wrong with a wirehair pointer? I’ve hunted ducks over a whp and he was awesome.

  23. Kyle Lewis says:

    I live in SW Kansas where we live and breathe upland. I don’t know about you but I LOVE my two English pointers… They do it all. Raised and trained myself. They point, back each other, flush on command and retrieve. I know they don’t help you with the whole waterfowl thing but that’s my vote.

  24. Great comments! @Brent, good point, and I do live within a block or two of a couple parks/open spaces that will be good for exercise and training. @Luke, fair point, and I must admit I’ve hunted with some incredible Labs. – Anthony

  25. Pat Ebert says:

    You may want to consider a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon. They are slightly smaller than a Lab with minimal shedding and low maintenance coat. They excel at upland and can work waterfoul. All young hunting breeds need exercise and socialization, and you will not be in an apartment forever.

  26. v. vick says:

    Is this the new, 21st century, hunter-style method of announcing an upcoming marriage? Love, your nosey family

  27. A Griff was going to be my other suggestion. Most I have seen have great easy going temperments. They look like they would shed and be a lot of work grooming, but they are surprisingly easy to take care of.

  28. Lyle says:

    Since everyone else is ignoring his list. Not a pointer etc. I will too. An apartment is not a place for a 80 to 100 pound Labrador. Or a high strung pointer. I would go for one of the smaller versatile breeds. Britney,(not my choice) Or a Vizsla. My personal reccomendation. Hunted labs for years. lots of fun. but this vizsla ran circles around any lab I have hunted around. Nothing like a Dog on point!

    Have fun with your new friend!

  29. Sean Hauck says:

    I thought you were supposed to pick a dog based off which one looks like you! Which dog do you most resemble Tony?

  30. Kaily says:

    I know Sean!! A clumber spaniel…j/k Ant:)

  31. Larry Friedman says:

    The best kept secret in the bird dog world is the German Wirehaired Pointer. Calmer than most shorthairs, smart, great on upland birds and second only to labs and chessies on waterfowl. Tough protective coat that doesn’t shed. High energy but not hyper, needs an hour of off leash exercise a day.

  32. Ok, to fit in your criteria above, I would go with a Boykin Spaniel. Retrieving fools, smaller dog, well behaved and the only issue might be the hair. I’ve learned that a lot of shedding can be controlled with quality food and water.

  33. Kody says:

    I have to say a lab is really the way to go. Calm enough for indoor living, but with the right breeding, still tons of hunting drive. That, and if you’re looking for a true all around hunting dog, you’re going to have a hard time beating a good Labrador. If you’re in the mood for a pointer suddenly, you could go pointing lab as I did, or also, I think a German Wirehaired Pointer might be a good option as well, as long as you can fit in some extended excercise time.

  34. Steve says:

    A Springer is a great all around dog. They will hunt all upland game and are great for waterfowl up to a point. They can’t handle the really cold weather in a duck blind for any extended period of time. I have had 5 of them and hunt mainly Kansas wild pheasants, quail and ducks. They are a great all around dog. I currently have 3 and they are house dogs when we are home. It can get a little lively inside with younger ones the key is to run them hard outside and take the edge off then they calm down pretty well. I am biased but for me they are the ultimate pheasant dog and exciting to hunt behind.

  35. CDY says:

    If you can put up with a wet muzzle looking for attention,an eager personallity,and thorough work within 20 yds of the gun get a genuine Korthals wirehaired pointing griffon.The misses will say it’s a muppet

  36. Dana H says:

    you should get two. one for you and one for your sister.

  37. Angie L. says:

    I shouldn’t let out the best kept hunting dog secret…Sounds to me you and your MRS. would love a Standard Poodle! Come watch ours work or watch them on youtube. Just search…red hunting poodles!

  38. Nick says:

    I went through this dilemma 2 years ago wife my now wife. All of her no’s and all of my yes’s lead us to a great black and white female GSP. I trained this dog in a park and in its first season she pointed and retrieved almost all upland species and lots of waterfowl (including golf course geese). But if we wouldn’t have got a GSP; the small musterlander was next on my list. Breeder by the name of Gosh has good reputation with their one or so litters per year.

  39. @Nick – great to hear from someone in a similar circumstance, it builds my hope! – Anthony

  40. Tony Barlow says:

    Hey Anthony,
    Hearing from all these people is awesome but of course you are going to make a decision that works best for you. I have a pointing lab that I LOVE, she is versatile, great at home and an awesome hunter. Her points aren’t real solid but they give me a good indication that she is on a bird. My father in law just got a pudelpointer that seems like a sweet dog. They are a little spendy as they are a rare breed. He got his from a breeder in Canada. Their coat can very greatly. He got a smooth coat which looks a lot like a lab but his dog has a little beard like a wire hair. A gorgeous dog that is very versatile will point hard and they don’t shed as much as a normal dog as a bonus. Good luck!

  41. Tawnya Gilbertson says:

    Ooooo! I have the dog for you! A Vizsla ;) I have a very birdie female. Smaller than a GSP, short hair, and easy to train. Just absolutely wonderful to see in a field!

  42. Kevin says:

    Had my pudelpointer for 3 years now and will get another in the next year or so. On average highest scoring breed in NAVHDA natural ability testing. Have hunted with and know 5 others. All great personalities and great house dogs. Previous dogs were golden retriever and german wirehair. After those 2 breeds my wife wouldn’t let me get a dog that sheds a lot. My wife will tell you that our dog doesn’t shed (I say anything with hair sheds), she says she can’t find any hair in the house. She says we can be a 2 dog house now. Our pudelpointer is not slick but rather furry with a beard and bushy face. Great nose, great prey drive and natural retrieving ability. Very biddable, great around kids and other dogs. It would be worth your time to take a good look at the the breed.

  43. Gene Lederer says:

    OK so I have a puppy from a shelter, she is 1/2GSP and 1/2Lab. Though my dog is a shelter dog I found the combination through Pheasant city USA in S.D. http://www.hybridretrievers.com
    I couldn’t afford what they want for one so, I looked for almost a year and found one through a shelter. I will not ever get anything else!!!

  44. Amanda says:

    My husband and I just went through the same process with many of the same requirements. We weren’t in an apartment, but I wanted a dog that was smaller than our former lab/shepard mix (who weighed in at 87 lbs), as well as one that could adjust to being an “indoor dog” and chill as we live in the suburbs.

    We ended up with a Red Setter (not an Irish- a derivitative) who is now 10 weeks old and the puppy is smart as a whip. While a pointer, ours already retreives (some lines have good retreiving instincts) and already has shown natural pointing ability. He’s really good with our kids, even for being a hyper puppy, and really enjoys being pet and just hanging out. His hair is not as long as an Irish, and he will top out at about 50 lbs. Their disposition is supposed to be less “spastic” than a springer, but they are very athletic in the field. So far, we have been very pleased with our experience.

  45. Teresa D says:

    English Cocker Spaniel!!!!

  46. Dennis Lynch says:

    get yourself an all purpose dog”’Lab…that them anywhere and hunt anything make sure it’s got pointing ability bloodlines


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