Man’s Best Friend and Hunting Buddy

by | May 26, 2020 | 2020 Spring, Current Issue, Gun Dogs

Finding the best dog for your family and for the field

Photography By: Jay Schwisow

Dogs are loyal members of any hunting family, serving as both loving pets and trusted sidekicks in the field. Choosing the right breed for you depends on the skills, look, personality and traits you’re looking for. To learn the qualities of the most popular hunting dogs, we reached out to five experienced dog trainers in Texas. With this information and the proper training, you are sure to find your perfect hunting partner.

English Cocker

Trainer: Eric Harrison
Company name: Joshua Creek Ranch
Years as a trainer: 13

“The cocker, said at best, fears no bird
and has the heart of a lion.”

What makes this breed a good hunting dog?
The English Cocker (spaniel) has been around for the past five centuries. They aim to please and have a gentle character that could charm any outdoorsman. The only thing better than having one English Cocker is having two. A well-trained cocker will retrieve every dove you bring down.

Best qualities:
They are small dogs, which make them easy to get around, take up little space in the kennel and can be picked up with one arm, great hunters and eager to please.

Most difficult thing about this breed:
The terrible two’s: the dogs are hyper until they have had time to mature which happens after two years of age. They just want to be where the fun is and not miss a moment.

The dogs have gentle temperaments.

Good with kids and families?
Excellent family pets and housedogs, good looking enough to go shopping with mom at the mall and have incredible hunting skills that keep the dads man card in the field. Great with children. Man’s best friend.

Most are soft to train and with proper pressure can be trained to hunt in a month. The working gun dog should hup (sit), retrieve on command, hunt dead, and flush on command. I do not recommend training the dog with any type of pressure until they’re nine months old.

The English Cocker is very versatile hunting dog. They will perform retrieving dove in a field or from a stock tank. Their small size makes them great to float the river in a kayak and bail out the bow to retrieve squirrel and ducks. They are great at retrieving but their real talent is flushing. They can also be used for blood tracking.

German Short-haired Pointer (GSP)

Trainer: John & Susan Rabidou
Company name: Uodibar Kennel & Stable
Years as a trainer: 53

German Short-haired Pointer

“Most of the puppies we sell end up
sleeping in someone’s bed when they
go to their forever homes.”

What makes this breed a good hunting dog?
They have a strong hunting/prey drive and their trainability/biddability is exceptional. They are receptive to training while also tough enough to accept discipline.

Best qualities:
Their versatility; they can hunt quail, dove, track deer, go dock diving or run with you.

Most difficult thing about this breed:
Some have lost their retrieving instinct and some tend to track game rather than scent.

They are fun loving but energetic. They have a medium temperament to excitability, most like and seek human companionship.

Good with kids and Families?
German Short-haired Pointers are great with kids and make the best family dogs. They do better with a family or otherwise close relationship with people.

They can be trained to do almost anything, a very versatile dog that is happiest when they have a “job.” Most are readily trainable, especially when started young with minimal “pressure” training techniques.

Good on all upland game, many are also used as for retrieving dove and duck.

There are many breeders of GSP’s who specialize in certain types of GSP’s – select a breeder who knows what you primarily seek and breeds dogs with those attributes.

Golden Retriever

Trainer: Jay Schwisow
Company name: Jay Schwisow
Years as a trainer: 26

“My dogs start the season retrieving doves and
end with geese and sandhill cranes.”

What makes this breed a good hunting dogs?
Its size provides good visibility. Goldens can retrieve a variety of game and due to their instinctive love for the water –waterfowl of all sizes. They can easily be taught to work in front of hunters (quartering), find, flush and retrieve upland game.

Best qualities:
Tractability (easily taught and controlled), natural instinct to find game, and retrieve, physical size, temperament, great noses, calm family pets and overall looks.

Most difficult thing about this breed:
It is important to find a dog that has been bred for field work. The longer coat can trap burrs from time to time.

Goldens have an “off” switch. When working in the field they are all business but when waiting for the next retrieve, relaxing in the truck or at home they are very calm.

Good with kids and Families?
Goldens make outstanding family dogs and thrive in the home. They are easily socialized to different people and surroundings. They get along well with other dogs and pets.

One of the easiest sporting breeds to train – highly trainable, tractable. Goldens excel in the obedience needed for field work, other obedience or service dog needs.

They are very versatile. A Golden’s intuition and nose makes them great pheasant hunters or even working those hard to get Texas blue quail.

When looking for a breeder make sure their dogs have proven experience in the field and proper health clearances. Goldens can vary in color from crème/white to almost red/auburn. Expect most field bred goldens to be medium golden to red.

Labrador Retriever

Trainer: Tom Garza
Company name: Lone Star Retrievers
Years as a trainer: 12 years, 4 years full time

Labrador Retriever

“Labradors will be your best friend and most
loyal hunting companion”

What makes this breed a good hunting dog?
Perseverance. The drive to charge out after a crippled bird, no matter how bad the conditions are outside. They seem to be more excited about it than we are at times.

Best qualities:
Eagerness to please, intelligence, strong work ethic, loyalty.

Most difficult thing about this breed:
Through no fault of their own, Labradors that have been bred irresponsibly can result in a puppy with health issues such as hip dysplasia or Exercise Induced Collapse. It is very important to do research and ask the breeder for health clearances on the parents before buying.

The temperament can range from very calm to extremely high-strung. When doing breeding research, you can have the best of both worlds, which would be an “off switch” in the house and “on switch” in the field.

Good with Kids and Families?
Absolutely. According to the AKC, the Labrador Retriever has ranked #1 since 1991.

Of the 10+ different breeds we have trained, Labradors have been the easiest for obedience and for our Gun Dog Programs. Labradors with a good genetic background are always the most compliant, and fastest learners.

Highly versatile. Ducks, Geese, Dove and quail may be the most common retrieved game. However, Labradors have the ability to retrieve, flush, hunt, track, or search for whatever you teach and train them for.

Labs will give you everything they have.

Standard Poodle

Trainer: Amy Dittus-Sterner
Company name: Simply Southern Retrievers, LLC
Years as a trainer: 8 years

“Poodles were the original hunting dog!”

What makes this breed a good hunting dog?
I think we tend to forget that they were the original hunting dogs when we see them as beauty queens as well. I love the focus I get from my  dogs, and how easily they catch onto anything new we are hunting. 

Best Qualities:
My poodles are both pets and hunting dogs. The fact that they don’t shed or smell like other breeds is a huge plus as well.

Most difficult thing about this breed:
Grooming does take a little more time than most breeds. For myself living and hunting all over Texas, I keep my poodles clipped shorter to deal with the heat. 

They are happy and always ready for something new. They have true motivation to please their owners. 

Good with kids and families?
Standard poodles make excellent family dogs, and they are extremely patient and gentle with children of all ages.   

They excel in obedience training and are extremely easy to train. Just like any hunting breed if it’s bred right they have a lot of natural drive to hunt and retrieve. I think a lot of people have gotten away from the  breed’s  original purpose. I am definitely trying to bring back the true instinct in the breed. 

We hunt absolutely everything possible with our poodles-guided dove, duck, and upland hunting. 


Sheds: Yes
Full Grown Weight: 55 to 85 pounds Family Dog: Yes
Inherent Retrieving: Dove, Duck, Upland

English Cockers
Sheds: Yes
Full Grown Weight: 20-30 pounds Family Dog: Yes
Inherent Retrieving: Dove, Duck, Upland

Golden Retrievers
Sheds: Yes
Full Grown Weight: 50-75 pounds Family Dog: Yes
Inherent Retrieving: Dove, Duck, Upland

Sheds: Yes
Full Grown Weight: 40-60 pounds Family Dog: Yes
Inherent Retrieving: Dove, Duck, Upland

German Shorthaired Pointers
Sheds: Yes, minimal
Full Grown Weight: 40-60 pounds
Family Dog: Yes
Inherent Retrieving: Dove, Upland

Lone Star Retrievers Tom Garza recommends, “Do yourself and your future hunting pal a favor by doing some research before purchasing a pup. Ask several trainers where some quality breeders can be located. Trainers see dogs from all over! The initial purchase price of a pup is the least expensive part over a dogs’ lifetime. Make sure you get a good, healthy pup. They will cost a little more initially, but they will save you money in the long run.

We love seeing Texas hunting dogs in action, tag us in your pictures on Instagram @texasdovehunters for a chance to feature your pup on our page.

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