The Best Breed for YouGetting a dog isn't like buying a car. You can't test drive a dog before you bring it home, it may not come in your color of choice, and it costs more to maintain. How it will grow up is 50% genetics, 50% envinronment (or at least this is what they taught us in Biology).
But we do know that each breed has its own hunting, personality, and physical characteristics. What we have to find out is not "What breed is best?" but "Which breed is best suited for your hunting style and situation?" This will depend on your location, the size of your home and yard, family situation, what you will hunt, how you like to hunt, and how often you will hunt.
-Where do you live?
Is it hot much of the year, favoring short haired dogs? Do you spend hours in freezing duck blinds that call for longer and better suited coats? Consider the weather and types of hunting you do. All dogs shed, even short haired ones, so this shouldn't be a factor in deciding your breed. (With the possible exception of the Standard Poodle. Some claim they do not shed and are excellent for those allergic to dogs)
-Do you want a small, medium, or large sized dog?
You may not want a large dog if you live in an apartment or have little or no backyard. Large dogs eat more, large dogs take more of the bed, large dogs have more to love. All hunting dogs, regardless of size, need lots of exericise, although some may demand more than others. This will vary more among lines than breeds.
-What kind of hunting will you be doing with this dog? Upland, waterfowl, or both?
Retrivers are good waterfowl and flushing dogs. Versatile dogs such as the german shorthair are good waterfowl and pointing dogs. The pointers and setters tend to be more classic "bird dogs". Very important - Do you want a dog that points game or flushes it? Try to hunt with both and decide what you like. Neither is superior, but there is a major difference.
-Do you want a hunting dog line or field trial line?
Field trial lines often range out farther and have a higher energy level than hunt test/hunting dog lines. Depending on your hunting style and location, you may or may not want this.
-Are there breeders or clubs that support breed you are interested in getting?
Look into AKC, CKC or UKC Retriever and Pointer clubs, NAVHDA (pointing breeds), NAHRA (retrievers). The AKC has strong ties all over the US, with the CKC covering Canada. But NAVHDA, UKC, and NAHRA do not necessarily have clubs in every state/province or region. Belonging to a club near your home can help if you have a training problem or want to test your dog. For a club near you, check VersatileDogs' Clubs listings.
-Do you have a family with young children?
All breeds can be good with children although much of it depends on how you raise the puppy. But again, you will need to look at the lines you are considering also. This is one area we strongly recommend getting references so you can talk to other owners who have dogs and children.
When you have answered these questions and you have it narrowed down to two breeds, then you need to start looking at the different types of lines these breeds may come from. See as many dogs as possible. This is when you should contact breeders. Many of them have video tapes of their dogs working in the field and in the home. Ask them for references, other owners who have their dogs. Find out if their dogs were raised in the home or in a kennel, trained by them or a pro, and how they turned out.
What it all comes down to is that only you can make the decision as to what breed would be best for you. This is a companion for life so take the time and do it right.
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