Looking for bird/duck dog zero experience with them

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Looking for bird/duck dog zero experience with them

Postby Mountainhunter76 » Thu Jan 03, 2019 11:44 pm

I am on the search for my first bird hunting dog and it has led me here. I've been lurking/reading for a few days trying to gain some information. Some background on myself and my family situation.

I am a married father of three daughters (ages 14,12 and 7). My family and I live rurally and have a home on 5 acres and another 20 acres in a different location from our prior home that we lost to a wildfire. My daughters have wanted a dog for quite a while. My wife and I have been reluctant because we both work and we have grown comfortable with our low/no maintenance routine.
I am an avid Hunter of anything that provides me an excuse to be outdoors. My kids are beginning to accompany me quite a bit now as well. I have had a long time friend who I have duck/goose and pheasant hunted with quite a few times. He had all the gear and the dog and we had a pretty good time but he has since relocated a few years ago and my bird hunting sent on hiatus.
This brings us to the current situation. My wife and I would love to bring on a family dog. Our girls are pretty self sufficient now and we would have five of us to aid in the raising of a dog. My wife is pretty adamant that the dog doesn't she'd at all or very little. We have friends with Labs and they are great dogs but the shedding is a problem. I would prefer a bird/duck dog of some kind as I think I would love to get back into that and it would be something special for my girls and I to do together.

I have some reservations about a bird dog though, honestly. Am I biting off more than I can chew? I've never trained a gun dog before. What breeds would be a fit for my situation? It seems a lot of these breeder for the versatile gun breeds are very particular about who the sell a dog to. Does my lack of knowledge limit my options?
I'm looking for any and all advice.
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Re: Looking for bird/duck dog zero experience with them

Postby marysburg » Sun Jan 06, 2019 10:01 pm

You would get a chance to see some dogs and handlers in action if you attended a NAVHDA training day. There might not be a lot of action right now in your local chapter, but if you check the NAVHDA website, you'll find contact info (North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association). It would give you an insight into how much work would be involved, and then you can better judge how heavily you and your family would want to get into the bird dog thing. It's a great family activity by the way. Welcome to the forum, and keep in touch!
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Re: Looking for bird/duck dog zero experience with them

Postby Sooty42 » Sun Jan 06, 2019 10:33 pm

To get a basic hunting dog the training is minimal, if you get a dog with a good hunting pedigree and good temperament. I am a little over a year in on my first hunting dog and it’s basically just been exposure to the outdoors (woods, wetlands, ponds etc. at as many different locations as you can) and a few planted pigeons at Navhda training days, slowly introducing gun fire, and some basic obedience. If they have the goods they will just develop into a hunting dog, because they love it and they want to please you.

Before you even decide on a breeder you should read How to Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves by Joan Bailey. And then use this book to help raise the pup (keep in mind that you don’t have to follow the book to a T, but it gives ideas of where you maybe should be at certain stages).
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Re: Looking for bird/duck dog zero experience with them

Postby orhunter » Sun Jan 06, 2019 11:04 pm

Being a novice shouldn't stand in the way of getting a good dog from a reputable breeder. The biggest problem is young families having the time for a dog and it doesn't get the hunting opportunities it should be getting. A lot of first timers simply may not know where to hunt and provide the dog the lifestyle for which it was created. If you can cover these bases, I'd say your family is a good candidate. Also, you don't want to cause family problems because someone doesn't understand what is required when a hunting dog enters the family and they are family. They take more time and responsibility than some can imagine. They are not Labradors and do require a completely different lifestyle.

Shedding shouldn't much of an issue with the Wirehair breeds. Don't know about the others?
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Re: Looking for bird/duck dog zero experience with them

Postby Doc E » Mon Jan 07, 2019 10:20 am

I live just North of you in Colville.
All dogs shed, but Labs are really good at it a couple times a year.
We have Pointing Labs - - - The ultimate in versatility.

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Re: Looking for bird/duck dog zero experience with them

Postby ryanr » Mon Jan 07, 2019 12:34 pm

Regarding the shedding and wanting a dog that does so minimally: You most likely want to consider one of the wirehair breeds. It is generally regarded that wirehaired dogs shed the least. (Otherwise, with your other requirements & home/work life I would've recommended a Labrador.)

Before you ever pick a breed, I would strongly recommend that you visit some training days at your nearest NAVHDA chapter. You will likely get a chance to see multiple dogs and multiple breeds and talk to their owners.
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Re: Looking for bird/duck dog zero experience with them

Postby Mountainhunter76 » Mon Jan 07, 2019 1:04 pm

I appreciate the feedback everyone.

I'm not locked into any certain breed by any means. Truth is, I have zero experience with anything other than a Lab. So I really couldn't say what I would or wouldn't prefer as it relates to a breed alternative to Labs. I have only duck hunted with my friends Lab and she had great hunting desire I thought. My friend did not have her trained the best in my opinion. The dog wanted to please him very much but she didn't have the training and my buddy did know how to accomplish that either.
Again, my limited experience perhaps shaped my perception. We had a Lab ourselves many years ago. We got the dog as a family pet, so she was not from hunting breeder She was not a hunting dog (no desire for birds at all), although she was well behaved and a good family pet. The only real issue is the dog shed an incredible amount. We lived in town and did not own land for the dog to really stretch it's legs.
My current situation is much different now with our country home with property and my kids joining in on my hunting as well. There is a creek running through the property that waterfowl occasionally will be in and another landowner nearby stocks pheasants so they are plentiful. I have the time, means and desire to own and train a gun dog I'm just short on the know-how.
I would like a dog that is eager to please and very trainable. I don't think a super high drive dog that wants to hunt county line to county line would be my speed. I want a breed that has a very good off switch when not in the field, as I've stated before this dog will be in our home and my girls will no doubt spoil it in that regard. I would like a breed that is equally at home hunting waterfowl as upland. I love to hunt, especially with my kids and really would like a gun dog to fulfill that type of hunting.
Doc, I get up to Colville quite a bit for hunting/camping. I wouldn't say I'm completely opposed to Labs at this point and would listen to any and all advice you have. I could possibly make a trip up to see what you have going on with you dogs as well.

I don't know what I don't know at this point, so keep the suggestions coming everyone. I appreciate it. Thank you for the welcoming comments as well.

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Re: Looking for bird/duck dog zero experience with them

Postby Stretch » Mon Jan 07, 2019 4:13 pm

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81423C1F-5AEF-4BFF-A73C-DE4E6125FA92.jpeg (25.83 KiB) Viewed 371 times
I just got my first bird dog last November. A Wirehaired Pointing Griffon that we named Barrett. I had absolutely no clue how to train a bird dog what so ever and he has been doing excellent upland and waterfowl. Was shooting wild pheasant over him before he was four months old. He is just as good in the house as in the field. I have two boys 8 and 5, they play with the dog a lot. He is calm as could be in the house and doesn’t shed much at all. Far as training I the best book I’ve read is by Ben O Williams.
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Re: Looking for bird/duck dog zero experience with them

Postby orhunter » Mon Jan 07, 2019 4:46 pm

I've heard folks who know more about dogs than I do say, the best dog for a previous Labrador owner is the Griff. That's probably true but I went from Brittanies to Griffs. It's not fair to compare Labradors to versatile hunting dogs as one is for fetching after the shot and the other is for finding birds before the shot and fetching after. Their brains aren't wired anywhere close to the same.

I wouldn't rely on your neighbor's stocked birds as a substitute for hunting, it is not the same. Your dog needs wild birds to bring out the best in it. I don't have any huntable upland birds where I live so that means traveling to where they are. That's what many of us here at V-Dogs do. If I want to hunt pheasants, I have to drive from NW Oregon to North Dakota. I can hunt Chukars and Huns here in Oregon but the nearest ones to my house are about a three hour drive. If you are serious about your upland hunting, get familiar with the SE part of Washington and NE Oregon. Lots of birds to be had but you will need to familiarize yourself with the area. It's a learning process, it doesn't just happen. Your education starts now, not a week before the season opens next fall. You are in for a real adventure if you go about it right. An ugly dog (and a forgiving wife) make it all possible.
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Re: Looking for bird/duck dog zero experience with them

Postby Bruce Schwartz » Mon Jan 07, 2019 6:42 pm

All good advice. Here in the Northwest we are blessed with lots of public lands to hunt, however more and more people are turning to the game farm places and I think there's a decent one just south of you (I want to say Double Barrel or something to that effect). That said, I'm not one that thinks a hunting dog HAS to hunt in order for it to have a fulfilled life, as a loving family and lots of chance to roam trumps everything else.

Of course it's better if you can hunt. If waterfowl are on your list and you want a versatile type then I'd suggest the Griffon or a Pudelpointer. Both have wonderful temperaments, make great family dogs, and hunt both upland and waterfowl nicely. Nothing compares to a Labrador in the waterfowl department; other departments are open to argument. GWP would be a good choice although my wife thinks they don't like cats. I trained labradors for many years before getting griffons and now I have both griffs and pudelpointers. That's my bias, although there are many breeds who may be better but I'm not experienced with them.

You seem to have a good perspective on it all. Spokane is situated in the right place. This forum is a great place for good information. Let us know what you choose and be sure to post lots of pictures!
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Re: Looking for bird/duck dog zero experience with them

Postby GONEHUNTIN' » Tue Jan 08, 2019 7:35 am

There are two important things to keep in mind: there's going to be hair; all dogs shed. If you get a flushing dog like a lab or springer, they virtually train themselves on upland. If you get a dog like a PO or DD, they are twice the work to train because you have to TRAIN them for both upland AND waterfowl.

You will need two training programs; one for upland, one for waterfowl.
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Re: Looking for bird/duck dog zero experience with them

Postby AverageGuy » Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:41 am

MH76, you are on the right track in your research. There are good litters in all the wirehair breeds but some are definitely a higher hit rate than others. I have been hunting upland birds and waterfowl with GWPs for over 30 years and love the breed. NAVHDA lines is what you would look for and you live in a stronghold for the breed. I got by with some basic training a lot of exposure and hunting with my first GWP and he was very effective at a lot of things so don’t let training intimidate you. I am hunting at the moment tapping on a phone but when I get to a computer I will send you a link to some breeders to research.
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Re: Looking for bird/duck dog zero experience with them

Postby AverageGuy » Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:41 am

MH76, you are on the right track in your research. There are good litters in all the wirehair breeds but some are definitely a higher hit rate than others. I have been hunting upland birds and waterfowl with GWPs for over 30 years and love the breed. NAVHDA lines is what you would look for and you live in a stronghold for the breed. I got by with some basic training a lot of exposure and hunting with my first GWP and he was very effective at a lot of things so don’t let training intimidate you. I am hunting at the moment tapping on a phone but when I get to a computer I will send you a link to some breeders to research.
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Re: Looking for bird/duck dog zero experience with them

Postby JONOV » Tue Jan 08, 2019 11:38 am

I grew up with Golden Retrievers and Labs. I have had GSP's as fosters in my house, own a wirehair, and have another GWP foster at the moment.

Labs, Shorthairs, etc, shed way more than the Wirehair breeds. That doesn't mean they are non-shedding like a Poodle or an Aierdale. But, you generally don't have to keep them 10 feet away from clean laundry, and I can pet them when I'm wearing nice clothes and not have to lint roll afterwards.

Training a bird dog, and training a dog, are the same thing, basically, whether its the Pit Bull mix you have from the shelter or a GSP or anything else. Operant Conditioning, behavior chaining, etc...

I'd look at a Griffon if I were you. And remember basic obedience reinforced as daily routines goes a long way to making a dog pleasant to live with. Making the dog wait before you go out the door, or sit and wait while you put shoes on, will make it much easier to teach the dog to sit quietly in the duck blind, or steady up the dog when pointing. its a lot easier to teach a dog that knows how to be taught when it comes time for hunt training.
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Re: Looking for bird/duck dog zero experience with them

Postby Expert » Tue Jan 08, 2019 12:14 pm

You live in prime versatile hunting dog territory. I did the same research. Needed a dog that could do both point and do waterfowl and be a great house dog with minimal shedding.

Pointing labs are great, but if you are a big upland hunter they just don't have the stamina and speed. And the shedding is out of control.
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