Best first bird dog?


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tube_ee
February 25, 2006, 11:00 PM
I'm starting my research and thinking for getting not only my first bird dog, but my first dog of any kind. Here are my needs:

1. Versatility. I'm only going to be able to own 1 dog. That dog needs to hunt upland and potentially waterfowl. i live in CA, and any waterfowling would likely be in the Imperial valley. (desert) Winter temps in the 60s and 70s. Upland game is what I hunt now. Doves and quail so far, pheasants are tough here without a dog. Lots of scrub brush and foztails and goatheads and things.

2. Close-working. I walk when I hunt, and chasing a dog all over hell's half-acre isn't my idea of fun. Ideally, I'd like the dog to work as follows: Find the bird, and indicate to me where it is. The "form" of this indication is not as important as consistancy. Whatever the dog is doing to say "bird here", it should always do that. The dog should then wait for me to get into position for the shot, and, on command, flush the bird. After the bird falls, the dog should go get it and bring it back.

3. Good family dog. I've got 2 kids, 2 cats, a cockatiel, and 2 reptiles. We live in a 3 bedroom duplex with a fenced yard. A dog that needs to stay kennelled is a non-starter here, regardless of how good it is in the field. Ditto "one-person" dogs.

4. Forgiving in training. I've never owned a dog. In fact, until a few years ago, I was afraid of them. Leftovers from some bad childhood experiences. Now, being older and having interacted with some good dogs, I've come around. But I wouldn't want my inexperience to ruin a good gundog, or my investment in same. I need a dog that will allow me to make some mistakes in training, and still be a good field and home dog. I will be getting help in this department from local groups, but I'll also be doing quite a bit on my own, from books and such.

5. Here in CA, the birds seem to run a lot. At least that's my (dogless) experience. A dog that goes on point and stays there come hell or high water won't be much use. He needs to help me get the bird up in the air.

6. Good temperment, relative freedom from genetic defects, and widespread hunting ability within available lines. The show-bred "sporting dog" who's so un-birdy that he couldn't find a Tyson chicken in the trash can need not apply. It would seem that breeds with less of a show / field split would minimize the chances of this, but I'll certainly listen to the more experienced hunters / dogmen here.

Thanks for any advice offered!

--Shannon

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dakotasin
February 25, 2006, 11:28 PM
lab lab lab lab lab.

but, more importantly than the breed, is the training and time you put into it.

i've gone thru a few dogs, and none have been as consistent and easy as labs. they also do well as the only dog in a house - not all dogs are ok w/ being by themselves (beagles come to mind quickly, for needing canine companionship).

if for some strange reason a lab was out, i'd look to one of the spaniels - a true, hunting-bred cocker would be pretty good.

for the exact dog you are looking for, give joe rodriguez at r-place kennels a shout ( http://www.rplacekennel.com/ ). his dogs ain't cheap, but they are true-blue hunters, and the man knows how to train dogs (his dogs are absolutely incredible, and a true joy to watch... he's good enough that he's had several dogs star in movies and such). his dogs hunt (boy, do they ever!), and obedient... i never knew how much dogs were capable of until i met him, and had him run a couple of my dogs thru the paces. wow!

bearmgc
February 26, 2006, 12:21 PM
I have both a lab and a cocker and Dakotasin is right on. +1 People don't usually think of labs for upland game, but they can be taught just like any other sporting breed to flush, and do it well. Both lab and cocker manage well by themselves, but also make very good family and social dogs.

TaxPhd
February 26, 2006, 02:05 PM
Do yourself a favor and go watch some field trials, hunt tests, NASTRA competitions, etc. Get friendly with the local sporting dog breed clubs. Watch as many dogs in action as you can.

I grew up in San Diego, and hunted the Imperial valley, McCain Valley, Yuma, etc. for a lot of years. You will be hard pressed to find a Lab that will do an adequate job on California or Gambels quail, particularly in the heat. I am not a big fan of "do it all" dogs, since, in my experience, they usually don't do anything very well. One of the big drawbacks of the versitial breeds is their ability to handle cold for waterfowl retreiving. If you are hunting the Imperial Valley, that isn't a big issue. A GSP, or Wirehair/Drathaar may serve you well. Heck, in mild temperatures, my Gordon is a swimming/retreiving fool, and a quail finding machine.

You may also want to rethink your close working requirement. A big running dog is not necessarily a run off, and he will find birds that you never would have come across otherwise. Often the close working dog is right in front of the hunter and is only finding birds that the hunter would have kicked up anyway.

Just some things to think about.



Scott

Deer Hunter
February 26, 2006, 10:07 PM
German Shorthaired Pointer.

Best bird dog I've ever known, I'd pick it over a Lab any day of the week.

waterhouse
February 27, 2006, 09:13 PM
If it was just upland I'd say the German Shorthaired as well.

When you throw waterfowl in, I'd probably think about a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, but while OK at upland they lean more towards the water.

An all around dog is tough. If you don't have much space look into the Boykin Spaniels. They won't point but they'll flush.

Anything you choose will require a huge amount of training (which is why I try to be good friends with people who have great dogs).

Good luck with the search.

tube_ee
March 1, 2006, 01:46 AM
Perhaps I need to narrow my search.

From internet research, I'm feeling an attraction to three breeds.

Brittany, Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, and English Springer Spaniel.

Now, the first two are pointing versatiles, and the ESS is a flushing dog. Word-of-net is that pointers require more in-depth training, which would lead me more to a flusher, as I've got no experience with dogs. Is this generally true?

Temperament is as much an individual thing as a breed thing, but all three dogs have good reputations in that regard, so that's probably a wash. All three breeds are of medium size, with the Brattany being the smallest (on average.)

The Springers have a good reputation as a warmer-weather retriever, and the Griffon is supposed to be also a good water dog. Waterfowl hunting is definitely on my horizon, what does this suggest?

Having never hunted with a dog, what are the differences between pointers and flushers, from the hunter's perspective? And for my information, where do setters fit in?

Living in California, what about heat tolerance?

Any breeds I have overlooked?

Thanks,
--Shannon

Bob R
March 1, 2006, 04:18 AM
Try not to laugh, but, if you can find a good line, the standard poodle makes a great bird, kid, companion dog.

Try researching the breed, you may be surprised.

I used a miniture (beagle size) poodle as my hunting dog when growing up. My mother wasn't to impressed her dog had to work for a living, but the dog did exceedingly well.

Yes, we used to get laughed at a lot, till the dogs started working. That usually quieted the guffaws.

bob

Here is a thread on TFL covering the same thing.

http://www.thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=197859

Bstack67
March 1, 2006, 06:26 AM
I have a 2 german shorthaired they are awsome upland bird dogs and also I have a chesapeake bay retriever. My chesapeake is my favorite had her for 8 yrs and is the greatest awsome in the water the feild and for the family,,

Bwana John
March 1, 2006, 12:54 PM
You will be hard pressed to find a Lab that will do an adequate job on California or Gambels quail, particularly in the heat.
Mmmm... My labs do get hot, but I have hunted doves, chukar and quail in 100 degree temps in The Sonoran and Mojave Deserts and valleys bordering Death Valley.
I'd probably think about a Chesapeake Bay Retriever
While chessies are just about the best for serious waterfowl hunting, I WOULD-NOT recomend one to a first time dog owner!
German Shorthaired Pointer.Best bird dog I've ever known,
Again a great hunting dog, but not for a first dog.
lab lab lab lab lab.
but, more importantly than the breed, is the training and time you put into it.
i've gone thru a few dogs, and none have been as consistent and easy as labs. they also do well as the only dog in a house
I would have to agree.

TaxPhd
March 1, 2006, 01:01 PM
Mmmm... My labs do get hot, but I have hunted doves, chukar, quail in 100 degree temps in The Sonoran and Mojave Deserts and valleys bordering Death Valley.

I'm glad you've got a good one. Most Lab's would give up after a while, or barely plod along ahead of their handler in hot conditions.

Bwana John
March 1, 2006, 01:10 PM
I'm glad you've got a good one. Most Lab's would give up after a while, or barely plod along ahead of their handler in hot conditions.
I have had black, chocklet, and white labs. It may have been individual physiologys, but brownie did the best in the heat.

I usually gave up in the heat before any of them did.

roo_ster
March 1, 2006, 04:24 PM
Just like with most things, it is more what you put into the effort than what you buy*.

The following is my opinion & experiences.

That said, your requirements point (heh) toward an all-purpose dog. The English have some great breeds, but most were pretty specialized. Labs are great retrievers (& just plain sweethearts), but (kinda like Rottweilers) when they get hot or tired, they get L-A-Z-Y. Chessies are very strong-willed. Every Chessie owner I know has had a knock-down, drag out physical fight to establish dominance with their chessie. I'm talkin' "counseling" with a 2x4. Not for the faint of heart.

The central europeans (Germans, Czechs, etc) produced some terrific general purpose breeds:
German Shorthaired Pointer
Vistula
Weimareimer
Others I am neglecting.

Of the breeds, I know GSPs best. They can point, retrieve, track, warn of intruder, and are wonderful varminters if you have varmints around the homestead. They aren't as good at retrieval as labs or chessies and hounds can out-track them. Just goes with the territory when you choose a multi-talented breed. Jack of all trades & all that. The GSPs I have encountered have had "soft" mouths and are not the obsessive-compulsive chewers some breeds are. Even as a pup, the female chewed up maybe one thing of value to us. She was more likely to "go shopping" and take stuff back to her crate or just run around the house with it in her mouth until you said, "Drop it."

They are super-motivated and really want to work for you. If you are in the field with them, they will keep going so hard, you had best keep an eye on them so they don't push themselves too hard. Keep water handy, even if it is not hot.

I own two GSPs. One's a L-O-N-G ranger, by inclination. I suspect he was bred to keep ahead of a hunter on horseback. The other keeps close and she is more suited to a hunter on foot. Check with the breeder/owner to see what sort of litter they have.

GSPs are not the sort of dog to do well in kennels. They need to be with their families and are not "one person dogs." Luckily, they wash up easily and can be inside. They also do better if another dog is present, which is why I have two of the opposite sex. They can be raised with other family pets, but if not raised with that sort of pet, they will see it as a varmint. Get GSPs as pups & that won't be a problem.

Bigger yards are better, though my older, male GSP did OK in a 400sqft and a 650sqft apartments. (Future F-I-L could no longer care for him, so I took him in. Was a better solution than "the big shot.") Both male & female now live the life of Reilly in our back yard.

My GSPs have done exceedingly well with our 16 month old boy. Like peas & carrots. My boy loves the stuffing out of them & they love playing with him by running around, chasing after stuff he throws for them and playing tug-the-stuffed-animal...and assiduaously keeping the area below his high chair free of dropped food. Only problem is that neither my boy nor the dogs can now differentiate between my boy's toys & the dogs' toys.

The male was 3 years old when I got him and very headstrong. I was able to cure this and make a fine dog out of him, despite knowing squat about dog training from the beginning...but learning along the way. The female we got as a pup was easy to train, by comparison, as I did not have to break old habits.

Oh, crate training is a G-dsend.

Uncle Matty's "Woof" video is a good place to start off. Real basic stuff: house training, walking on a leash, etc.

Good luck with your new dog. Life is better because of them.

* Obviously, this breaks down at the extremes. I doubt many chihuahuas make good hog dogs, for instance.

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