The Definitive Best Hunting Dog Breed Ever!
By: C.J. Steely
How you can own the best hunting dog breed.
You probably found this article because you're A.) either looking to see if the “best hunting dog breed” matches what you already believe it to be or B.) possibly you're looking for a hunting dog and want to make a go of it.
Great news! There is unquestionably a definitive best hunting dog breed!
Before you get ready to argue with me like two buddies coming to blows over who's a better choice- Biden or Trump- please allow the following methodology to work for you in identifying the best hunting dog breed. To get started, you will need to approach the process with an open mind, trying your best to remove previously held strong existing biases.
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
What is “Respective Application” (Ra)?
Upland hunters come to this amazing upland hunting passion in a myriad of ways. Some are born into a long family of upland hunting history reaching back generations, while others are just now finding their way here. Whatever the impetus creating the upland hunting passion, it almost always involves a bird dog somewhere along the line. Whatever the early hunting dog exposure is has a significant impact on how the hunters see and understand the world of upland hunting. The world of upland hunting is affected by a number of variables, namely:
Climate (i.e. Warmer vs Colder)
The upland hunting bird(s) being pursued
Preferred style of hunting
Hunting experience/willingness to learn/ resources to invest
Respective Application or Ra, is therefore the individual combination (sum) of the aforementioned variables applied properly. Again, it is important to remove your previously held beliefs, experiences, and biases if you want the process to work for you. As you read the article, use the comprehensive hunting dog list to tabulate how many times a particular hunting breed meets your respective Ra factor. As you allow the process to work, you may be surprised by the results!
Climate - Warmer vs Colder?
I have had the privilege of hunting all over the world, including the southern states and northern parts of North America. I know hunters who have cold weather dogs they hunt in warmer conditions and conversely hunting dog breeds more inclined to warmer weather and that are routinely hunted in colder conditions. However, anomalies aside, to obtain a proper Ra, it is imperative to not try and fit square pegs into round holes.
A few examples:
We have nice versatile hunting dogs here at eXtreme Upland: https://www.xtremeupland.com. These versatile hunters have proven competent in finding quail along the southern US border. When the temperatures turn colder later in the season, there are times I have used these dogs to hunt Gambles amongst the cactus. That said, most versatile hunting dog breeds, such as the Drahthaars/German Wirehairs, the Pudlepointers, Labs, Golden Retrievers, German Shorthair Pointers, Rough Haired Slovakian Pointers, etc. are genetically designed with cold weather impervious outer coats, not intended to hunt in 80 plus degree weather. Additionally, these breeds are constructed with a more muscular build producing more exertion and subsequent body heat.
Heat is really dangerous to hunting dogs in general. Warmer hunting conditions can become extremely hazardous especially to dogs with strong prey drives willing to push past acceptable/safe physical exertion limits. Frankly, there aren’t many hunting dogs that do well in real extreme heat, but there are certain breeds that shouldn’t be considered in such instances.
In many parts of continental Europe, the terrain has long determined genetic hunting design. High-speed train rails, freeways, and encroaching civilization generally border small land plots holding upland game. Many of the breeds in Europe were designed to have less range and hunt closer (i.e. the Deutsch Kurzhaar).
As hunting dog breeds made their way to the Americas, breeds like the Brittany split off with re-purposed hunting styles and purposes. The French Brittany remains a much closer working dog than the off-shoot American bred Brittany who has been infused with other breeds and subsequently maintains a further range.
Even amongst developed North American Breeds, hunters look to breed dogs that meet habitat and terrain requirements. There is a vast difference hunting Ruffs in the heavily wooded timber of the Great Lakes region versus the open western Rocky Mountain aspens versus long vast lonely deserts or prairie grasslands.
Even as setters developed on the British Isles, different breeders bred towards terrain. This is how the Gordon Setter was developed- to be somewhat stronger boned and capable of the rockier thorny ground of the terrain of the Scottish Highlands. Intended habitat plays a role in the Ra’s determination.
The Upland Hunting Bird(s) Being Pursued
Many great bird dog professional breeders and trainers are well aware of innate nuanced differences that make certain dogs and or breeds a better grouse dog and yet another dog/breed better for hunting chukars. Even within a breed, and sometimes within the same litter, there will be dogs more inclined towards different species. I know two amazing setters who come from the very same breeding and are littermates. One of the male siblings has such a high gear finding it hard to slam on the brakes when he comes into contact with a Sharp-tail, often bumping the birds off point, while his brother is much more cautious and more capable of moving into such Sharpie situations. Both dogs have nearly identical training and experiences.
There are birds, such as wild pheasants, where roosters can be certainly less inclined to hold under point and where a good quality quartering flusher breed can better to head off a rooster’s escape. Yet, I know pointing-bred breeds able to herd the roosters back and successfully “set” the roosters until hunters arrive.
Wild, open-place, chukar hunting is accomplished by almost every breed imaginable, yet some dogs simply do it better. All things being equal, a good chukar dog has great instinct, a phenomenal nose, and a good range. Generally, a flushing dog is not ideal for chukar hunting as it requires the hunter to stay within close proximity of their dogs to not miss the flush. Nothing will get a hunter in shape quicker or make a hunter quit the upland sport faster than chasing chukars up and down Hell’s Canyon for a day. Generally speaking, dogs that have hunter's desired range, the right confirmation, and can move into chukar cover cautiously enough to hold birds are more ideal chukar dogs.
Water Fowl/ Upland Hunting
Many hunters like to split time pursuing upland and waterfowl hunting. There will be hunters who have either not removed their previously held biases before reading this article or who may not fully be accepting of what makes a great waterfowl dog vs a good chukar dog, who will now argue that their specific breed of dog is fantastic retrieving ducks on Saturday and the best at finding chukars every other day of the week. Whether such a dog exists is questionable, but whether a breed of dogs exists with such consistent and inherent abilities on both sides of the hunting ledger arguably doesn’t. There are, however, many hunters who do split their loyalties between waterfowl and upland hunting and so for those of you with such a prerequisite, a versatile breed is likely your best option; unless of course, you can maintain two different hunting dogs.
I would also suggest if your only hunting waterfowl three to four times a year then make friends with someone that has a really good retriever and possibly focus your attention other upland hunting breeds. Many hunters believe they need a versatile hunting dog because occasionally venture out on waterfowl expeditions. Conversely, upland hunters only upland hunting a couple time a year to find upland birds but spend the majority of their allotted hunting time shooting ducks may just want to stick to a really good water dog/retriever and find a buddy with a trained upland hunting dog breed. If you are still insisting that you need a versatile combination review the following lists:
Waterfowl Hunting/Chukars, Sharp-tails, Huns etc. Combo
Art by Angelica Wisenbarger
Art by Angelica Wisenbarger
If there is one predominantly hunted upland game bird you pursue you may be best served with a particular breed most inclined toward that species. Hunters who almost entirely pursue ringnecks are better suited to a flusher. Despite my advice, I love hunting pheasants with a good pointer/setter, but pheasant hunting with setters and/or pointing breeds requires much more training/training experience knowhow than the majority of hunters are willing to put forward. Most hunters I see that pursue pheasants with setters or pointing breeds either use them as a part-time pointer part-time flusher, shooting whatever shot is most opportunistic. By not waiting to shoot birds until your setter/pointer goes on point screws with the dog's instinct, teaching the dog that the chase is more important than the point. More often, pheasant hunters preferring to hunt pheasants with pointing or setting breeds shock the hell out of their dogs trying to keep them in range, thus defeating the entire purpose of the breed(s).
While there are notable and nuanced differences between the best breeds for chukars sharp-tails, huns, ruffs, quail, etc., to obtain your respective Ra, the only distinguishing determination, for now, is whether or not you are hunting in warmer or colder climates and your desired range of hunting and your preferred style of hunting (i.e. flushers versus pointing dog breeds).
Upland hunting comes down to preference. That said, if you’re going to hunt pheasants with a pointing breed, be prepared to spend the time to hunt/train according to that particular breed’s style and range. Conversely, hunting chukars with a Springer will require a person to stay in excellent shape.
Steep Hills/ Wide open spaces-long range (400 plus yards) pointing breeds (Chukars, Huns, Sharp-tails):
Steep Hills/ Wide open spaces- mid-range (200-400 yards) pointing breeds (Chukars, Huns, Sharp-tails)
Steep Hills/ Wide open spaces- lower-range (100-250 yards) pointing breeds (Chukars, Huns, Sharp-tails)
Steep Hills/ Wide open spaces- close-range Flushing breeds (Chukars, Huns, Sharp-tails)
Thick Wooded upland game hunting - pointing dogs – low to mid-range (100– 300 yards) (Ruffs, Woodcock)
Marshes/Wetlands Thick Brambles -Pointing breeds- (mostly pheasant)
Marshes/Wetlands Thick Brambles Flushing breeds (mostly pheasant)
Preferred Style of Hunting
The preferred style of hunting factor is my biggest pet peeve. More times than not, I have clients who insist on purchasing certain types of hunting dogs with inherently and genetically different hunting styles than the hunter possesses. I can’t tell you how many times a guy shows up ready to hunt, with their preferred pointing breed dog breed of choice, completely encumbered with a fully charged e-collar intending to shock the poor dog into gun range submission. I don’t think the majority of hunters understand that a pointing dog comes with a genetic hunting range and style. Respective hunting dog breeds have been designed for centuries to hunt a certain way. Hunters oftentimes purchase a breed completely contrary to their expected hunting style and range. Then when the poor dog hunts according to its genetic predisposition, but contrary to the hunter's style and comfort level, the dog is either shocked into submission, taken to a professional trainer to do the job, or abandoned to a worse fate.
Different hunting dog breeds have distinctive preferred ranges and styles of hunting. The trick is to acquire the right breed of dog meeting your preferred range and style of hunting from the beginning, rather than working against the strong flow of the proverbial upstream current. If you’re an upland hunter wanting a breed that almost always hunts within gun range the following breeds should be immediately eliminated from your selection process:
If your previous experience is that any of the aforementioned breeds naturally hunt within gun range, then they are not dogs meeting their respective breed standards or genetic history. If you are insistent that the aforementioned breeds are your choice come “hell or high water”, then be prepared to work/train with your dog in a manner that allows the dog to range/hunt in keeping with its genetics.
Recently, I hunted pheasants with some buddies who brought along their German Wirehaired Pointers. As soon as we arrived, and the dogs were unkenneled, the respective owners shackled their dogs with e-collars. As the day proceeded, each time one of the dogs would get out of eyesight or gun range, the owners would yell their names and proceed to curtail the dog’s natural hunting instinct by shocking them back to the desired gun range. One of the dog's names was “Cruzer”, and so every time “Cruzer’s” owner could no longer visually his dog, he would below out “Cruzer” which sounded like “Rooster” and we would all shoulder our guns in preparation for a shot. Needless to say, the dog’s ambition to hunt was stifled and he found far fewer birds (maybe only one) than would have been the case if his owner had understood that his dog’s natural range was within 100-200 yards. The dog’s training was insufficient as well as improper, to maximize his natural pointing ability and genetic hunting range. The one bird “Cruzer” did find he bumped the bird, everyone shot anyway impressing upon the dog that the chase is more important than the point. These particular owners would have been far better off with smaller ranging pointing breeds and or a flushing breed.
If you are a lover of the point and are insistent on having a pointing breed that is naturally more inclined to hunt within gun range the following breeds may be of consideration:
Most recently we sold a beautiful nearly fully broke two-year-old male Weimaraner. The dog was a magnificent physical specimen with a strong prey drive for both fur and feathers. He had a wonderful stylish point. He was very competitive in his retrieving abilities. He loved the water and would hunt and retrieve in all manner of nasty weather conditions. The Weim would tackle hard thorny brambles and knew how to assess different cover. We probably shot well over 180 wild birds over him in just a couple of years. Why in heaven’s name would anyone sell such a great hunting dog? In our case, it was simply because this Weimaraner rarely hunted outside of gun range. For us here at eXtreme Upland, we look to dogs that have incredible hunting abilities demonstrating tremendous hunting range. The Weim’s only real fault was that he always hunted within gunshot. He is now the hunting companion of a gentleman in California who loves the beast and is a perfect fit for both dog and hunter.
Genetic hunting range is one of the most critical Ra factors when selecting a breed. A breed’s genetic range is the facet of upland hunting where sportsmen/women fool themselves the most. Learning to work with a breed that has a range further than one’s comfort level requires knowledge/education as to how to train the dog, as well as a hunter’s willingness to invest the time required and the ability to acquire the equipment needed. If you’re a hunter that wants a pointing breed that will hunt within gun range, it isn’t wise to select a hunting breed who always wants to be pushing the limit of 400 yards. Conversely, hunters wanting more extreme range hunting breeds may be frustrated with a dog that will not move out and cover lots of country or “Yo Yo’s” back and forth between mid-range cover and checking back with the hunter all the time. Be honest with yourself when you select your breed as to its respective genetic range.
Some hunting breeds may appear on a couple of range lists below. There are breeds where specific breeding makes the difference between the range. Even littermates themselves can have different ranges. The following range listings are a guide but not conclusive.
Hunting Range 0-150 plus yards
Hunting Range 100-200 plus yards
Hunting Range 200-300 plus yards
Hunting Range 300-400 plus yards
Family and living conditions may play an important role in which dog breed is the best choice. Some folks live in more rural settings with ample space for dogs to run while others live in more suburban/city scenarios making exercise a bit more challenging. Some hunters have small children at home or frequently visiting grandchildren while other hunters live without the running pitter-patter of young children. In nearly every instance, hunters sold on a particular breed will testify that their hunting dog of choice is an awesome family dog. They will assert the breed has the proverbial true “off/on” switch, meaning that the breed being discussed has amazing prey drive in the field but is a cuddly lap dog in the home. The truth of the matter is that some breeds are simply more inclined towards the nuisance of children poking at them than other breeds. Environmental conditioning and situational acclimation go a long way towards a happy home life for both dog and hunter. Proper consistent training and behavior expectations add to the success of happy home life but at some point, the actual breed and the breeding history of the particular breed of dog is a stronger determining factor.
We have owned Gordon Setters, English Setters, and English Pointers hell-bent on the destruction of anything in sight and no “off switch” to be found, while other Gordon Setters, English Setters, and English Pointers we have owned were more docile than a stuffed animal when brought into the home, but still a charging velociraptor when taken out into the field. The training was the same- the difference was breeding.
Many versatile, bearded, hunting dog breed enthusiasts proclaim that their Draht, Griffon, German Wirehair, or Pudlepointer is so amiable with smaller children that they can be abused and dressed up for a little girl’s tea party without so much as a whimper. We have some amazing bearded versatile dog breeds presently, who are very much like that, and over the years we have had some amazing Drahts, and other similar breeds who were kind to the bone, however, those breeds are genetically more aggressive by nature regardless of one’s experience. There are sad accounts of children’s faces being ripped off by a normally friendly dog due to the canine having a bad day. (https://utahoc.com/how-to-keep-your-dog-from-biting-your-childs-face-off-a-doctors-perspective/)
Regardless of the breed, dog owners need to guard against such possibilities. I think it wise not to underestimate the potential for an untimely/unexpected aggressive response.
There are some living situations within a city or apartment dwelling, that may require hunting breeds with smaller physical builds i.e. a spaniel. While all hunting dog breeds require significant exercise, some breeds need significantly more exercise than others.
The following “ideal for families” list is not intended to preclude other hunting dog breeds from your consideration, only to indicate certain breeds whereby a more inexperienced trainer with a younger family might find better success.
Ideal for families:
Hunting experience and/or willingness to learn and/or resources to invest
Simply put, some hunting dog breeds are significantly easier to train than others. Some breeds can be more hard-headed or stubborn. Some breeds require stiff, stern training while applying a gentler application of the strictness in training. Hunters with little training experience may possibly want to seek breeds easier to train and to handle. On the flip side, there may be inexperienced hunting dog handlers who may be willing to spend the time to learn this great art and invest the resources to do so. It is important to be honest with yourself about which instance meets your present situation.
There are still other hunters desirous of a great hunting dog who have the resources to spend on professional trainers and/or spend an inordinate amount of time in the field with their dog. Finding the right trainer is akin to finding the right doctor or plumber or contractor. There are Ok trainers, passable trainers, good trainers, and really awesome trainers. Do your homework and find other hunters with positive experiences and results.
Gordon Setters - I contend that raising one Gordon Setter takes more work than five other English Setters combined. Gordon Setters require a firm, consistent, but gentle-loving approach. They can prove stubborn and won’t forget an offense. Gordons are communicative and don’t want to be locked in a kennel for long periods of time. Gordons have a ton of energy. They can bark- exuberantly displaying their emotions. Gordons are emotional dogs who love their owners but can sometimes appear aloof, especially with strangers. Gordons have mid-range to longer-range genetics, so if you’re seeking a close-range hunter it’s best to move on to another breed. Gordons mature much slower than other breeds and may require a year or more before making steady training progress. Professionally bred Gordons are wonderful hunting companions, amazing family dogs, and super fun to have around. I would only suggest they aren’t a beginner's dog to train unless the aforementioned is understood.
Drahthaars - Drahts are certainly unique in their approach to upland hunting. The versatile nature of a Draht requires the ability to train the dog to retrieve, point, and track. They can be hard-headed at times but have a sincere desire to please their owner. Because they are bred to be more aggressive towards fur, owning a cat or another similar pet is ill-advised. Drahts can be protective and like any comparable dog breed, may eventually challenge their owner. Hunters wanting a Draht need to be ready to take the lead with consistent firm training. I would suggest Drahts are not a great starter dog for folks with a younger family. That said, with adequate understanding and the ability to meet committed training requirements the Draht is an easy dog to maintain. The versatile nature of their hunting is ideal for many hunters. The Drahts don’t have a tremendous genetic hunting range but certainly are not underneath the boot hunter. Be prepared to train to allow the Draht proper range when hunting upland birds.
Golden Retrievers - The Goldens are generally considered one of America’s favorite dog pet breeds. They are wonderful with families, kind to their core, and very easy to train. Goldens have an eager personality, wanting to spend every waking moment with their families. Unlike other breeds, goldens don’t just attach to one particular person but adopt an entire family. They can be easily acclimated to other household pets. Goldens do shed and require consistent grooming. Golden Retrievers are a good versatile hunter with waterfowl and pheasants. They are a good choice for a beginner hunter. Caution should be had when it comes to selecting a Golden Retriever for upland hunting due to the popular nature of the breed. Finding a professional breeder with proven upland hunting bloodlines is essential to have expected hunting success.
The following list provides a general idea as to the degree of training difficulty for various breeds:
Breeds for Beginners
Your Ra Conclusion!
Tabulate the number of times a specific breed appeared to meet your Ra. The breeds with the most tabulated totals qualify as your potential definitive “best hunting dog breed” ever! The highest tabulated point-getter or highest two to five point-getters are your preliminary Ra. Now, do some real research. Click on the following link for a quick description guide and a link to the respective breed organizations: https://www.xtremeupland.com/breeds. Talk to some reputable breeders and go online to specific breed Facebook group pages. Find some folks producing great results within the different breed(s) and try and speak with them directly. If possible, locate a breeder nearby and see if there is any way you could go on a field day with the dog and its owner. Once you have determined what is definitively the best hunting dog breed (Ra) it is now time to take your findings and discover your Breeding Alignment Segmentation (BAS).
Breeding Alignment Segmentation or (BAS)
The Breeding Alignment Segmentation (BAS) is the process that takes a particular breed/Ra and looks to individual intentional breeding segments within your chosen breed(s) that aligns with the following Ra factors:
Great Lakes/ heavy timber
Western open expanse
The upland hunting bird(s) being pursued
Chukars, Sharp-tails, Quail
Preferred style of hunting
“Breeds within a breed”
Would it surprise you to find out that not all breeders of the same breed are producing the same kind of hunting dog? Sure, the overarching breed standards are present within the breeding but there is a myriad of characteristics professional breeders look to while producing their particular strain of dogs within the breed itself. Let me provide you some specific examples:
*The English Setter
Different parts of the country maintain vastly different habitat conditions. Different game bird pursuits find success in certain types of English Setters with specific characteristics. For example, professional guides know what they like when it comes to a great grouse dog versus a setter that is an excellent chukar dog. These particular breeders work towards those types of characteristics because that’s what provides them with success in the field. The results are generations of dogs more inclined towards certain types of hunting. Hunting style plays a predominant role in the minds of English Setter breeders. Some breeders are trying to bring their English Setter breeding strain more in-line with shorter ranging dogs (say 200-300 yards), while yet other English Setter breeders are looking for “all-age” potential English Setters with a reach beyond the 600-yard mark (i.e. Talmage Smedley Ta’Koa’s Sunrise breeding. https://www.facebook.com/talmage.smedley)
Confirmation plays a major role when it comes to steep, hilly, chukar country versus flat farm ground. Long-range western hunting in broad open expanses require dogs built different physically and mentally, than dogs that are going to be tackling thicker closer in working cover or hunting mostly flat farm ground. There is a myriad of existing different strains of English setters defining various respective hunting ranges, style, confirmation, and intended purposes from the western Te’koa sunrise hard running setters, the Shamrock setters, to the Ryman strains, the Llewellin groups, and so forth. If the English Setter was one of the breeds matching your Ra it is important to research the different strains that more precisely meet your hunting BAS.
Some additional examples:
The same holds for Gordon Setters. Presently, there are great hunting guides, like Stephen Faust, who guide all across the country and spends the majority of his time professionally guiding hunters at the famed Pineridge Grouse Camp. His Gordon Setters maintain a range more conducive to the thickly wooded terrain of the Great Lakes and the Appalachians - while western Chukar hunters like Tom Loy, Randy Schertz, Catrena Cardwell, Aaron Linfante, and Janet Grunbok prefer Gordon Setters with longer range mentality and genetic characteristics.
*Deutsch Kurzhaar vs the German Shorthair Pointer
There are few, if any, hunting breed organizations with a more consistent style of application segmentation then the North American Deutsch Kurzhaar Club (NADKC) ( http://www.nadkc.org). The organization maintains a firm direction to consistency within the breed. Conversely, the offshoot American German Shorthair Pointer, which derives its origins from the Kurzhaar, produces anything but consistency as a whole. Because the American German Shorthair pointer standards are less strict and only lightly adhered to and because the breed is among the most popular upland hunting dog breeds in North America, the breed’s segmentation factor is nearly impossible to pin down. American bred German Shorthairs have been outcrossed to English Pointers in their relatively short breeding history. The English Pointer influence within the German Shorthair infused more genetic long-range proclivities. Hunters seeking a German Shorthair Pointer need to proceed with added caution, avoiding backyard breedings, sticking to professional breeders, such as John Prince (https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100012926110952). and other similar reputable breeders who can demonstrate clear genetic hunting alignment results.
*The Drahthaar vs the German Wirehaired Pointer
Similarly, the same could be said of the Verein Deutsch-Drahthaar organization of North America, (Vdd-gna) (https://www.vdd-gna.org/about-gna/), responsible for the protection and promotion of the proud Drahthaar breed. Vdd-gna adheres strictly to a set of strict breeding requirements and standards. There is a certain consistency level associated with overall conformation, health standards, and scored/demonstrated hunting ability. Despite the breed’s consistency, Drahthaar breeders intentionally produce offspring with differing strain segments aligned with specifically intended purposes within the breed. By finding and isolating those specifically intended breeding segments that align more fully with your hunting style, you will improve your odds for success. Some Drahts are more fur driven while others are sought for their biddability and their love of pointing birds.
The German Wirehair Pointer is a similar story to the relationship between the Deutsch Kurzhaar and the German Shorthair Pointer. American produced German Wirehair Pointers adhere to significantly less stringent breeding standard requirements, thus promoting a mishmash of breeds within a breed and will prove more difficult to accurately align with your Ra breed selection and corresponding BAS. It is also more difficult to determine the consistency of temperament, hunting proclivities, and health considerations. It is similarly important when selecting a German Wirehair Pointer to identify professional breeders maintaining a significant breeding history meeting your particular Ra and specific BAS.
Why Seek Professional Kennels?
The age-old adage that “you get what you pay for”, is no more on display than when it comes to acquiring a great hunting dog. Hunter’s personal stories abound of “Greatest of All Time” (G.O.A.T) dogs where a hunter purchased a dog from some unfamiliar backyard breeding and it turned out to be a phenomenal hunter abound. My uncle often tells the story of his GOAT, a Vizsla/Lab cross where he simply reached into the pen and pulled the first puppy he could reach out of the kennel. According to my uncle, that dog is the greatest hunting dog to ever live- his GOAT- able to jump a tall building with a single bound. The part of the story he frequently and conveniently leaves out is that the puppy came into his life at a time when he had ample time to spend hunting with the little fella in awesome wild bird country. The dog grew up living on the edge of a nearby pheasant riddled slough where the dog spent countless hours daily chasing birds. Was it nature or nurture? We may never know because it is impossible to replicate the breeding.
True professional breeders have worked for decades as the sacrosanct stewards of a particular strain of hunting dog breed meeting a particular segment alignment to a certain style of hunting or BAS. These breeders know full well the odds of producing similar results from various breedings. Professional breeders will have a good following of clients with plentiful testimonials as to the alignment meeting your expectation and specific Ra/BAS.
Labradors are perennially one of the top produced hunting dog breeds in North America, yet according to the breed’s official organization (https://thelabradorclub.com), only 3-6 % of Labs bred today to meet the breed standard. Hunters who identify a Lab as their breed of choice are taking a significant risk by not pursuing a professional breeder. Most Labs do not adhere to the breed standards, therefore if you purchase a lab from a breeder that cannot demonstrate his hunting stock aligns with the breeding standards you have a 94-97% crapshoot against getting the dog you desire.
Increase your odds!
Your odds of getting the best “bird hunting dog” ever significantly increase when you follow your respective Ra and BAS determinations!
The same professional breeders who have worked for decades perfecting their particular “breed within a breed” strains, will be the first ones to tell you that even with perfect conditions - best breeding, proven parents, lineage, great confirmation, etc. – picking a puppy that ends up becoming a GOAT is anything but science and is more akin to the odds of a Vegas roulette wheel. This is why many professional guides and breeders will keep puppies in-house for up to eight months or longer, waiting out potential flaws or identifying specific GOAT potentials. I know a breeder recently who purchased an entire litter of English Pointers just for that very reason. The litter came from a lineage of Pointers containing five Hall of Fame hunting dogs within the puppy’s direct lineage. He carefully and patiently sifted through the litter allowing for time and experience to bring the better puppies forward. He finally selected two of the puppies from the ten-puppy total that he determined worth a longer evaluation. Most of us don’t have a similar ability to wait out an entire litter. Working closely with a particular breeder who understands your particular Ra and specific BAS allows them to use their professional experience to most closely match you with a puppy, started dog, or broke dog meeting your needs.
Most professional hunters/breeders I know shake their head privately, as clients bring their dogs to them for training claiming their dog is the next coming of that respective breed’s GOAT. Recently, I was conversing with a national breeder/trainer/professional hunter of some national distinction, (name withheld to protect his professional living), when he stated, “You know, Steely, I don’t know what to do when these folks bring dogs to me that either don’t match up genetically with their expectations or are the wrong dog breed of choice for their particular application. Most folks want me to tell them how wonderful their dog is and then take the dog and make dog something it will never be. If I tell them the honest truth, clients become offended and move on to another trainer who is willing to take their money. About 80% of the time or more the client has the wrong dog breed and or breeding for what they want to do.”
Finding the definitive “best hunting dog breed” is an exercise in properly applying one’s particular “Respective Application” (Ra) and combining the findings through well-researched Breed Alignment Segmentation (BAS). Once you have identified the best breed for you and the professional breeder most reliably meeting your BAS you have significantly increased the odds of finding your own GOAT and the definitive “best hunting dog breed ever!
Full listing of Hunting dog Breeds: