Friday, January 1, 2010
I was asked recently, "what kind of dogs I prefer and what range do I like them to hunt at?" The simple answer is "What kind of a hunter are You?" I believe most breeds of hunting dogs are reliable but if you put a slower easy going person with a dog that wants to cover ground at mach 10 the shooting opportunities may be few and far between. The same goes for the boot licker dog. If the hunter is trying to cover a lot of country and the dog is at his feet all day the hunter might show his frustration with the side of his boot to the backside of his hunting companion.
Before choosing a breed you should also be honest about you lifestyle. Although all dogs require exercise, some require a lot more than others. If you want a good companion you must give him time to run, build up the muscles, and let off some steam. Each breed requires different amounts of outdoor time. English pointers for example are big running dogs and require lots of room to run. Labs are a more calm dog and don't require quite as much exercise. Also is your dog going to be a house pet? Although all dogs make good pets when raised properly, some are better in the house than others. If the dog is to double as a pet are you willing to vacuum hair constantly and other cleaning as necessary? I've known people who don't like seeing the white dog hair on their furniture but don't seem to mind the brown.
What kind of birds you hunt is another big consideration. Of course they all will hunt a variety of birds but some are better suited for specific hunting than others. In my opinion, you will find more chukars and huns if you have a little bigger running dog, thus covering more country. But if you have a big running dog, then you better be ready and able to run big yourself. You have given the dog the responsibility to find birds and hold them, now your job is to get to him. Most other birds don't require a dog that covers a lot of country so a dog that ranges is not necessary. Pheasants for example will run like crazy. A ranging dog will sometimes make them run that much more while a close working dog may be able to give the bird time to to hide in the thick cover. Quail also don't require a long ranging dog. If you also do water fowl hunting a long ranging dog is of no importance.
The type of terrain you hunt may determine the dog you choose. Open country requires long ranging dogs. Brushy cover is perfect for medium to close hunting canines. Also, the thicker brush area may require a tougher skinned dog. Shorthairs, pointers, vizlas, weimerieners, and other shorthair dogs usually get cut up pretty good by thick rose bushes and barbed wire. Most of these shorter haired dogs don't do well in the cold wet weather or in the cold water. By the same token longer haired dogs like brittanys and setters take much more to groom out the burrs. Labs and wire haired type dogs seem to handle the harsh conditions the best.
Although I haven't hunted behind too many different breeds, I have hunted behind enough to know what suits my style of hunting. My doctor describes me as a type A personality. Evidently that means I don't relax as much as I should. I have never owned but have been behind english pointers. These dogs, and other english pointers, are more for the A+ type person. They bring a new meaning to range. I am by no means negative about pointers. I just don't prefer one for me because of their range. I'm getting old enough that I don't want to have to scale a mountain for a quarter of a mile or more to get to a dog on point. In my eyes the next step down is the German Shorthair Pointer. Obviously that is my preference. My shorthairs range to about 300 yards and for me that is covering as much country as I care to and I can still get to them.
A flushing dog may be your best choice. I know several people that get lots of birds with flushers. Today, for example, a flushing dog would have been better to hunt with than my shorthairs. It was very foggy and I couldn't see my dogs most of the time. A Springer spaniel would have been perfect for todays hunt.
There is no perfect dog for everybody. But there is a perfect dog for you. That is your dog. Know what you are going to expect of a dog. Remember, don't expect more out of him than you are willing to put in yourself. Don't try to keep up with the Jones. Keep hunting fun. It's no fun to be chasing your dog all over the place. The best dog I ever hunted behind was MY DOG.
As far as the range a dog covers. That is strictly up to you. But remember, it's a lot easier to rein a dog in than it is to get one to range out farther.
If you have a picture of your favorite hunting dog and would like to share it, please feel free to.