Most have docked tails. Some are multi-colored. And many have extra whiskers, beards and mustaches. You might call them the Rodney Dangerfields of the waterfowling world. They are the “other” dogs.
Labs, goldens and Chessies dominate the duck marshes, but indeed, other dogs toil for fowl. They are not the favored breeds for waterfowl work, however, the others are more than capable of sitting quietly in a duck blind, and then finding and retrieving downed ducks and geese.
If you own a retriever, the hair on your neck might be bristling and your upper lip curling. Easy now. This is not a contest of whose dog has made the most difficult retrieve, can sit longest in the icy water or carry the largest goose.
What are these “other” dogs?
They are any hunting breed besides Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers and Chesapeake Bay retrievers.
Perhaps the most common other breed used for waterfowling is the springer spaniel.
German wire-haired pointers, German shorthaired pointers and pudelpointers, too, frequent duck blinds. I’ve even witnessed English setters track and retrieve fowl. And many more breeds qualify as others.
So, why would a waterfowl hunter own any breed other than a retriever?
Few hunters can keep a kennel full of specialist dogs. Many hunters must choose only one dog, so it must perform most of tasks they require. For some gunners, pointing and flushing is every bit as important as the mark and retrieve.
Of course, retrievers are no slouches at dry land work. But just as the retrieving breeds are competent upland hunters, so are the other dogs competent waterfowlers. Some even excel.
Although they often don’t garner the same level of respect, they’ve earned the right to share in the sporting challenge of twisting teal and backpedaling mallards, waiting in turn for their moment to fetch fallen fowl.
The other dogs.
Does breed really matter when the dog plunges into an icy marsh and brings a winged greenhead to your feet?