To most waterfowl hunters, their dog is not only a great help in retrieving downed birds, but an eager and loyal hunting partner that stays by his/her side through the worst of conditions and the longest lulls in shooting, with never a complaint or loss of enthusiasm.
It’s impossible to estimate how many dead and crippled ducks and geese would be lost every year if it weren’t for the hundreds of thousands of hard-working retrievers that accompany their masters throughout the waterfowl season. Waterfowl often drop into deep water, thick cover, or far away from the hunters who shoot them. Without a boat they would be impossible to retrieve were it not for the hunter’s dog. To most hunters, a dog pays for itself every time it retrieves a bird that would otherwise be lost. If you don’t have a retrieving dog, you shouldn’t hunt anywhere that you can’t wade or boat to retrieve your game.
The most popular dog in the country - the Labrador retriever - is also the most popular dog among duck and goose hunters, but there are other good choices. Chesapeake Bay retrievers are also excellent waterfowl dogs, as are golden retrievers and a large variety of lesser known retriever and spaniel breeds developed for water work. If you’re serious about waterfowl hunting and don’t have a retriever, it might be time to go shopping for a new member of the family. There are plenty of good books and videos on the subject of training your own pup, or you can buy a started dog that already understands the basics. A third choice is to hire a professional dog trainer and let him or her work you dog into the perfect hunting companion. Other resources include: from Ducks Unlimited’s 360 Degrees: Preparing your Retriever