Surveys of Quail Forever members show that almost 70 percent of us own one or more bird dogs, and that more than half of those hunting and home partners are either Labrador retrievers or German shorthaired pointers. There’s good reason for that: They get the job done, as do all the other wonderful breeds of dogs we own, from springers and goldens to the setters, wirehairs and Brittanys. But let’s meet some breeds apart that also get the job done, along with the members that love them so.

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  • Jagdterrier

  • German Longhaired Pointer

  • French Spaniel

  • American Cocker Spaniel

  • Irish Red and White Setter

  • Beagle

  • American Water Spaniel

  • Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

  • Standard Poodle

  • Working Clumber Spaniel

  • Blue Picardy Spaniel

  • Spinone Italiano

 

Breed: Jagdterrier
Type: Flusher

Hazel & Jude
Chad and Sabryn Phillips - Garland, Nebraska

Jagdterrier

HISTORY
Jagdterriers are a working terrier breed that originated in Germany. They are also called the German hunt terrier. The “jagd” is used for hunting quarry above and underground such as birds, raccoons, badgers, hogs and more. They are very smart, reliable, courageous and sociable.

DISCOVERY
I met a breeder while attending an AKC pointing breed hunt test in Kansas. I met his dogs and fell in love with the little fireballs. The breeder is William Burns from Texas.

HUNTING
For upland birds such as pheasant, jagdterriers make exceptional flushing dogs or strike dogs in front of pointers. They also just work hard as flushers. They are trained like a cocker or springer, and have a natural desire to retrieve game. Their small size (13 to 126 inches tall, 17 to 22 pounds) makes a GPS tracking system a good idea. They are exciting to watch in the field, but be ready, because as with many other versatile breeds, a bird hunt can turn into a raccoon hunt quick.

HOME
Jagdterriers are high drive, require lots of exercise, and need an outlet to spend energy. They are tenacious and need exercised and/or hunting regularly or they can become a handful around the home. Jagds are, however, very affectionate, loyal, and get along great with people and other dogs. Socialization is key at a young age. Hazel goes everywhere with me in the truck and loves to meet people.

ESSENCE
Jagdterriers are incredibly versatile: They can hunt birds and varmint, track game, retrieve … and they love their people too.


 

Breed: German Longhaired Pointer
Type: Pointer

Wendy & Cora
Jeff Obrecht - Cheyenne, Wyoming

GermanLonghairedPointer

HISTORY
The longhair family tree goes back farther than German shorthairs. French spaniels had considerable contribution in breed establishment. The large Munsterlander is the closest relative. Swedes and Dutch were instrumental in re-establishing the breed following near elimination during WWII. “Continental Europe’s version of a setter — but with more versatility” offers an understandable context of the breed.

DISCOVERY
I had owned vizslas since 1972, but by the mid-‘90s I was starting to yearn for a dog that was a more reliable swimmer, and had more cold and snow tolerance. A co-worker had these setter-looking chocolate-colored dogs. Some hands-on upland and lowland interaction sold me.

HUNTING
Looking back over 24 years, the overall hunting drive afield combined with the trait to turn that energy off at home and in the vehicle, is what has impressed me most about the breed. That drive is most welcome in retrieving downed pheasants when the quarry is wounded and extra-elusive. The utility/value of a full tail to spot the dog in CRP and cattails has consistently contributed to fulfilling pheasant hunts.

HOME
Longhairs are full contributing partners at home, always at your side, and probably hoping you’ll grab the shotgun or at least a leash for a walk. They are on your team both in the field and at home. Kids aren’t just tolerated, and infants to teenagers are coveted.

ESSENCE
It has been a privilege to follow these classic looks, combined with that versatility and drive, in pheasant country.


 

Breed: French Spaniel
Type: Flusher

Abby
Todd Dahna – Mountain Lake, Minnesota

FrenchSpaniel

HISTORY
The French spaniel is a very old breed with documentation back to the 14th century. It was a preferred breed of royalty across Europe, and often used for falconry. This spaniel was little known outside of France and neighboring countries until it was introduced in Quebec in the 1970s. It quickly became a popular dog for hunting woodcock and grouse.

DISCOVERY
I had always had springer spaniels and was looking to try a pointing dog. I hunt smaller pieces of land and wanted a closer-working dog. A friend suggested I look into the French spaniel and after some research I decided this was the breed for me and my style of hunting.

HUNTING
Abby is a close-working pointing dog. She hunts at a nice pace and is easy to keep up with. You still get the experience of watching the dog work. She has a strong hunting drive and is solid on points.

HOME
French spaniels make great family dogs. Wherever you are is where Abby wants to be. She is also great with other dogs, and loves every person she meets.

ESSENCE
My French spaniel is just a great all-around hunting and family dog.


 

Breed: American Cocker Spaniel
Type: Flusher

Miah
Jon Nelson - Omaha, Nebraska

Clumber-Spaniel

HISTORY
This smallest sporting dog breed, and hails from the United Kingdom. It is called “cocker” because of its skill and ability at flushing woodcock while hunting close in the thickest and gnarliest of cover. Springer spaniels and cocker spaniels stem from the same stock: Litters were separated based on the pups’ size – the larger were springers, the smaller cockers. In America, the maintenance of hunting lines had all but withered away at the expense of creating show dogs, but some breeders stayed true to the origins and maintained proper field-bred lineage.

DISCOVERY
I got Miah when I was living in South America in an apartment. Space was not a luxury that I could afford in Bogotá, Colombia, a city with over 11 million people. That’s when I decided the cocker would be the perfect fit. She was small enough to travel with me to and from the United States and athletic enough to participate in outdoor activities.

HUNTING
She is methodical. Cockers’ thoroughness and ability to meticulously pick apart cover are most notable. Cockers have the bold prey drive needed to dive into dense cover and flush even the tightest sitting roosters. As Miah’s confidence has risen, so has her willingness to hunt farther out, more at the desirable range of 20 to 30 yards, while busting brush and questing for scent. She chases down cripples.

HOME
One of Miah’s best companion traits is her off-switch. While she’s always ready and wanting to work, she can turn off that prey drive and lounge next to me. She is easygoing, affectionate and loves people.

ESSENCE
My love for these little pocket-rocket dogs is attributed to their big hearts, biddable nature and insatiable desire to please their handler.


 

Breed: Irish Red and White Setter
Type: Pointer

Randy and Maeve
Luke Merickel – Richfield, Minnesota

IrishRedandWhiteSetter

HISTORY
The red and white setter predates the red Irish setter. These dogs were bred to hunt red grouse on the Irish Moors where stamina was the most important trait above all else. Some digs were said to have run 50 miles a day. A tight circle of breeders may be both blessing and a curse: The breed has managed to retain its original working traits, but the gene pool is small.

DISCOVERY
Fate brought me to the breed. I had studied abroad in Ireland and fell in love with Irish culture and history. Back home, after a few seasons of hunting ruffed grouse dogless, I realized I needed a pointing dog. The Irish red and white was at the top of my list. I contacted Bob and Evan Devlin out of Duluth. They hesitated to place a puppy with a young man with a full-time job, but Bob recognized my last name and, unbeknownst to me, had grown up hunting ducks with my long-deceased Grandpa Jack. I received a gift I had done nothing to earn. Making right on that gift is my driving force with these dogs.

HUNTING
The Irish red and white setter, like the other three setter breeds, is a pointing dog. They adjust range according to the cover. They are easily controlled and check back in often. In typical setter fashion, the head is held high searching for the scent cone. They are extremely thorough in their search and leave no stone unturned. Both my dogs are excellent downed gamed finders and natural retrievers.

HOME
Red and white setters are often described as being one-person dogs. They bond quickly to their master and often blow off commands from others. My male is extremely affectionate and cuddly. My female is similar but prefers to keep a bit more distance. They are calm in the house but need exercise daily or will find some trouble to get into.

ESSENCE
Walking up on a red and white setter on point is like experiencing an old hunting painting in three dimensions.


 

Breed: Beagle
Type: Flusher

Lou
Adrian Daley - Edmonton, Alberta

Beagle

HISTORY
Beagles were traditionally used by royalty in packs of up to 40 for flushing small ground game such as rabbits, hares and pheasants. These dogs have incredible scent and tracking ability known as “beagling,” and are recognized for their distinctive hound howl or bay. Beagles are used by many customs border forces throughout the world for detecting drugs and other contraband due to their strong scent abilities and calm nature.

DISCOVERY
My family back in Ireland had traditionally bred black Labrador gun dogs. I moved away to Belfast with my fiancé and our first house was quite small so we decided a beagle would be a good fit as they have characteristics of a Lab but in a smaller frame. From a very young age, Lou had a drive for game. I hunted with him beside my brothers’ Labradors and springers, and he picked up what he should be doing from them.

HUNTING
I have hunted over many breeds of gun dogs, but Lou by far has the strongest hunting drive and scenting ability. I have hunted woodcock, pheasant and ducks over him in Northern Ireland, Scotland and now here in Canada. He flushes birds out of heavy cover. The beagle’s downside is that when the scent is strong you really have to work to stay alongside or keep up. Lou is also my waterfowling companion, with an exceptional ability in heavy bulrush reed cover; he has picked up 80-yard blind retrieves on the first attempt.

HOME
This little hound will be your best companion in a household. If there is somewhere comfortable to soak up sunshine, they are happy. Beagles are very intelligent and make brilliant pets for a family household, especially with children. Beagles have a very gentle temperament, extremely loving nature, and deep loyalty to their pack: your family.

ESSENCE
The beagle is a loyal, smart, hardworking, loving breed with an exceptional endearing character … a great addition to any pack.


 

Breed: American Water Spaniel
Type: Flusher

Maya
Julie Schmitt - West Bend, Wisconsin

AmericanWaterSpaniel

HISTORY
This breed is rare, with only 3,000 dogs worldwide. Back in the 1800s, hunters were in need of a small but powerful dog — one able to fit in a little skiff, swim long distances, handle the cold and hunt the uplands. Developed in Wisconsin, American water spaniels quickly became the dog of choice, able to perform as both retriever and upland hunter, wrapped up as a loyal family dog. They are Wisconsin’s State Dog.

DISCOVERY
We were looking for the perfect dog. It had to love the water but dry quickly, have a soft coat with cute ears, and not shed too much. It needed to be small enough to sit in your lap but large enough to scare intruders, hardy enough to pull you on cross country skis but fast enough to keep up on mountain bike rides. We didn’t think it was possible. Then we came across the American water spaniel. Learning to train and hunt with my dog has been the best.

HUNTING
Nose to the ground, these dogs leap and bound through the grass, over logs and through thickets. They work an area by sight and smell while keeping close tabs on you. They have an excellent nose with a drive to match. The joy of the hunt is watching them work. Keep a close eye on their tails —changes in speed, crazy 8s, windmills — the signs of being birdy. Be ready for the flush!

HOME
Always hungry! These spaniels are content to lay around, but when you turn it up, they follow. They love all family members but have a tendency to really bond with one. Being by your feet or cuddled up at your side is common. They learn what works for attention, be it a bark, staredown or anxious little growl. They switch from family to working dog in half a heartbeat.

ESSENCE
I love American water spaniels, for they are the perfect size, sport the perfect look, and have a personality that keeps you smiling.


 

Breed: Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
Type: Flusher

Teak and Cypress
Jenny Malavasi and Travis Neebling - Casper, Wyoming

NovaScotiaDuckTollingRetriever

HISTORY
Tollers are named after their “tolling” abilities. Duck hunters would sit in their blinds and throw sticks out, letting the toller to go out and play on the shore and in the surf. Large rafts of ducks would show interest and curiosity, and swim into range. The toller is a decoy! Some say tollers were bred to look like foxes, which would exhibit similar tolling behavior to lure waterfowl.

DISCOVERY
My husband was fed up with swimming for his own ducks or hoping to stumble on upland birds. We researched, talked to many breeders, and settled on the toller. Living in Wyoming, we tend to hunt harsh conditions requiring dogs that can handle sub-freezing temperatures, icy waters, strong winds and rough terrain … and our style is to switch between waterfowl and upland birds. The toller fit the bill. Their playful, mischievous personalities are an added bonus and really keep us on our toes!

HUNTING
Tollers are fantastic, versatile upland dogs. They are excellent flushers with strong bird drive and natural quartering. Clear physical markers — changes in body and tail carriage — indicate when they are hot on a bird. Some dogs flash point. Pheasant hunting comes easy, but tollers are up for any challenge. Ours also hunt, flush and retrieve grouse (sage, sharptail, ruffed and dusky), wild chukar, Hungarian partridge, and they show prowess locating coveys and singles of quail including Mearns, Gambel’s, scaled and bobwhites.

HOME
Tollers are high-energy and intelligent dogs. They need attention, commitment, and a job or outlet. Train them, keep them busy. They are wonderful companions that enjoy hanging out and relaxing with the family. They can be hesitant with strangers and are independent. But they are empathetic and know when and where they are needed, providing an understated comfort.

ESSENCE
Tollers are playful, clever and intense, and everything about them is a challenge, from training to understanding, but it is highly rewarding!


 

Breed: Standard Poodle
Type: Flusher

Gus
Isabel Ridder – Prosser, Washington

Golden-Retriever

HISTORY
Poodles have a wide and varied history, and they actually share much lineage with spaniels. Germany, Russia and France all had their own type of poodle, but the German lines focused more heavily on hunting. Used as multi-purpose dogs for centuries, poodles are now surging in popularity in America as bird dogs.

DISCOVERY
I got into the breed eight years ago. Gus brought me to the world of poodles, and then to the uplands. Now I own four poodles and our adventures are a cornerstone of my life.

HUNTING
Hunting with a poodle is an absolute joy. They bound into high cover and brush, enthusiastically flushing out anything they find, including pheasants. Absolutely brilliant dogs, they will learn from every experience and use it to outsmart game in the future. They are easily taught to work in gun range. They love a good chase and are extremely effective retrievers too. Bonus: Their coats shed water well and keep them warm in the cold … so don’t let anybody kid you, poodles are tough!

HOME
Poodles are very much a family dog, wanting to be with you and do whatever you're doing. They have a great off switch at home and meld in with other animals and children.

ESSENCE
The amount of time and training you put in with a poodle will come back to you a thousand times over.


 

Breed: Working Clumber Spaniel
Type: Flusher

Gus
Joe Worsham - East Bend, North Carolina

WorkingClumberSpaniel

HISTORY
Initially, Clumber Spaniels were only owned by English royalty. Not until the death of the 4th Duke of New Castle in 1851 were Clumbers made available to the public. Then Clumbers started being bred for looks rather than form and function. A dog originally meant to be 30 to 40 pounds now weighed 60 to 90 pounds. Through the efforts of James Darly of High Wycombe, England, the Working Clumber Spaniel Society, and others, the working-type Clumber Spaniel is making a comeback. To my knowledge, Gus is only one of four working Clumbers in the United States.

DISCOVERY
My wife wanted to get me a hunting dog. For most of her life she had owned spaniels, and one day she said, “You need a Clumber spaniel!” I liked the dogs but found them lacking in the field. I got a field-Bred English Cocker. After coming across some internet video of working-type Clumbers in England, they looked spectacular in the field. My interest was rekindled. Then I was smitten. Within a few months, I imported Gus from England.

HUNTING
Working Clumbers are fabulous in the field. These spaniels find, flush and retrieve game. Working Clumbers are prized for their noses and do not miss much game. They are active and energetic, calm and levelheaded, and very biddable. They are joy to train and hunt behind.

HOME
While Clumbers are a working breed, they turn off in the house and exhibit a calm and pleasing nature. They can be quite comical to have around. But once I put the whistle around my neck, their demeanor changes and they are ready to go to work.

ESSENCE
Working Clumbers are a very friendly, kind and loyal companions that also love to hunt the uplands.


 

Breed: Blue Picardy Spaniel
Type: Flusher

Holly, Sage, Rango and Pepper
Vince and Anita Aiello - Calgary, Alberta

BluePicardySpaniel

HISTORY
An 1886 advertisement in a French sporting journal offered: “For Sale: 20 francs, 4 puppies white and black e’pagneuls of an ancient breed … the father is the most handsome dog in the country …mother and father out of hunting lines, solid point, on the plaines, marsh or woods, hunting always in gun range …” It was the Blue Picardy Spaniel. With the outbreak of WWII, Picardys almost disappeared. But the breed survived and is strong in France, making inroads in Canada and throughout the world.

DISCOVERY
We were sitting on my friend Bob’s deck enjoying a cigar and a rum facing a Rocky Mountain sunset while pintails and mallards dropped into a slough behind his place. Between us sat his male, Sam, legs crossed and head high and enjoying the same scene. He was “the most handsome dog in the country.” Shortly we had our first Blue Picardy, Holly. All I wanted was a huntin’ dog!

HUNTING
These pointing dogs like to stay within sight in the grouse woods. In the coulee country they reach out 100 to 150 yards chasing pheasants. In the open prairie searching for Huns and sharptail, a 300-yard cast is not uncommon. Very strong bird sense. The point is solid. Strong retrievers both on land and water. Fun and exciting to watch in the field.

HOME
Picardys are softer than their setter cousins, a quiet breed that is at-home with the family and kids, yet driven by a strong bird desire in the field. These high-energy dogs love to play. They thrive on human companionship, are especially great with kids, and are very easy to train. All our dogs live in the house with us, and have a regular exercise schedule coupled with bird work/training at least once a week.

ESSENCE
The Blue Picardy makes it easy to train, love and live with!


 

Breed: Spinone Italiano
Type: Flusher

Winefred
Lyra Kaminski and Family - Elk Mound, Wisconsin

SpinoneItaliano

HISTORY
In the mid-1800s, the Italians took regional variations of this breed and began working toward a standard. The Spinoni (plural for Spinone) took a hard hit during World War II. Facing extinction, the breed was slowly reestablished. That was no small task for all those involved, and I am humbled to own one of these dogs.

DISCOVERY
I saw a small group of Spinoni at a NAVHDA training night and said, “What is THAT?” I was drawn to the dog’s distinct shape and color. I asked many questions of the owners, Mike Norlander and Ted Wentink. Less than two years later those conversations had led to a connection with the breeder, Kathy Hamaker, and Winefred joined our family.

HUNTING
I have often been told of my own work and pace that I am slow and steady. Spinoni are the same. They have a recognizable, methodical trot that makes this breed a perfect partner for me. They certainly can have spunk, long range and gallop, but their general pace lets them work all day. Giving Fred many opportunities — both training days or frequent public land hunting in season — helped her put all the pieces together for pointing birds. Her desire turns on further in her retrieves, which stem from her excitement at the shot and the desire to work together. She willingly backs other dogs. The Spinone’s methodical nature in movement and mentality is breathtaking.

HOME
Italian Spinones are “cheeky,” as the Europeans say: clown-like, goofy, and naughty in ways that just make you laugh. They are large dogs with such gentleness. I am amazed by Winefred’s care around the smallest of humans. Spinones command attention with a slow and measured paw on your arm, face or shoulder, and the human-like look in their eye. Spinones are loyal, willing and irresistibly snuggleable. They love to be with their pack.

ESSENCE
I love Spinones for their beauty, their docile nature and their ability to be a perfect partner in the field.





This story originally appeared in the summer issue of the Pheasants Forever Journal. If you enjoyed it and would like to read more great upland content, become a member today!


 

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