Hunting > Upland & Waterfowl

What Your Gun Dog Says About You

Five breeds of dogs that tell the world what kind of hunter, and person, you really are.


Like your chosen rifle, the dog you opt to share your home and time afield with reflects the personality and vigor with which you tackle life and hunting season. Without saying a word, your fellow hunters will peg you by the four-legged hound at your side.

The Everyman
Breed of Dog: Labrador Retriever
The most popular American Kennel Club registered breed of dog in the United States for the past 20 years, the Lab can do it all—hunt the uplands for quail or pheasants, retrieve ducks from backwoods marshes or geese from big open water and then lay contentedly by the fire while your children climb all over him. Willing to learn and desiring to please, the Lab matures quickly and can make even the amateur trainer look like a dog-whispering Cesar Millan.

Your Personality: You’re an all around good guy; a family man who loves to work hard and play harder. As a staple in middle-class neighborhoods, you’re a balanced and upstanding member of society and aren’t prone to raising hell in a bar every weekend (although you might enjoy an occasional night on the town). When not in the field, you spend time with friends and family and make new acquaintances easily, but you are more than capable of defending yourself and loved ones if the need arises.

The Loyalist
Breed of Dog: Chesapeake Bay Retriever
An all-American retriever and the official state breed of Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay retriever served a dual purpose during the height of the market-hunting days: that of guard dog and game retriever. Originating in the cradle of our country’s waterfowling heritage, the breed retrieved ducks and geese by day and protected punt guns, boats and bags of decoys while their masters hit dockside saloons at night. The hardiest of the retrievers, no water is too cold or too big for a Chessie. Retaining more than a sliver of their guarding genetics, the breed has a reputation for being a one-man dog, protective of family and turf and stubborn during training.

Your Personality: You’re hardcore in the field, as well as in life, and you know it. While you can accomplish high-level tasks, it takes someone that understands your sometimes surly disposition to motivate you. You’re not trusting of strangers or new acquaintances, and Heaven have mercy on anyone who tries to push you into a corner because you’d just as-soon throw a punch for a perceived insult as ignore it. Aloof and somewhat willful, you often seek contemplative solitude so as to avoid the mindless chatter of society. You love your family and friends dearly and surround yourself with them. You also possess a concealed-carry permit and sleep with a gun in the nightstand so as to best protect those closest to you.

The Dandy Gentleman
Breed of Dog: English Springer Spaniel
Springers shine in the upland fields. Able to quarter and make finds with the best of bird dogs, these small liver-and-white or black-and-white dogs can also pull double duty and retrieve waterfowl more than passably. Only their small stature and thin skin keep them from tackling the biggest of geese and roughest or coldest of waters.  

Your Personality: Happy and willing to please, Springer owners approach life with a proverbial bounce in their step. This gay approach to life might leave coworkers and hunting buddies under the impression that you’re a little soft but you don’t carenothing can deter your enthusiasm. Vanity often plagues Springer owners; they must always look the part by sporting brand name and matching attire, a delicately engraved firearm (nothing less than a Caesar Guerini will do) and a coifed hairdo are just some of the quirks necessary to be considered part of the Springer glitterati. While your enthusiasm allows you to pull double duty in the marshes, cold turbulent waters aren’t your strong suit. No, you’re most happy frolicking through the dry upland fields of life in pursuit of love and happiness—perhaps you’d make a fine outdoor writer.

The Caring Clown
Breed of Dog: Golden Retriever
Perhaps the softest, most needy of all the gun dog breeds, the Golden retriever, with its long flowing locks of amber-tinted hair, is a clown that loves to perform and make its owners, and any guest or passerby, laugh. Heavy doses of show lines have hurt the breed’s hunting ability in general, but those dogs bred for the field willingly burrow through the nastiest of upland fields or take the plunge for waterfowl under any conditions. A soft disposition, plenty of positive reinforcement and a light hand are required during training.

Your Personality: As a golden owner you are eternally optimistic, and just a tad bit goofy. The likeable nerd when you were in school, you see the good in all people and all things. In social settings if you’re not acting as the center of attention, you’re the one stuck in the corner with someone crying on your shoulder. You love to make people feel better and it sometimes attracts the crazies in life, but you don’t mind. While it’s sometimes hard for you to focus on field work, what with all the socializing and shoulder-sobbing demands you must fulfill, when you do get out to hunt its generally a few weekends a year. Just as you sometimes adorn your golden in various colors of bandanas, you often wear unnecessary accessories, like Orvis waders when fishing a no-wading zone.

The Driven Loner
Breed of Dog: Pointer
Hard charging and energetic, pointers have a one-track mind and it’s all focused on finding birds. Their genetic disposition to course a field in search of feathers tends to make them bigger runners than other breeds of upland dogs. These are the elitist of athletes and at best are one-man dogs; but if that man can’t put him on birds, a pointer might not show any inclination to acknowledge the two-legged being in his life except during meal time. These hardy dogs can tackle the most difficult of terrain and will answer the call day after day during the season.

Your Personality: Like your chosen breed, you’re a hard-charging loner who’s driven to succeed. To you, second place is the first-place loser. You’re a fast thinker on your feet and love to tackle new challenges. Energetic and unable to sit still very long, you probably have more than a borderline case of Attention Deficit Disorder. With your somewhat addictive personality, you approach hunting season and life similarly, with a conquer-all attitude and nearly obsessive desire to be in the thick of either a quail-filled briar patch or pitching a board of directors on your newest entrepreneurial endeavor.  

Share |



Enter your comments below, they will appear within 24 hours

Your Name

Your Email

Your Comment

43 Responses to What Your Gun Dog Says About You

Bird-Dog wrote:
September 20, 2011

Ray, I appreciate your loyalty, but upland hunting is about comraderie and great dog work. My labs are versatile, and untiring. My favorite hunt, all time, was with my buddy's Viszlas working long and wide, and my pointing labs working in the medium/middle. Great teamwork from all, and no whining anywhere to be heard. I like ALL gun dogs, but because I waterfowl as well, my choice is chocolate labs.

gamgetr wrote:
September 19, 2011

uh........ where is the camera? My GSP can't find it..... but I know it is here somewhere, watching

rick wrote:
May 18, 2011

this article is right on

Jason wrote:
May 17, 2011

I enjoyed the article and the laughs. I own two GSP's and they're great. At home and in the field.

Bob Wilbrett wrote:
April 28, 2011

Some how you failed to mention the English Setter which without question is the best upland bird dog of all. Shame on you!

Dan Kluthe wrote:
April 26, 2011

All right, Now I've dumbly let my girlfriend, that had a Springer years back, see this. I had a Chessie then. Am I being beat up on now!!! I guess I deserve it. This article is right on.

Mark wrote:
April 26, 2011

Hey Ray the "English Springer Spaniel King", To each his own. Find another place to rant and degrade any other dog than a "Springer". Your derrogatory remarks about there owners are not necessary either. You are a bad example of a true hunter who can appreciate other peoples choices for a hunting partner. I have yet to see a springer at a duck club!!!! They all have there pros and cons. Cheer up!

James wrote:
April 25, 2011

Kurt, What in your opinion is "out of whack" with the Chessie that you hope the AKC realizes?

Kurt wrote:
April 25, 2011

Right on with the Chessies. Stubborn, and extremely loyal. Very easy to train. My 5'2", 100 pound, 80 year old mother could easily handle my Chessie. The only "problem" was that she was very alpha to other female dogs. Just hope the AKC relizes their guidlines for the breed are out of wack.

Lisa wrote:
April 24, 2011

You failed to mention the Vizsla. I know you had to limit the types of dogs due to space. The Vizsla is an amazing dog. They are loyal, energetic, they go til you go home for the day. They are wonderful hunters and then they shift gears and become a wonderful family dog. Nothing like a Versatile Vizsla.

Tom wrote:
April 23, 2011

My Brittany has for 10 years been the best! I've owned and hunted Springers, Labs, and a Golden, nothing comes close. She points, retrieves to hand and is my best pal.

ray wrote:
April 23, 2011

NOTHING is better than an English Springer Spaniel I have owned several over my years and there isnt a better breed for upland game or family anywhere!!(quit crying lab owners). I've had the pleasure of hunting w/all breeds including the brittany and just like there owners they are always whining about something. There isnt anything that can top a Springer's enthusasim once it gets on scent followed by that ever heart stopping flush. I will take a springer for upland any day of the week. especially over the ever popular "lazy mans dog"; the pointer. Although beautiful on point/honor when that pheasant decides to run you will have an empty game bag at the end of the day and a dog scratching its head wondering where the bird went. For all of you pointer owners you know I'm right.Denial isn't just a river in egypt. How many birds have you lost because your dog couldnt find a bird that decided to relocate. Springers will hunt all day every day and never complain even if totally exhausted. There is nothing better than seeing a springer on scent and working a field until that bird is flushed. If i can only get mine to relax after a hunt. When she is done hunting she has her frisbee in mouth wanting to keep going. All of you britanny, pointer and lab owners relax and take your seat at the honorable mentioned" table where you belong. As long as you hunt and love the thrill of a flush it doesnt matter which dog you prefer. All kidding aside, it all boils down to training. I would take my well trained boxer in the field before i would take any untrained hunting dog. Regardless of what breed you prefer all that matters is that you enjoy the hunt not so much the kill but the interaction between dog and bird. There is no better rush except sharing in the joy of someone taking their first bird. Take someone hunting our future depends on all of us. Keep your retrievers in the water, your pointers in the woods and leave the real hunting to the Springers.. GOD BLESS AMERICA

Leo wrote:
April 22, 2011

As an owner of 2 birdy GSHPs your Driven Loner is on except mine learned to range within 30yards. Yes, one better show them a bird. Hence, I do go into the thick of briar patches. If there was a Dog Pope, a GSHP would be the Patron Saint of Perpetual Motion.

A P Smith wrote:
April 22, 2011

I have hunted with Springers, Labs and English Pointers, all of which I owned. I feel that all the hunting breeds offer something to the hunter and they are not an indicator of a persons personality. Keep huntimg America!!!

Andrea wrote:
April 22, 2011

Why isn't the Brittany listed?

DAVE KISH wrote:
April 21, 2011


Dick Baldwin wrote:
April 21, 2011

I am the owner of a Brittany and a German Wirehaired Pointer. Does that mean I am schizophrenic? My DISC profile says I am a High D High I. Personable Driver

Rob Baker wrote:
April 20, 2011

I own a lab and golden. Both outstanding dogs. Yes the golden is a clown,but when in the field he's hard to beat. First and third in gun dog challenges this year

Steve Lohr wrote:
April 20, 2011

I have owned 4 Brittanys and I never really thought about what that said about me. My current buddy is named Tucker and if he could get over the pointing thing he might be able to catch a squirrel. But when it comes to finding peasants, he was tuned up and calibrated right out of the box. They all were. I will never own another breed. He is three years old and we have hunted in Nebraska, Colorado and North Dakota for three seasons running. Darn, is it really 6 months till October?!

Larry McNary wrote:
April 20, 2011

I was surprised to see that the Brittany was not mentioned.

Johnson wrote:
April 20, 2011

So did you actually observe or interview different dog owners, or did you just write it up based on your personal judgements? Either way I enjoyed it. Chesapeake owner here. You pretty much nailed it.

deb york wrote:
April 19, 2011

We own a cocker/brittany cross who's the birdiest little dog I've ever seen. At home she's a couch potato.

Pat Baughman wrote:
April 19, 2011

Well your comments on Chessie owners pretty well described me. I take my hunting, hunt tests, and dog training very seriously. I will settle for nothing less than having the best retriever in the marsh or the uplands when after pheasants. I've had nothing but Chessies for over 30 years. I just hope that they never become too popular. Popularity has ruined many a great hunting breed. The Chesapeake sure is a good fit for this old Duckmaniac!

John Jenkins wrote:
April 09, 2011

My Chessie would lay down his life for us especially my wife. As the 2 prior chessies would have.

Brian Lynn wrote:
March 02, 2011

Ok Kyle, I know you're an editor, so I'll go slooow... :) The assignment was for 5 breeds of dog. If we split the main body of dogs into pointers and retrievers/flushers, one side will get 3 and one side will get 2. It's just the math. I know, you're a wordsmith so abstract numbers don't mean much. I chose the dogs on the list for a couple of different reasons: 1. popularity (making the piece relevant to largest audience) 2. strong stereotypes surrounding the breed (i.e., Chessie) and/or 3. stereotype/quirky habits of owners (i.e., Goldens and bandanas; a running, good-natured, joke Golden owners often endure in the retriever world). Oh, and 4. Just to take a pot-shot at a buddy! (i.e., you KW!) :)

Kyle Wintersteen wrote:
March 02, 2011

@BrianLynn You have called me out by name, so I am compelled to retort. There are five dogs described in your article, THREE of which are retrievers! Can anyone out there guess the breed of the author's dog, Kona? (Incidentally, I've shot a few pheasants over Kona. He's a fine upland dog--practically as good as some springers.)

bob wrote:
March 01, 2011

I've had setters for over forty years, there isn't a classier dog . they were some of the first dogs hunted here. not to list them?

Rand Kibodeaux wrote:
March 01, 2011

Considering that I have a Red Setter that lets a 5 pound Yorkie boss him around, I guess I am a wuss.

Chris Hall wrote:
February 28, 2011

What about half Boxer, half American Bulldog mix? Mine has made a great bird dog. Especially upland. There has not been a quail he has not wanted.

Doug wrote:
February 28, 2011

Hey Kristin, I too am a Brittany lover. They are wonderful dogs.

Steve Geist wrote:
February 28, 2011

The chessy info is SO TRUE!!

Scot Boughton wrote:
February 28, 2011

Like Long Hair Lover I ditto his comments! There isn't a better dog in the field in regards to hunting pointing and retrieving skills.I've had 11 of them in my life to date.

Golden Rescue worker wrote:
February 28, 2011

I have handled over 50 Goldens in the last 10 years. Even when pampered, they still go to the field and learn very quickly. It is harder to keep a golden focused during training, but they learn so much faster it is worth it.

Guy Salomon wrote:
February 28, 2011 about the Rodney Dangerfields of hunting dogs. I have had three...hopefully a forth...before I die...they have done everything and achievers...hey that sounds like me. :-)

Longhair lover wrote:
February 28, 2011

He mentioned pointers, but I didn't see any reference to the best bird dog of all, English Setters. Surely he didn't lump all pointing dogs in the "Pointer" category. A surefire way to alienate bird dog owners.

Brian Lynn wrote:
February 28, 2011

Hey Guys! Glad you liked the article. It was FUN to write. @Robert Jones: I actually love Springers. My first dog was a Springer. I did, however, have to take some pot-shots at my good buddy Kyle Wintersteen, American Hunter's Senior Associate editor, who is a die-hard Springer man! All in good fun, I assure you. Perhaps we'll do a Part II and cover some other breeds one of these days! Brian

Howie wrote:
February 27, 2011

As a golden lover I'm a little hurt and I sort of want to cry, but I think I'll just laugh it off instead. Classic!

kelli wrote:
February 27, 2011

yes, what about mutts? muensterlander? and blueticks?

gordon wrote:
February 26, 2011

What about a mutt?

Jeff Springer wrote:
February 26, 2011

Very nice article! It is just fun and lighthearted and very well written. Please post more articles from this guy. Thanks PF for doing what you do.

Jim MacWalter - Glen 'Mor Kennel wrote:
February 26, 2011

So glad you didn't write an expose about the Gordon Setters. I want to keep their keen hunting abilities, terrific temperament, amazing intellect, superb sense of humor and unbounded loyalty a well guarded secret.

robert jones wrote:
February 25, 2011

Bring your lab or pointer to my favorite quail berry briar in California and we will see who is the dandy. My springer will be putting birds to the gun while you flounder to flush birds to no avail.

Kristin wrote:
February 25, 2011

What about a french brittany owner?