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The Top 5 Best Duck Hunting Dogs

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Nothing beats hunting with your best friend, so if you’re planning on getting a buddy to join you for some duck-hunting adventures, make sure you get one that will be happy to help you out! Dogs love work, and none more than the five best duck hunting dogs that I’m about to cover here.

Now keep in mind, you can train an incredibly large amount of breeds to help you out when duck-hunting, even ones that aren’t on this list. My family, for example, has exclusively used Pointers for the past 50 years with lots of success. However, the 5 breeds mentioned in this guide will be much easier to train for this purpose and possess qualities that allow for longer endurance and comfort.

Let’s get some treats and find our next best buddy.

best duck hunting dog

#1 The Labrador Retriever:

First up on our list, we have arguably the most popular dog for duck hunting across the board: the beautiful and loyal Labrador Retriever. Originally bred as a versatile working dog in Newfoundland, Canada in the 1700s, these guys have a long history of helping fishermen with their nets and retrieving fish from the water.

In the 1800s, Labradors were brought to England, where they were further developed as hunting dogs. Today, they are one of the most popular dog breeds in the world, and their versatility and intelligence make them ideal for many roles, including hunting, search and rescue, and service dogs.

In duck hunting, Labradors are widely regarded as the best breed due to their strong retrieving instincts, exceptional swimming ability, and intelligence. They are able to retrieve ducks from the water even in difficult conditions, such as in rough waves or strong currents. Their strong noses also make them excellent at finding and retrieving downed birds in dense cover or over long distances.

Labradors are also known for their friendly and loyal nature, which also makes them great family pets. They are typically good with children and other pets, and they have a playful and energetic personality that makes them fun to be around.

However, they do require regular exercise and mental stimulation to prevent boredom and destructive behavior (when my buddy was down with covid his labrador tore up the whole place out of boredom).

Pricewise, Labrador Retrievers typically range from $500-$3,000 depending on the breeder, pedigree, and location.


  • Strong, intelligent, and great retrieving skills
  • Friendly and loyal nature, making them great family pets
  • Great swimmers, making them ideal for retrieving ducks from water


  • High energy and require lots of exercise and attention
  • Shed heavily and require regular grooming
  • May develop hip and joint problems as they age
Labrador retriever walking in the snow
The Labrador Retriever

#2 The Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Next up we have the gorgeous Chesapeake Bay Retriever, a breed that originated in the Chesapeake Bay area of the United States around the 1800s. They were actually specifically bred for duck hunting in the harsher and colder conditions of the bay. As a result, Chesapeakes are known for their strength, endurance, and retrieving ability, which make them great for all sorts of waterfowl hunting – especially in colder climates.

One of the most distinctive features of Chesapeakes is their thick, oily coat. This coat helps to protect them from the cold water and harsh weather conditions that they may encounter while retrieving ducks. The coat also gives them the unique appearance they’re so well known for.

The only drawback is that although Chesapeakes are incredibly intelligent, they’re also incredibly independent and stubborn – making them challenging to train. They require a firm and consistent training approach, with a focus on positive reinforcement techniques. Early socialization is also especially important to ensure that they get along well with other dogs and people!

In addition to their hunting skills, Chesapeakes also make loyal and protective family pets. They are known for their affectionate and playful nature, and they are especially good with children. However, they do require plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to keep them happy and healthy as well!

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers typically range in price from $1,500 to $3,500, depending on the breeder.


  • Specifically developed for duck hunting and have a thick, oily coat that protects them from cold water
  • Powerful, independent, and have a strong retrieving ability
  • Endurance and resilience in harsh weather conditions


  • Require consistent and firm training approach
  • Can be stubborn at times and may not be the best fit for inexperienced dog owners
  • May develop hip and joint problems as they age
Closeup portrait of a large-sized Chesapeake Bay Retriever dog in a dense forest
Chesapeake Bay Retriever

#3 Golden Retriever:

A lot of people don’t know this, but Golden Retrievers are actually excellent dogs for duck hunting, because of their versatile and easy-to-train nature. Also, they like retrieving things, so that’s a plus.

They have friendly and outgoing personalities that make them great companions just about anybody, but it is their intelligence and trainability that make them so great for hunting. They have a great sense of smell and can easily locate and retrieve ducks both on land and water.

Golden Retrievers are excellent swimmers, thanks to their water-repellent coat that protects them from the cold. They also have a much more gentle retrieving style compared to other dogs on this list, which ensures that the game is retrieved without damage. Golden Retrievers are also one of the only dogs that can retrieve multiple ducks at once!

Training a Golden Retriever for duck hunting is relatively easy due to their eagerness to please and above-average intelligence. They are quick learners and respond well to positive reinforcement methods. Their calm demeanor and gentle nature make them ideal for families with children, and they are generally friendly with other pets as well.

A well-bred Golden Retriever from a reputable breeder will probably cost you around $2000-$3000 at the least, but I’ve seen them run even higher.


  • Friendly, intelligent, and easy to train
  • Great sense of smell and gentle retrieving style
  • Excellent swimmers and great family pets


  • High energy and require lots of exercise and attention
  • Shed heavily and require regular grooming
  • May develop hip and joint problems as they age
Golden Retriever
Golden Retriever

#4 The American Water Spaniel

The lesser-known hunting breed on the list, the American Water Spaniel was developed in the United States in the mid-19th century specifically for hunting in the Great Lakes region, where they would retrieve ducks and other waterfowl in marshy areas and small boats. These dogs are small to medium-sized, typically weighing between 25-45 pounds, and stand only around 15-18 inches tall.

American Water Spaniels have a curly or wavy coat that is water-resistant and protects them from cold water. Their coat comes in a variety of colors, including brown, liver, and chocolate. They have really high energy levels so will require lots of attention and exercise if you value your eardrums and couch.

They’re both intelligent and trainable, but they also have a stubborn streak and require a consistent and firm training approach. They are loyal and make great family pets, but they do best in homes with experienced dog owners who can provide them with the exercise and training they need.

In terms of duck hunting, American Water Spaniels have strong retrieving instincts and are known for their endurance and ability to work in small boats or marshy areas. They are also versatile hunters and can be trained to hunt other types of game, such as upland birds!

American Water Spaniels typically range in price from $1,000-$3,000.


  • Small and agile, making them ideal for hunting in small boats or marshy areas
  • Strong retrieving ability and endurance
  • Intelligent and require a consistent training approach


  • Less commonly found and may be difficult to find reputable breeders
  • May be prone to certain health issues such as allergies and skin problems
  • Require regular exercise and attention to prevent boredom
redhead Spaniel dog running with a stick
A very wet American Water Spaniel

#5 Boykin Spaniel:

Last but not least, we have the tiniest guy on our list: the Boykin Spaniel. A small guy with a big personality, the Spaniel is an incredibly versatile hunting dog that was developed in the early 1900s in South Carolina.

The breed was originally developed to hunt ducks and other game in the swamps and marshes of the southern United States. They are known for their small size, agility, and strong retrieving ability. Their coat is short and curly, which protects them from the cold water.

Boykins are intelligent and eager to please, which makes them easy to train. They are incredibly loyal and make great family pets. In addition to duck hunting, Boykins is also used for upland game hunting, such as quail and pheasant.

They have a great sense of smell and are able to track and flush the game with ease. If you’re looking for a breed that can double as more than just a duck-hunter, and you like smaller dogs, this guy is definitely the choice for you.

Boykins typically range in price from $1,500 to $3,500.


  • Developed specifically for duck hunting but is incredibly versatile
  • Small and agile, making them great for hunting in small boats or marshy areas
  • Strong retrieving ability and great sense of smell


  • May be stubborn at times and require a consistent training approach
  • May be prone to certain health issues such as hip dysplasia and eye problems
  • May require regular grooming to maintain their curly coat
Cute wet funny Boykin Spaniel dog running on the grass
Boykin Spaniel

The Best Duck Hunting Dog For You Is Ultimately Subjective

When it comes to hunting dogs, these 5 breeds are definitely the best ones to look at for duck hunting, but you still have to make the best judgment call based on your own needs and preferences.

Regardless, they all have strong retrieving abilities and a water-resistant coat that makes them well-suited for marshy areas, cold water, and small boats. All breeds require consistent training, but with patience and dedication, you’ll end up with an intelligent companion who is loyal and eager to please.

When selecting a dog for duck hunting, it is important to consider their breed characteristics and training requirements. It is also important to work with a reputable breeder to ensure that the dog has the necessary health clearances and temperament for hunting. Do not buy from puppy mills, and always adopt if possible!

Good luck in the search for your next best friend and happy hunting!

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Man and dog on sandbar in river training dog to fetch by throwing a plastic duck into the water.
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