Training gun dogs, writing about it and giving person to person advice, I am occasionally confronted by the individual who feels I have insulted his or her breed or personal gun dog, when I have simply listed that particular breeds strengths and weaknesses. Such people are usually blinded by either inexperience or misguided loyalty to their favorite breed or personal gun dog. Loyalty born from a lack of knowledge or experience can be understood, but when there are other reasons it can be difficult to deal with.
What is the best breed of gun dog? Answer, all of them! Gun dog breeds were created over generations, each for a reason. In fact, each gun dog type and breed is better equipped for a certain job than other types and breeds because of its innate skill set and its temperament. Being successful with your pup is largely a product of choosing the right type and breed for the kind of hunting you do and for your temperament.
As anecdotal evidence of this phenomenon, I once received a phone call from a new dog owner
who lived near the
Most examples are not this dramatic, but the failure to understand the strengths and weaknesses of a given breed is not unusual. Coming from individuals new to gun dogs, it can be understood and may not be breed blindness. Such individuals can sometimes be educated. However, it often comes from those who should know better. Amateur breeders with little or no experience with other breeds are often the worst offenders, insisting their breed is the best period. No breed is the best at everything! Yes, there are versatile breeds that do many things well. However, they often do not perform a specific task as well as a specialist at that task.
The best people to seek advice from on breed strengths and weaknesses are trainers who handle all types and breeds, and who have a vested interest in being honest and accurate. Assuming he or she has no other agenda, you should be able to get a factual explanation of the strengths and weaknesses of different breeds. Be open minded, listen and learn. I train all types and breeds, but as you may know, my personal grouse dogs are old fashioned dual-type English setters. They fit who I am and the kind of hunting I do. They are grouse specialists with a century of breeding for that purpose. They are not strong water retrievers, great trackers or assertive enough to take on four footed, furred prey. It is not part of their lineage, and that suits me fine. As a result, I have had a degree of success with them.
If you are new to gun dogs, seek advice as explained earlier. If you already have a dog or dogs from your favorite breed be willing to learn and understand their strengths and weaknesses based upon their genetics, and accept them for what they are. You will be more successful, and both you and your dogs will be happier. If you hunt a variety of game, and your dog is not adequate in some areas then consider a second dog or a more versatile breed next time.
Listing strengths and weaknesses of different breeds is not possible in this column, nor is it necessary. There are books that can help, and trainers willing to help. Like the little league parent whose son can do no wrong, the gun dog owner whose dog is the best at everything is a bore. Don't be one, and avoid those who are.