Bird dog

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A bird dog is a type of gun dog or hunting dog used to hunt or retrieve birds or other small game animals.[1] by tracking their scent in the air. Bird dog breeds are receptive to being trained to retrieve hunted birds.

Bird dog monument, Union Springs Alabama
The English Setter, a bird dog.

In the Southern United States the term bird dog refers to dog breeds such as the pointer, English setter, Red setter, German shorthair pointer, Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever, Brittany, and other pointing breeds.


In 1953, William F. Brown, editor of The American Field, compiled the necessary rules and regulations governing elections of the field trial dogs and their owners and trainers to a proposed Field Trial Hall of Fame.[2] Union Springs, Alabama is nicknamed the "Bird Dog Field Trial Capital of the World" and displays a life-size monument of an English Pointer in the town. It displays the names of eleven residents who been inducted into the Field Trial Hall of Fame.[3]

Pre-season training[edit]

Pre-season training is not as hard as it may seem. As an owner of a bird dog, Tony J. Peterson would recommend more than just walking or running the dog, but also taking the bird dog through water because an owner's pace of walking or running is generally slower than the pace of a dog. Doing this for a week or two is not enough conditioning; in fact he also would advise at least a month prior to season for exercise and conditioning.[4] Just as humans cannot win a race without practice and exercise, dogs also cannot retrieve and stay on task without proper training and conditioning.[4]

Dog breeds[edit]

Some dog breeds have a more natural feel for the sport and are not hard to find.[5] A common bird dog is the English Springer or Cocker. They are known as flushers and use their senses to hunt and flush the upland birds. They’re also known to be great water animals. Another pointing breed that is popular is the Brittany. This breed has been known to stay closer to the hunter yet have enough speed/pace for getting on wild game fast and efficiently. The English pointer or "pointer" is known to be a strong breed with their superior pace and nose. The English setter or "setter" is similar to the "pointer" but has a longer coat. Another great bird dog is the Retriever; this dog is an all-around good bird dog, this dog will flush birds from groves and hedges so that the hunter can shoot and the dog will retrieve. Their forte is waterfowling - duck/goose hunting. This is an option if the hunter wants to use their dog for more than just hunting.[5] As many pointers are very good hunters, the German wirehaired pointer is a dog that offers some versatility in what can be hunted. They have most of the retriever and pointing dog traits - kind of a jack-of-all-trades - master of few. Then there is always the Golden Retriever whose sole desire is to satisfy its owner and retrieve until there is nothing left to fetch.[5] Pointers, flushers and retrievers are the three most common bird dogs to have.[5]

Owner's responsibility[edit]

A hunter must know that being a bird dog owner takes time and effort to have success. As a bird dog owner, he or she will always take the time to make sure their dog has what it takes. However, it is not only the dog that needs to be diligent: the owner must be as well. As Narini Philip portrays in It’s a dog’s life; Opening day, a dog knows his limits and rules that an owner gives.[6] If the dog has set rules as to where it can sleep and what time it eats, then the dog will be a better hunter as will listen to commands such as fetch, stay or retrieve.[6] If a dog does not have exact specific commands it can cause confusion. Also, to avoid damage to the birds, the owner will make sure that the dog knows how “point dead,” as Jerome B. Robinson says, otherwise the bird will come back damaged.[7]

A bird dog hunter must know these three things to be successful: one, train the dog pre-season as well as during the season, two, choose the right dog for the right style of hunting, and three, a trainer must know how to properly care for their bird dog. With these three rules of thumb, a hunter should have success in their hunts, as well as the dog.


  1. ^ "bird dog". Memidex Dictionary/Thesaurus. Retrieved 2011-06-03.
  2. ^ The Bird Dog Foundation
  3. ^ "Bird Dog Monument". Union Springs Alabama. Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  4. ^ a b Peterson, Tony J. "Pre Hunt Gun Dog Training". Gun Dog. Retrieved 6 December 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d "Phesants Forever Bird Dog Breeds". Archived from the original on 2013-05-14.
  6. ^ a b Narini, Philip (1991). "It's a dogs life :Opening day". Canadian Medical Association Journal (160.2).
  7. ^ Robinson, Jerome B. (2008). "Notebook". Field and Stream: 1–2.

External links[edit]