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Thread: First Bird dog, lab mix okay?

  1. #1

    Default First Bird dog, lab mix okay?

    The wife has her heart set on getting a dog. My conditions are that if we get one 1. it has to be a duck dog, and 2. We have to train it as a bird dog. We'd like to get a lab, but I've seen a lot of labs that just get too big for the house we have. We're in a great place to run around, but I don't want a dog bigger than 60 pounds in the house. We've been looking at some lab-beagle mixes, or maybe another (smaller) mix with another bird dog breed. I'm curious if a lab mix will work as a duck dog, or if it's imperative that you go with a purebred. Is that a bad idea? It seems like it would be a good compromise between a house dog, and one that would hunt too.

    Also, anybody out there train their retrievers to hunt upland (grouse and ptarmigan) in addition to waterfowl? I hunt both, but I understand that you might need to train a dog for both scenarios, which might confuse them. Any thoughts on this appreciated. This will be my first dog since I was a child. Thanks-

  2. #2

    Default

    The first thing that came to mind when I read your post was that labs may have been bred to the size they are for a specific reason. One is that a smaller dog cannot handle a strong current as well.

    Alaskan labs do tend to run on the big side, though. Perhaps you could look out of state. I'm sure you could find one somewhere that would stay in the range you want.

    When we bought our chocolate, we had contacts in PA that checked out several breeders in the area. We ended up with a dog whose parents had both hunted upland, and so he was born with a pointing instinct. He is currently training to pass his senior hunt tests. He is an excellent dog, both on upland game and waterfowl, and training him would have been more difficult if we hadn't picked him for his good bloodlines. If you really want a good hunter, don't compromise on this.

    I'd give you the name of the breeder, but our dog is 85 pounds. We wanted a big one. But we also picked a dog with a laid-back personality. A large well-mannered house pet beats a small demon-dog any day.
    Last edited by ladysmith; 05-29-2007 at 00:47.

  3. #3
    Member Burke's Avatar
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    Default Get what you pay for...

    I am a believer that you can train almost any dog to do anything you want...within reason. However, if you want a good bird dog you have a better chance if you get a well bred dog to start with. You can hunt both upland and waterfowl with a Lab. It is not that confusing for them. You have to do the work to train them, which is for me, more than half the fun. If you look for a well bred Lab and you do your research, you will find the one you want. Be patient ! If you look under the AKC standards...

    Height: 21 - 22 inches (at shoulder) for females, 23-24 inches (at shoulder) for males.
    Weight: 55 -70 pounds (females), 65-85 pounds (males)) .

    ...80 pounds is pushing the limits.
    I am not saying the standards are the only rule to go by, but many people want bigger dogs and bigger is not always better. Bigger dogs, in my opinion break down physically sooner. (learned by experience) I have seen some wonderful Labs who are in the low end of the pound range and do a great job. They hunt pheasants all day and retrieve big geese in big water and fields.
    Good luck glad to talk more if you want...

  4. #4
    Member Sierra Hotel's Avatar
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    Default Wetland Retrievers

    AKJOB, I'm on my 2nd and 3rd labs, both of which I got from Baron and Alicia at Wetland Retrievers in Palmer (357-LABS, www.wetlandretrievers.net) - they run a retriever rescue organization.

    We went with our first lab more than 10 years ago because we wanted 1) a dog that was 80% pet and good with kids, and 2) a good hunting partner for me the rest of the time. Labs are right up that alley.

    One advantage to picking up a dog at Wetlands is that most of their dogs are at least a year old, so you have an idea as to what size they'll end up. On the flip side of that argument, you miss out on socializing your pup, which can have impacts down the road if the dog has any "issues". But in favor of getting one of their dogs is that you are "rescuing" a retriever (and sometimes they are full blooded, just not "documented" by the AKC).

    Labs make excellent waterfowl and upland game dogs. My first lab was probably better on upland game than she was on waterfowl - but she was pretty good on those too!

    As for going mixed breed, dogs are bred to maintain desirable traits withing the bloodlines. That's the significant advantage to sticking with a "purebred" - but remember that purebred does not guarantee a good dog, it only increases the likelihood that your dog will have certain genetic traits. There's good and bad dogs (insert your definition of "good" and "bad" here ) of every breed. It's a gamble almost as big as having kids - you just really don't know what you're going to get until they're grown . . .

    Have fun with the process of selection, and welcome to the fraternity/sorority of owning a retriever . .

    P.S. Naula, the yellow is 70 lbs, and Rudy, the chocolate is 76 lbs. As for "large" labs, the majority of large labs you see are overweight, not overly large. Monitoring their caloric intake is crucial, as is making sure they get a LOT of exercise. And as for having a large dog around the house, it's all about training. A well behaved large dog is usually less intrusive than a badly behaved small dog.

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    Last edited by Sierra Hotel; 05-29-2007 at 11:32.

  5. #5
    Member Burke's Avatar
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    Default Well said Sierra Hotel

    P.S. Naula, the yellow is 70 lbs, and Rudy, the chocolate is 76 lbs. As for "large" labs, the majority of large labs you see are overweight, not overly large. Monitoring their caloric intake is crucial, as is making sure they get a LOT of exercise. And as for having a large dog around the house, it's all about training. A well behaved large dog is usually less intrusive than a badly behaved small dog.

    Good advise and well said Sierra Hotel...

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    Member Big Al's Avatar
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    I like labs too. You just have to go through a lot of them to find a good one due to all the backyard breeding. 30 or more years ago I got off the beaten path and switched over to Chessy's. No one likes them, hard headed, water crazy, possessive one man dogs. Yes true American breed. Did I mention the wet smell? Yep all the things to hate in a dog. I guess that why I like them, easy to find vary birdy pups. The people that breed them have gotten pass all the downsides stuff and remain true to the breed. The best place to shop for a pup is through "The Retriever Field Trial News". You want a smaller dog, then buy a *****. The cheapest thing you can do with a dog, is buy one! the 750.00 to 1000.00 you pay for a pup over the 12 to 15 years is the cheapest part. Buy good books, "Training the Retriever to Handle", "Hey Pup Fetch It Up". Training starts on day one, when you get them home. You have to have a good knowledge of training methods before that magic moment. If you can not afford to spend a minimum of one hour a day in training then rethink your need for a hunting dog. Just keep in mind, that nothing in life gets any better than when your dog delivers a bird to your hand!

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    Member GITDEMBARS's Avatar
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    Default Gotta agree with Big Al

    I have a Chesepeak Bay Retreiver to and love him. They do have an undeserved bad rap. He was grasping basic commands the second day I had him. I had always heard they were hard headed but after a lot of research I found that just wasn't true. People think that because they try to train them like a Lab or are just so used to Lab behavior. Chessies don't do well for others i.e. you have to train them yourself. They listen to their owners/ family and that is it.
    Sorry for getting off topic, I just always have to jump at the chance to brag about my Chessies. Just hate to see someone choose a dog just because it's what everybody else on their street has.

  8. #8

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    Nobody wants to say it ...so I will. Do not go with the beagle/lab cross. As a breed beagles are often looked at as not being very smart, lovable yes but .... As stated before the initial $$ will be the cheapest part. Call a couple of breeders and tell them specifically what your preferences are. ....buy the books before the dog and follow the advice given to the letter, if you can join a club even better. It really is not all that hard to train a good dog if YOU have the discipline. Labs are a great choice for all around family pet/hunting dogs. Chessies tend to be a little more possessive of thier "families" not necessarily a bad thing, very intelligent breed for the most part, tend to be a little bigger than labs; good, tough, sturdy, smart and make great hunting partners.

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    Member wolfkiller's Avatar
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    Default 45lb lab

    I have a 45 lb female black lab. I have trained her to fetch upland and water fowl. She is not a competition dog but does her jobs well. Her only down fall is she has trouble carying geese on the land. I plan to breed her next heat if you are interested.
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  10. #10

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    Lab/Beagle mix???
    I don't understand the philosphy behind that.
    There are many field trial labs (sub-breed) especially the females that are around 60lbs.

    I also don't understand your size limit, I have a 90lb male chessie that lives in my house and I bet he doesn't take up much more room then a 60lb dog. He's not spastic like most labs bouncing off the walls and furniture.

    In my case my dog lives with me, goes everywhere with me and is a titled/hunting fool so I don't buy into the old adage of a hunting dog can't be a companion so that shouldn't be a concern.

    I have attended many a hunt test and have see every kind of dog that a guy was willing to pay the entry fee on to run and my advice would be if you want a retriever then get a retreiver not a mutt.

    Good Luck

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    I have 3 female labs and they range from 55 to 65 pounds. I live in Fairbanks which dictates that they are house dogs for part of the winter and it has never been a problem. They hunt both upland and waterfowl quite well. My advice would be find a breeder you trust with the type dog want and go from there. If looking for a lab don't forget all of the health clearances both parents should have. There are a lot of good labs in the state and shipping pups in is not to much of a problem as well. Explore the in state retriever clubs for both breeders and training groups. There are several clubs in the state.

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    Member Big Al's Avatar
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    I would like to add a little more insight, if you will train up your pup to be a house dog and let him live inside with you, come fall hunting season your poor old dog is going to suffer. The water temperatures and the fact his coat never had the chance to grow out, is going to make it vary hard on him or her. I don't think we get the fact of this at times when we think we are doing our best hunting buddies a great service by letting them live indoors (winter excluded of course). When you have any pet that lives indoors and you have pet caused damage, the cause is readily found by looking in the mirror. You have to be top dog in your house, or the pet will be. This is why training is the key element. Their is an aside to a well trained retriever we never talk about. The admiration your hunting pals have for the dog. This is something never forgotten, in fact the best of the well trained dogs, people think they just came that way ready made.

  13. #13

    Default Field Trial Labs

    I was lucky enough to have been able to spend about 6 years of my adult life working for the owners, and around the best competition dogs in the world, Grouse Wing Kennels, George Hickox, field trial english springer spaniels and Sugarfoot Kennels, David Mosher with the labrador retrievers.
    Find a field trial bred litter.
    If you primarily are an upland hunter and spend some time duck hunting and are an active hunter, a field trial springer will do everything you need and more.
    If on the other hand you are primarily a duck hunter, a field trial bred labrador will do everything you will need.
    The wife and I own 6 labs 2 are certified cadaver dogs all live in the house with us

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    [QUOTE=Rav'n Mainiac;110445]
    If on the other hand you are primarily a duck hunter, a field trial bred labrador will do everything you will need.


    Please give me your insight on a field trial lab - and tell me why they are the way to go compared to all the other labs for the guy wanting his first hunting dog. What specific qualities do they have that make them a better hunting dog for the average family over a mere master hunter, UKC finished dog, or a well trained meat dog. What exactly is a field trial dog?

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    Member Big Al's Avatar
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    I hope I'm not speaking out of turn here, please bear with me.

    We spend a heck of a lot of time training our dogs. I want to have the best chance I can get, getting a pup that has the breeding to make the training grade required. I have proven to myself, the odds are better getting that good candidate pup from proven parents.

    I've had pups that made great family dogs when they could not hack the training. The families that I gave them to, loved them as they were well behaved dogs.

    If that pup does not show me a four bird memory, we soon part company.

    I have spent many thousands of dollars on washout pups from field trial lab parents. The odds are high that you will get that dog that you will have to give away. But they are a lot lower than the pup that comes from the parents of non AFC champions.

    I know that sounds heartless and mean, but that has been my life long experience.

  16. #16

    Default Field trial labs

    A discussion of why they are better and why IMHO. The owners of the campaigned and titled field trial dogs and hunt test dogs have a huge investment in time and money, typically in excess of $1000/ month for training and trials. The physical health of these dogs is vital and is heavily scrutinized, who wants to spend $30-40K over 4 years only to have your dogs health fail, ie. hips, eyes, elbows, etc. The dogs that are successful are typically the best communicators as well as being great atheletes, working with the handler to try to figure out the game. What ever the game you want to teach your dog is, these dogs work at trying to understand how to play it.
    The purpose of looking for "field trial dogs" probably should have been written as, stay away from non-working types of titles, ie. CH, CD, CDX,, my bad, sorry.

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    Big Al - I couldn't disagree with your last post any more - there are other ways to prove a dog besides a field trial. There are thousands of remarkable dogs out there that have never been entered in a field trial whom have good genes to pass on for the enhancement of the breed.

    Mainiac - Thanks for your title clarification - A huge amount of work goes into a UKC finished title or a AKC master hunter and for the most part those are some great dogs. Most people would be more that happy to hunt with dogs at the senior and seasoned level.

    AKJOB - sorry to hijack your thread - as you see there are a lot of varying opinons. Look at the parents of the dog you are considering and if they are what you want you have the best chance of getting just that. Look for temperament, trainability, health clearances, hunting ability.

  18. #18
    Member Big Al's Avatar
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    "Big Al - I couldn't disagree with your last post any more - there are other ways to prove a dog besides a field trial. There are thousands of remarkable dogs out there that have never been entered in a field trial whom have good genes to pass on for the enhancement of the breed."

    "Maniac - Thanks for your title clarification - A huge amount of work goes into a UKC finished title or a AKC master hunter and for the most part those are some great dogs. Most people would be more that happy to hunt with dogs at the senior and seasoned level."


    Please name the dogs that have become master hunters and then become American Field Trial Champions? The dogs that became National Field Trial Champions?

    The only people I have known that have held your position are people who's dogs could not make it in AKC trails, went on to Hunter to try and salvage something from the time and money they put into the dog.

    The problem with all of this is people have wallets to worry about over the betterment of the breed.

    I'm sure you are not one of those types that worry more about money before the breed. Nor one that has a financial interest in selling pups to the hunting public.

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    Big AL -
    I was going to reply to this but I don't have the time or energy -

    You are absolutely correct - All dogs that have not been in a field trial and won should immediately be spayed or nuetered as they are worthless to the gene pool.

  20. #20

    Default Retrieverism

    As I see there are a lot of opinions into selecting a retriever. Most opinions are good, others bad.
    I must explain that not all registered retrievers are the same.
    There are English lines which are from original British stock. They are larger framed and have a blocky body style. They tend to be mellower in temperament. These dogs are the ones you see in show rings because they match the breed standard in conformity. From my experience in training, these dogs have the capability to earn FT and HT titles but tend to lack in drive and stamina.
    Due to the American version of FT and HT a more competitive retriever had to come about. A more high energy dog was needed to handle the training in order to run out to 300 to 400 yds multiple times. In American field trials the dog that runs the straighter line to the fall or blind with the least amount of handling is going to be the winner.
    But most folks out there don't understand that there is a difference. They assume a registered lab is the same as the next registered lab. They are not. The average person out there doesn't have the training experience to handle the amount of energy that an American field lab has. If that energy isn't burnt off or focused contructively this dog will become destructive and a hand full for the unprepared owner.
    Retrievers have a lot of energy. It is just part of the breed. Some "lines" just have less. A person looking for a calmer dog may not want to select a pup from field lines. A list of pedigree title abbreviations is available from the AKC website. It will help you to understand if the pedigree you are looking at is field or show.
    As far as retriever mixes. I have trained many. What makes a good retriever training candidate is a strong retrieving drive, a willingness to please and a willingness to work with the handler. If they have these traits I can train them to hunt.
    I too train for competition but here's my opinion again. You don't need a competition dog to hunt birds. Yes us folks that like to play the game do but come on. I'll hunt with anybody that has a retriever steady to shot, goes when sent and returns bird to hand. In a large hunting party of 4 or more you definitely need a more experienced dog. The dog won't be able to keep up with the number of birds going down. Sometimes 5 to 8 birds down in a single pass. In a large party most retrieves are going to be blind retrieves. So you will need a dog that can handle.( take cast)

    Also, don't forget dogs are social animals. They are meant to be pack members. Not isolated from it. Doing so could lead to behavioral problems. Your family is your dogs pack. Now a days we spend more time indoors due to TV and the kids are unfortunately spending hours playing video games. Yes I keep my retrievers with me indoors and outdoors when I'm outdoors. Come late hunting season when it starts to chill I simply put a vest on them.
    Big Al. There are many retrievers that have gone the route of MH to AFC.
    Most ameuter trainers choose that route because it is easier for them to learn to be a handler. Once they and their dog have learned then they try for the FT's.
    As far as wash outs. Most good pro trainers will be able to tell within the first couple of months if the dog will hack it for competition. Sometimes some dogs don't have the drive.
    From my experience in most cases a dog is washed out by the owner. Because the owner is expecting the dog to learn too much too fast. Or expecting the trainer to put more on the dog than what it can handle. It's like teaching a kid to ride a bike with training wheels and then the next day expect that child to peddle with out them and keep up with you while you run up front screaming at him or her to do so. Some owners are competitive and expect to have a derby dog at 7 or 8 months of age. Not all dogs learn at the same speed. I have trained labs washed out by other pros. Some just take a different approach.
    Good luck in your selection and happy hunting.

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