5 Good Small-Breed Bird Hunting Dogs

The late Bill Tarrant, who was once called the “poet laureate of dogdom, ” had a soft place in his heart for the smaller breeds. He called them vest-pocket dogs and admired their lively spirit and work ethic. Here’s a look at five such breeds, any one of which would make a good hunting companion.

English Cocker Spaniel

Hunting upland birds with these silky-coated rockets is so much fun, you’ll be looking over your shoulder to see if the cops are coming. There’s a reason the popularity of field-bred English cockers has soared in this country over the past 20 years: They don’t hunt the cover—they burn it down.

Strong suits: Upland bird hunting in tight cover, jump shoot­​ing waterfowl
Energy level: High
Size: 20–35 lb.
Ante: $800–​$1, 200 for a puppy out of top bloodlines

Boykin Spaniel

Boykins have a mischievous streak a mile wide—approximately the same size as the swath these perpetual motion machines cut when they’re making game. The state dog of South Carolina, the Boykin tolerates warm conditions well, and it’s the quintessential “pick-up dog” for plantation-style quail and dove shoots.

Strong suits: Retrieving on land or water, small-cover upland hunting
Energy level: High
Size: 30–40 lb.
Ante: $800–$1, 000

American Water Spaniel

One of the few AKC-recognized breeds of American origin, the AWS was developed by marsh gunners in Wisconsin who needed an all-purpose hunter small and agile enough not to rock the boat. Typically a “one-man dog, ” the AWS responds best to a trainer who possesses a light touch as well as a lively sense of humor.

Strong suits: Medium-duty waterfowling, general “rough shooting”
Energy level: Moderate
Size: 30–45 lb.
Ante: $800–$1, 200

French Brittany

As its partisans will tell you, the French Brittany is the Brittany as it was intended to be: a small, close-working pointing dog that retrieves naturally and requires little training to become an effective hunting companion. This standard is in contrast to the leggier, wider-ranging Britt developed by American breeders.

Strong suits: All-purpose upland bird hunting
Energy level: Moderate
Size: 30–40 lb.
Ante: $500–$1, 500

Jack Russell Terrier

Small enough to fit in the pocket of a waxed cotton jacket, these terriers are lightning in a milk bottle, and their prey drive—the thing that makes hunting dogs hunt, basically—is second to none. Scoff if you will, but some very serious sportsmen have used Jack Russells to do everything from flush grouse to retrieve ducks as large as mallards and pintails.

Strong suits: Situational flushing and retrieving

Source: www.fieldandstream.com