QWe are in the process of getting a gundog puppy and we’re not sure on which breed to choose. My wife wants a Labrador, as she grew up with Labs and likes the breed. I would like a spaniel, but am not sure which one. I love the look of the Clumbers, but have been told that they have issues with their eyes. I would be interested in your opinion. I belong to a walk one, stand one syndicate. We shoot 10 days a year and have a really good time. All of us feel it would be better if we had more dogs on the shoot!
AHOWARD KIRBY replies: This will never be a cut and dry answer as there are so many considerations. Perhaps a good place to start is that more gundogs on your shoot may well improve its performance – but those dogs will need to be well trained and obedient if they are to achieve this goal. So you need to choose a breed that’s highly trainable. I would argue that all of the breeds are trainable, but the main consideration is that you choose the breed whose characteristics best suit the job.
It appears that you will need a dog that is happy to sit quietly on the peg and also work in the line. The easy ones to rule out are the HPRs and pointers and setters as they are not designed for this role, although, of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. Both retrievers and spaniels can be trained to fulfil your requirements. I’m assuming this is your first dog and for that reason my first choice for you would be a Labrador. Clearly, this will make your wife happy so this would be another reason to make this choice!
With regards to health, most breeds have particular issues that breeders do their very best to test for in order to avoid health problems in the puppies they produce. Use the Kennel Club guidelines and advice from the breed specialists to minimise any potential health problems.
Good luck with whichever puppy you choose, ensure you research the breed thoroughly and get good advice on house training and day-to-day management before you collect it.