Hunting dogs and humans have a long, storied history together. Some of the initially domesticated dogs were probably bred to assist humans in the capture and kill of game for food. Today, hunting dogs still give their human companions great assistance on their hunting journey. The term ‘hunting dog’ doesn’t explain an official breed group which is known by the American Kennel Club. Instead, it refers to dogs which either hunt with or for humans.
Hunters desire some characteristics and qualities in hunting dogs. They have a great sense of smell to be able to track and then retrieve the quarry as well. For longer trips, hunters will have to get a dog with a lot of stamina and energy to sustain the journey.
There’s almost nothing a hunting-line Labrador cannot carry out. Bred to be masters at fetching downed geese and ducks, they will be able to switch from woodcock to grouse or pheasants as fast as you could. You can teach a Labrador to “set” to point, to flush birds — all three as well — and as soon as the dog learns its task it will excel in it. Built into each Labrador is an unalterable desire to always please its master. And, as you have shown your Labrador retriever what you would like and how you would like it done, he does his best to function at the highest levels, at all times. In fact, when a Labrador makes a mistake, he can be found to be apologetic, making faces as well as carrying out the humble shuffle as he returns with his face on a, “Sorry, boss!” look. You can bet that he will amend next time.
One surprising part of a Lab Retriever’s personality is that it can quickly learn new tricks. Being a master of all hunting tactics, a Lab has also the unique capability to adapt to unusual cases. For instance, all of my Labs had to learn to perform the “low crawl,” a tactic we must use as we sneak up on open field farm ponds in which geese and mallards are the target. Since the loafing birds can easily spot us if we just walked in on them, I had to show my Labradors (by example) the way to creep into range on elbows and knees. This is a great trick to first practice in the living room, and across the back yard. It will possibly take more than a few sessions for the Lab to get the idea, however, after the initial “real time” experience, a lot of Labs appear to understand the idea and are swift to hunch up and also do the low crawl on command.