Not to be confused with Freestone
Having lost both our male then female GR's in the span of 7 months (they were litter mates) and being only a couple years from retirement, with plans to RV travel, we thought it time to take a break having a dog. We had a GR's for nearly 26 years, so not having them in our lives just feels strange. As is probably the case for many, you tell yourself that you don't want to go through that hurt and sense of loss again. We said that after losing our first dog (almost 13 years of age), but only lasted two months before we were looking. We lost our female in February and once again are weakening...although perhaps its not so much weakening as simply accepting that having a dog(s) is part of who we are?

One big difference between last time and now is considering plans for extended RV travel. No doubt it will restrict how flexible one can be on where you stay and what you do... tradeoff's... life's full of them. I would love to hear from any forum members who are RV traveling with dogs (start a PM if you prefer).

So this past week, my wife has started looking at ads and we've been discussing this. My gut tells me we won't be able to go several years w/o a dog (until after retirement and a year of so of travel)... so now another big question... what breed? We absolutely have loved our GR's. I think the only other breed in the running is a Lab. Having recently gotten into upland bird hunting, I would like a hunting companion (our prior GR's probably would have been great, but I wasn't into hunting back then). So my question to the forum is, which would you choose and why?


Kaari White

Active Member
I made this decision for the 3rd time in my life in February and when I brought home a yellow lab puppy. I had considered ALL gundog breeds, common and rare. I am an avid upland hunter and my first two dogs were both labradors. I ended up choosing another lab for a bunch of reasons, but primarily because I like labs and I'm very familiar with training them and their breeding, so finding what I wanted was easier than starting over with a new breed. Choosing the breed was the easy part; it took years to find the right breeding.

Since you're open to other breeds, if I were you I'd consider the American Water Spaniel or Boykin Spaniel. They're a smaller breed that would be well suited to traveling via RV. They're also great hunting dogs. They're also usually not very hyper and are easy to train. An English cocker might also be a good choice, but I'm not sure there are any breeders in the area.

I was strongly considering getting a French Brittany, but decided against it because I wanted a dog that was a little more laid back and I've yet to meet a brittany with an "off switch." I really like their looks and size, but their personality just didn't fit me. Also, for where/what I hunt, a pointing dog is not really an advantage.

Once you decide on a breed, the fun begins of trying to find the right litter. I weighed my options and decided on a primiliarly conformation bred litter. My two other dogs are from field trial breeding. I wanted a more laid back dog, on the smaller side, with potential for running hunt tests and obedience competitions. So far, so good! She's great in the drift boat and loves feathers in her mouth.

Good luck!

zen leecher aka bill w

born to work, forced to fish
We put our lab to sleep last March and then this January got a new lab puppy. Because of being over in Moses Lake we picked a yellow lab in hopes it would be able to handle the heat better. Our old black lab overheated too much but then she did have a very thick coat of fur and fat.

Jim Ficklin

Genuine Montana Fossil
There are some great breeds out there & Labs will always hold a very special place in my heart. That being said, 2 years after losing Maggie (who was a spectacular Lab in every way), I was blessed with Hank, a Braque du Bourbonnais. Gentle like a Golden, easy to train like a Lab, a versatile breed (does it all), quite possibly more devoted to me than any dog with which I've ever shared my life, a superb Upland dog, on the small side (Hank is 44#), minimal (and I do mean minimal) shedding/low maintenance, & a great family/house dog. He travels well and displays no aggressive tendancies (unless you're a cat in HIS yard, tho he plays well with my Daughter's cat around which he was raised.). He is somewhat shy around other big dogs until he gets to know them, but great around little dogs from the get-go. On the minus side, with no undercoat, Bourbonnais don't tolerate Arctic conditions well, but neither do I any more, lol. They are also hard to find (Elk Run Kennels in Star, Idaho is the closest reputable breeder of which I am aware (and Lonn Kuck produces fantastic dogs!). Lastly, like any other dog from quality lineage, they command a typical $1K price, but you do get what you pay for. As for hunting, at 2+ years of age, Hank holds his own against more seasoned dogs & has been doing that since midway thru the season last year when he "put it all together." Best of luck in your search.


Not to be confused with Freestone
Interesting Jim, I've never heard of this breed. Thanks all for the feedback -- been away on business and just getting caught up. My wife keeps leaning back to a GR and, since she is the one who spends the vast majority of the time with and taking care of our dogs, I'll go with her preference...just so long as it's a large larger breed with hunting in its genes. We're definitely taking our time as our last two definitely set the bar high.


Idiot Savant
I'm the oddball here for sure, but my current and next dog are both Standard Poodles. Sasha is 12 this year and I dread the day she goes. But I know the breed now and I only scratched the surface with her. They are water dogs, never shed, smart as can be, and loving to boot. I will formally train the next one to retrieve and hunt grouse.

Check them out, you may be pleasantly surprised...

Upton O

Blind hog fisherman
I currently have the best dog I've ever owned, a yellow Lab that is 71/2 now. She's great in the blind, is fun in the field, and helped a lot of combat veterans get over their initial anxiety of coming to my office to start the healing process. The thought of the "next dog" has creeped into my thoughts at times, I push them out, mostly, but when they stay I find myself thinking about a standard poodle. As Roper said, there are some great hunting poodles but I doubt I'll hunt my next dog. I'm getting closer to a place in my life where I'll be doing other things than hunting waterfowl, not sure why that is. Maybe it's just a passing phase.

Anyway, Labs are hard to beat but a friend who breeds and trains hunting golden retrievers, and was once a staunch Lab guy, is now a converted golden enthusiast. Having watched his dogs work in training, they are just beautiful racing out on marks and blinds and yet they retain that "easy house pet" demeanor. My friend said he truly believes a golden has more heart than a Lab. Not sure I agree but I don't know enough about dogs to make that assessment, but his dogs sure work nice.

Good luck in your research and enjoy retirement, it will open lots of opportunities if you want them.

zen leecher aka bill w

born to work, forced to fish
You'll need a pair of dogs for after you retire. Our new pup is now 5 months and I'm still looking for that "off switch" the breeder alluded to. Unless this is the "off switch" position and the on is a hyper-drive.
To help get over the heart break of a family member, family pet, hunting and fishing buddy passing on.
When my oldest dog gets 8 or so years old I get a new puppy, so I'm not without a dog for 20 years now.
This doesn't mean I don't get misty once in a while when I think of those old friends and loved ones.

Alex MacDonald

that's His Lordship, to you.....
We have two Goldens, and I can't comprehend life without them. They're my kids! Our oldest, Fiona, is 8 and Ailan will be 7 next month. I've considered other breeds, but realize they'd be a substitute, so it's another Golden for us, probably two, since it's great having the girls around. It does get a bit cramped on our bed, though, with two 80lb dogs on it. Then again, it's always a "two dog night" here!


Not to be confused with Freestone
Well, my wife is, surprising to me, leaning towards a yellow lab. She's thinking Max & Hallie simply left to high a mark and hole to fill for another GR (or two). Perhaps if we change breed, then after he/she is 2+ years old get another GR...it might work out better. No doubt the house is simply not the same.

I hear labs are a bit more bull headed and energetic than GR's... or is that just poppycock? Male or female??... we're leaning female because if we do get another GR, my wife want's a male... Max was her shadow.

Good to hear all the comments, it helps with the transition and just confirms what we all agree on about dogs... they are man's (and womens) best friend.

Alex -- we tried the two GR's in bed and found that being pinned under the sheets so tight your farts squeaked was just not comfortable. We regulated that to lightening storms and 4th of July.


Active Member
Lab puppies are just little assassins, and they are all troublemakers until they are older. All labs want to do is have fun, and they will create their own if you do not provide any, which usually involves chewing something up. I am with Gary, when my 12 year old lab died a couple of years ago I bought a new one within a year. The middle dog was 7 years younger than the old dog, and now the new addition is about 6 years younger than my current oldest. I only get labs at this point. My spouse has a husky and that is a very sweet dog, but they are more refined and polite. She calls the two labs "the circus." That being said, the labs are easy to train and follow orders. They do what they are told to do if you spend some time with them in training.

Alex MacDonald

that's His Lordship, to you.....
Dogs are here to teach us how to be the humans they believe we really can be. and to chew your shoes! I don't care for little yappers like yorkies and such though. Give me a real dog who can hold his own in the cattails, making a retrieve on a mallard, or in the covert, flushing a grouse. There's something different about the bond between hunting partners, and I've never looked at my dog as just a tool, like my shotguns. My training mantra has always been "care for your dog first". Everything else is secondary.
Choose your breeder wisely. There is a very wide variance in labrador types and it's impossible to generalize. I personally like a middle of the road dog both in personality and conformation, so I found a breeder whose goals matched that. I now have a 6 month old who never cries in her crate on road trips, sleeps in the drift boat, unexcited about strangers, but still goes crazy over birds. Never a troublemaker - hopefully she stays that way! The breeder she came from is WindyCanyon located in the Yakima canyon area. She's out of a CH x MH and a Int'l CH x JH.

Male vs. female... Males are usually easier to train because they want to please you more than a female will. I think females are smarter, but will challenge their handler more since they will sometimes think they know a better way to get things done. I have one of each, no preference either way although the non-leg lifting is pretty nice with the female!
I'm with ya on the male, female thing.
I'm now in the market for a male golden for a mate to my new member of the family.
The pair I had before were unbelievable in the field.
One would take one side of the swamp and one would take the other, then push the birds back to me. That was something I could not have taught them to do.
The female pair I have now never split up.
So look out rooster, cause if they get your scent they will track you down and if I can keep up you are mine.

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