Best Color Labrador for Duck Hunting: Rumors vs Facts

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Labradors have a long history as fowl hunting dogs. Still, the breed isn’t a monolith, and some Labs are better suited to hunting than others. So, can a Lab’s color indicate how skilled a hunter they’ll become?

No evidence exists to suggest a specific color Lab is best for duck hunting. While some statistics point to black Labs as being superior, there isn't a scientifically controlled study to support the claim that coat color makes the difference. However, black Labs do tend to be the most popular choice.

Read on to learn more about what actually does make the best hunting dog. I’ll break down myths about Labrador color, variant, and sex, and I’ll guide you through how to pick the best duck dog.

In this article

Why Is a Lab’s Color Irrelevant?

A statistic from the history of the IGL retriever championship notes a prevalence of qualified black Labradors over yellow Labradors between 1909-2011. With numbers that clear, how can I say that color is irrelevant to hunting skills? Well, as you’ll learn, the breed’s history is too complex to define by numbers alone.

A Lab’s color is irrelevant because it doesn’t indicate what hunting instincts a Labrador has. Furthermore, color prejudice in the Lab community may inhibit a Labrador’s success in trials. Therefore, the only aspect in which color becomes relevant is how a Lab’s coat mixes into their environment.

The early history of Labradors reveals plenty of color prejudice. For instance, black Labradors were the precursor to all other Labrador shades that we know today. Unfortunately, that contributed to a belief of black Labradors being superior to other coats.

Therefore, yellow Labradors were euthanized at birth because they were less desirable. So, one must consider that these euthanizations may have contributed to IGL’s numbers.

Luckily, yellow Lab advocacy groups significantly changed this perspective throughout the twentieth century. Today, yellow Labradors are more popular than black Labradors.

Still, the passing of time hasn’t changed certain prejudices in the Labrador community. For instance, while yellow Labradors have become accepted in the duck hunting community, chocolate Labradors are often dismissed as nothing more than show dogs.

However, determined trainers have disproved this theory. Ged Leeson’s chocolate Labrador, Coke, was the first to qualify for the IGL Retriever Championship in 2008. Moreover, Coke performed very well, winning several second and third place merits. 

All of this evidence suggests that while a coat can provide camouflage, it doesn’t influence a Labrador’s instincts and learning capabilities. There is no best color Lab for duck hunting! We know, though, that regardless of color, the Labrador is excellent at duck hunting.

Are American or British Labs Better at Duck Hunting?

If Lab color doesn’t determine hunting skills, are there other qualities that do? For instance, what about American vs. British Labradors? The variant is significant, but there’s no clear victor in this regard.

Neither American nor British Labs are better at duck hunting. On the contrary, the two variants hunt in different ways. American Labradors have more energy and work well marking with sight. English Labradors have a calmer temperament and thrive with scent-based marking.

You may have heard contrasting claims regarding American vs. British Labs. For instance, it is often stated that American Labs are bred for hunting while British Labs get bred for show. However, according to Old Oak Retrievers, this claim is too general to reflect the truth. 

Old Oak Retrievers reveals a nuanced look at both variants. They concede that American Labs can handle larger prey due to their size. However, they also state that both variants have all of the necessary skills that make great hunting dogs. Their differences reflect in different styles of hunting rather than the level of ability. For instance, American Labs excel in trials that utilize eyesight, while British Labs fare better with scent-based trials.

Therefore, you may find that the variant you pick reflects your preferred method of hunting. So, if you need a Lab that’ll chase down the game as soon as they spot it, you’ll like American Labs better. On the other hand, if you prefer a Lab that can quietly approach their game after it falls, the British Lab would be more your speed. It’s all a matter of approach.

Are Male or Female Labs Better at Duck Hunting?

So whether a Labrador is American or British can determine how they will hunt. Does a Labrador’s sex work the same way? You will find that this matter is a little complicated.

Neither male nor female Labs are better at duck hunting. All Labradors are unique, and generalizing each sex without getting to know an individual Lab’s personality will do you a disservice. Still, each sex has biological instincts that can inhibit hunting and require further consideration.

Certain traits tend to get associated with male and female dogs, respectively. For instance, male Labradors often get defined as bold, driven, and aggressive. On the other hand, the Labrador community often regards female Labs as malleable and fast learners. However, this is not always the case. It is possible to come across a female Lab that exhibits what some consider “male characteristics.” After all, every dog is unique.

However, the obstacles that come with each sex are more pronounced. For example, an unspayed female Lab may experience heat in the middle of the hunting season. Males, on the other hand, tend to pee everywhere to mark their territory. In turn, that means males may not hunt well in groups where they feel like they are competing with other dogs.

What Makes a Good Duck Dog?

I debunked a few myths about what makes a good duck dog, and now that you know that color, variant, and sex are shallow qualifiers, what traits matter? Allow me to explain.

What makes a good duck dog are qualities that include instinctual, like a strong drive, intelligence, and versatility. Other qualities are physical, like the Lab’s athleticism or the composition of their coat. Finally, experience in the field will elevate a Lab from good to great.

Some of the traits that make a great duck dog include:

  • Athleticism
  • Speed
  • A durable, quick drying coat
  • Focus and drive
  • Intelligence
  • Versatility

For more information, I highly recommend this article from Ducks Unlimited.

How Do I Choose the Right Duck Hunting Puppy?

Now that you know what makes a great duck dog, you’re ready to look for your puppy. However, finding the right duck hunting puppy takes time, and if you refrain from rushing, your efforts will yield great results!

You can choose the right duck-hunting puppy by doing diligent research. It’s vital to know your puppy’s lineage and how the mother and father hunt. Furthermore, getting to know your puppy’s personality requires multiple visits to your breeder. Some tests can even determine a puppy’s marking skills.

As you can see, there’s a lot of research that goes into finding a duck dog. I suggest you start by reaching out to serious Labrador owners in your community. They can direct you to well-respected breeders that understand what goes into great hunting dogs.

Furthermore, the best breeders will answer any questions you have about their broods. Reputable breeders breed for passion, not the money. They won’t pressure you to buy if you’re not ready.

Delta Waterfowl and Wildfowl Magazine have great articles that break down the research and purchasing process in more detail.

Final Thoughts

While Labrador color, sex, and variant may help you learn more about the breed, these traits also lead to generalizations. There is no scientific evidence to support a best color Lab for duck hunting.

On the other hand, when you consider the hunting you plan to do, your requirements become more specific, and your dog of choice should be compatible with you. Therefore, I recommend studying a puppy’s lineage, personality, and instincts when searching for the best duck dog.