Several years ago our family had a Cocker Spaniel. It was purchased for the family and was a nice dog. At that time, I had not owned a dog that did any hunting….
I happened to notice that as this dog grew, he was really interested in the birds flying by…and his nose was always down on walks - going a few yards to the right, and then to the left, and back and forth. He always looked 'birdy' to me. He would scare up a bird in the park, and then look at me like I should be doing something. Sounds odd, I know…but that is how it felt.
I had an opportunity to go on a pheasant hunt with a friend who owned a Black Lab, and we had been talking about my dog and his behavior and wondered if I was 'reading' this dog right. So, we got together for the hunt, and as soon as my dog hit the ground, it started working the field like he was a trained pro. My friend and I shook our heads. It was strange, but it was great at the same time.
End result - that dog kicked up almost all the birds we got that day, and became a wonderful pheasant dog. I got a lot of funny looks as I would be out with this Cocker…and keeping him clean was a chore with that hair - but well worth it.
I guess there are some dogs that naturally hunt, some bred to hunt, some that are trained to hunt, some that 'hunt' but can't do it well….and still others that are trained and are amazing to watch, etc.
I've seen all types at the refuges…and at private clubs as well. My hope for those with a dog is that they give that dog the best chance at becoming a good hunter/retriever by providing the necessary training and reinforcement, and recognize their dog's abilities for what they are - and just as important, for what they are not.