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by Emma McCracken | Sep 17, 2020 | GUNDOGS, HUNTING
Dove-Hunting Doodle

Two Labs, two standard poodles and one Brittany-Doodle made a strong team for the recent dove opener in South Carolina.

If you’re looking for a family-loving, energetic, highly trainable pet that can also be helpful in the field, a Doodle may be right up your alley.

These days, when we hear of the poodle breeds, we may imagine tall, slim, pampered pups with questionable hairstyles prancing around a dog-show ring– but did you know poodles were once bred to be avid hunting companions?
Poodles have a long hunting history in Europe. They were originally bred to be water retrievers; the name “poodle” comes from the German word Pudelhund – “pudeln” means “to splash” and “hund” means “dog.” It was shortened to Pudel – or poodle, in English.

The breed was introduced to the United States in the late 1800s and at one time it was the most popular breed in America. But their hunting genetics were bred out of them as they became primarily show dogs and pets.

Poodles are known for their wool-like, tight-curled fur, their endless supply of energy and their family friendly demeanor. While these sound like the traits of an enjoyable family pet, they aren’t necessarily what hunters look for in a hunting dog. So why consider hunting with the modern poodle?

Scott Morrison snags a selfie with his two-year-old Brittany-Doodle, Hank, to commemorate Hank’s successful first dove hunt.

I recently had the opportunity to discuss this question with hunter and poodle-mix owner, Scott Morrison. A few years ago, Morrison would have sworn by the full-blooded Brittany, but has now hopped on the poodle bandwagon–or rather, the “doodle” bandwagon, as he is now the proud owner of Hank, a Brittany-poodle mix, a Brittany-Doodle.

Last week, two-year-old Doodle Hank went afield for his first hunting excursion with the big boys – a dove opener with two Labs and…wait for it…two standard poodles. And according to Morrison, Hank passed with flying colors.

“It took about six months of training to get Hank up to speed,” Morrison says. “With sporting breeds like Labs or pointers, training may take only four months.” Though Hank may have taken a little extra time to get the hang of hunting, he was bringing birds to hand (or close enough) with his sporting comrades by opening day.

However, Morrison wasn’t always convinced by the poodle breed. When asked what prompted him to look into the poodle after such success with Brittanys in the past, Morrison explains, “Well, once we discovered our daughter was highly allergic to dogs, our family had to consider alternate options.” With its fur type and moderate shedding, the Brittany simply wasn’t going to cut it as a hunting dog/family member. Morrison was now on the hunt for a breed that could offer the best of both worlds–a hunter by trade, but a loyal family dog at heart. Oh, and hypoallergenic.

Hank’s Brittany genes combined with those of the poodle make for the ultimate companion and hunting partner for Morrison and his family. He is built with the drive of the Brittany but has hypoallergenic fur and little-to-no shedding.

Plus, Hank’s stamina in the field outshone that of his Labrador buddies; the high-energy poodle in him had Hank always wanting more, and his athletic, tall frame kept him running circles around them.

Doodle Hank strikes a proud pose with his dove retrieve.

Hypoallergenic fur is great, but it comes at a price. When asked about Doodle fur in the field, Morrison shares, “We were lucky that our dove field was pretty clean for this hunt, but Hank would certainly have problems in a wooded area with a lot of brush or thickets.”

Sporting breeds often have slick, wiry fur that protects them from harsh environments. Poodles have dense, coarse fur with tight curls. While this is not ideal for hunting situations, the fur is still tight enough to keep stickers, twigs, etc. on the surface. Hank, however, with his combination of long and curly fur, is a magnet – he would need a deep combing after every retrieve. Or a close shave.

It is also important to keep in mind that when in the market for a poodle mix, it can be challenging to obtain certified information on their pedigree and hunting genetics. Hank, for example, may have more poodle than Brittany in him or vice versa. His mother was a hunter, but the father was not. This can be a bit of a gamble, but with high risk comes high reward.

“I would get another Doodle in a heartbeat,” says Morrison when asked if he would recommend a poodle mix to someone who may be interested in getting one. “Hank is a perfect fit for us because his role is a family member who hunts with me every now and then.” In other words, if you are looking for an eat-live-and-breath-hunting dog, a mixed breed like Hank may not be for you. But if you want a family-loving, energetic, highly trainable pet that can also be helpful in the field, a Doodle may be right up your alley.
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