I address this question often and most often its because people want to hunt ducks as well as upland game with their dog when they are looking at this wonderful breed.

Universally I tell everyone that yes they love to retrieve in water as long as you introduce the retrieve and water correctly.

When we have summer puppies we always have them fetching quail from the water or across water before they go to their new homes.

In the field trials there is a test called WRT which is a deep water retrieve. Basically this means the water is deep enough the dog must swim instead of wading and they must retrieve a bird from the water.

I think most of my dogs would pass that easily. They love the water.

When the question comes up in regards to ducks I tell people that as long as it is early season or if they live in the south it won’t be a problem at all but they are not Chesapeake Bay retrievers they are tiny little power houses but they are not made for breaking ice and bringing back ducks in frigid water.

So let me start with a story from opening morning this year.

We went out in the cold with adrenaline and anticipation and as we came up to a tree up came a rooster. My friend shot and we weren’t quite sure if the bird was hit. I stepped forward and up came another rooster and I connected and it came down in the phragmites. Then another step produced another and it also came down and I heard a splash… It was wicked cold and first light and Jaz bounded into the phragmites and could be heard swimming. He came out with a rooster in his mouth, and then I sent him back in for a blind retrieve and he brought out another. Both were deep water retrieves. I was so proud of him.

Then this morning let me tell you about the Melanistic Rooster pheasant in the picture and Jaz the Dynamite little dog that I love.

He and Ginger were out hunting this morning in the snow with me and a friend and it was one of those morning like 20 years ago.

Heavy fog and low temperatures, a skiff of snow and gently falling flakes as we hunted.

Jaz went on point almost right out of the truck and I paused to let my companion shoot. He shot it and down it went and Jaz was hot on it for the retrieve. While he was out retrieving the bird Ginger went on point and I put up another Rooster and brought it down so we had a double up double down and double retrieve. The kind of morning I haven’t seen in a long time.

Another nice point from Ginger and another rooster in the vest for my friend with a nice retrieve.

Then a hard point by Jaz, I walk in and put up this melanistic pheasant and I connect with it and it lands out on the ice of the pond we are by. I try going out but the ice won’t hold and it is deeper than my boots.

I thought the ice probably would hold for the dog though so I send Jaz for the retrieve and he patters out on the ice and all is looking good. He picks up the bird and that added weight makes him break through the ice. My heart skips a few beats and I watch as he is trying to paddle back to me with this big old rooster weighing him down and he cant get out of the water and he can’t break the ice. He is just treading water trying to keep his head up and refusing to let go of the bird. I start to panic for my dog and toss my gun to my buddy and start breaking ice to run out and save him. Holy crap that water was cold! It was up over my knees and therefor my muck boots. They quickly filled with this icy water stabbing at my skin. I was shivering violently trying to get out to Jazz not knowing how deep it would get. I didn’t care I had to save my dog.

Ginger was concerned for me and for Jaz so she came running out on the ice as well until she broke through where Jaz was. I got to them numb and slowing down significantly and helped them back towards the bank which couldn’t have been much more than 70 feet or so but that cold water was kicking our butts fast.

That stinking little dog refused to give up that bird until he got up on the bank and handed it to my friend. He swam that bird all the way back through the icy water once I broke the ice out of the way. After handing off the bird he bolted out into the field to get back to work.

We had our four birds and it was time to get me and the dogs warm and dry, so we headed for the truck and then home.

So yes they can do ice water retrieves, but it isn’t what they are designed for, and I wish I had just leashed the dogs and got my chest waders out of the truck for that retrieve. It would have been the safest idea all around and best for me and the dogs. We do dumb things often and this counts as a dumb thing.

Yet I can’t help but be so proud of this little guy and all the times he has brought joy to me watching him do his job and he rewards me further with dinner.

When we got back to the house he may have gotten a hearty helping of my deep fried turkey and plenty of extra loves. Then I had to get to to work processing the birds in the still falling snow. Shivers aside these are the mornings the dogs dream of as well. I am confident they relive these moments in their dreams and waking hours as well. I do wonder though do they share these memories with their canine friends and tell their stories of bravery and great work?