About Pointing Labs

The Breed


The Labrador retriever was originally bred to be a “non slip retriever”.   That is still the #1 purpose of a Labrador, and the only purpose, according to some registering Clubs and breed organizations.  They have been historically bred to be an outstanding retriever on land and on water.  They are also probably the #1 dog used on pheasant in this country, and the hunter expects the dog to do much more than just retrieve the birds; they have to search, use their nose and find them first.  To deny this use of the Labrador as a quartering, flushing and/or pointing dog, is to deny the breed itself.  So you don’t use your dog to hunt pheasants?  Too bad for you, you are missing a great experience!   The Labrador is a great bird “finder”, and quartering dog.  This ability and talent should be added to the official “use of the Labrador”.  To say they are only “retrievers”, and should not be expected to even be used as a quartering/flushing/pointing dog is a  big mistake. 

Through the years especially in the United States and Canada, the Labrador has become more and more popular as a dual purpose upland hunting/waterfowl dog.  That is, the dog is used to search and hunt IN FRONT of the hunter, actually searching out birds for the gun.  The dog use’s its excellent nose, and desire for the bird to find, track, and put up birds for the hunter to shoot.  The dog then acts as a retriever, in fetching any downed birds, dead and/or crippled, to the gun.   As far as I know, there is no recognition by the AKC, or the Labrador Club that in fact, Labradors are used to search out, and put up game for the gun.  It is well known to hunters over a period of many years, that the Lab is in fact a great quartering dog, with a superior nose, great attitude, and desire to work finding birds.  They are far more than just a “non slip retriever”.   They are the #1 dog used in many of the now popular “hunt competitions”, in the flushing division, between dogs and hunters, such as “Tournament Hunts”.  Many of these dogs hunt, point and then flush the bird in competition, which may even give the hunter an advantage.   Why wouldn’t any Labrador fancier be proud of that fact?

We have trained, bred, and hunted our Labradors now for over 45 years.   We have used our Field Champions as pheasant and quail dogs, as well as waterfowl hunters.  The fact that  many Labs, especially of field trial lines, will quarter and hunt for pheasant and quail, and then naturally point and hold birds, has been well known to hunters, trainers, and any field trailers who happen to upland hunt their dogs.   Though many maintain that the breed is “strictly a retriever”, that is a point of view which seriously limits the abilities of this great dog.  Most of these people 1) don’t upland hunt  2) field trial or show, and don’t hunt at all or 3) only waterfowl hunt.   The fact that many Labs will point birds does not make them a “pointing breed”.  They are first and foremost a retriever on land and water.  The fact that they can also be used successfully on upland game as “bird finders”, and the fact that some point naturally, only brings to light the diversity of this great breed.  I for one, like to hunt over a Lab that points naturally.  I am slow to get my gun up, and when a big rooster flushes unexpectedly, I tend to just stand there and look at it.  If a dog shows a point, then I am able to get myself ready and into position.  I have an idea that a bird is “right there”, and the startle factor is gone.   All of our dogs that “point”  then flush the bird, which most do quickly, without command.   We don’t train our dogs to hold a point forever, or to “point” while a live bird is walking around in front of them, as seen on some “pointing Lab” videos.  That is primarily a trained element for a pointing Lab, and many owners of Labs that point do lots of “whoa” training.  We like a dog that first has the outstanding retrieving ability on land and water, as well as the special Labrador temperament and trainability.  The fact that the dog then points while searching out upland birds is the icing on the cake.   A Labrador that points is not a “separate breed”, nor bred with any pointing breed.  Historically we have spoken to old time trainers who had field trial dogs that pointed while upland hunting way back in the fifties and earlier.  It is not a “new thing”, and the Lab that points is not specifically a “pointing dog”.  If you are looking for a big ranging, hi rolling upland dog that will get way out in front of you, and the ranging out and point is your primary desire,  then consider a specific Pointing breed.  The drawback there of course, is you loose the natural marking and retrieving ability of the Labrador on land and water, as well as the superb “Labrador temperament” and livability.   If you are looking for a great retriever for dual purpose hunting, a dog that is super in the home and with people, an easily trained, natural hunter, which bonds well with the owner, and will hunt within range, and then point to let you know when to get ready, then a Labrador with natural pointing instinct, bred to be a Labrador retriever first, with the point as an added “plus”, then a Lab with pointing tendency is for you. 

The Labrador is a highly trainable dog, as can be witnessed by the many Labs used for other purposes, such as guide dogs, service dogs, drug detectors and now as “bomb” dogs, saving our military personnel overseas, as well as here in the states.

Should the Labrador not be trained for the afore mentioned purposes, and be only used as a “non slip retriever”?  If that is the thought of any breeder or Club, it would be a sad state of affairs.   The Labrador can be trained and used for many purposes.  To say the Labrador is not a pointing breed is the same as saying it is not a bomb dog breed, is not a “working” breed, is not a seeing eye or service breed, and should not be bred or promoted for those purposes.   While the Lab is certainly firstly a retriever (at least in field lines), it is very well suited, and naturally inclined to use its nose, and to work in most any capacity.  Many Labs of diverse lines will point naturally, when used in that capacity.  Why not be proud of that diversity?

To say that the Labrador is strictly suited to non slip retrieving is a totally unfair to the breed.  The fact that they are used extensively as a quartering dog for upland birds should be something that all Lab breeders should be proud of.  The fact that some Labs flush, and some point, makes no difference in their specific talent as a retriever.  I would say there are more Labradors being used every year on upland birds, and very few only used to retrieve said birds from a “heel” position.  Hunters want their dog to actually get out and find the birds for them to shoot.  To hunt, quarter, flush and/or point, the Labrador is probably pretty close to being the most popular breed of all for the average upland bird hunter, especially those who also waterfowl hunt.    

This is what we breed for in our Labradors;  a natural retrieving dog with a good temperament, trainability, easy going in the home and on fire in the field.  A dog that will be great in the duck blind, or in the pheasant patch.  A dog that has a natural desire to “hunt” in front of the guns, and to point and/or flush the bird for the hunter to shoot and then retrieve that bird, following and marking the strongest cripple and recovering it for the hunter.   What more can one ask of a dog?  The Trieven bred Labrador truly has it all, whatever the owner may desire.  The TRIEVEN name has been around now for 40 years, producing the type of Labrador that excels in anything,  from field trialing, to hunting and from service dogs to bomb and arson dogs.  Retrievers, upland dogs that quarter, point, flush, cold water duck dogs,  family companions, our Labradors have it all, and the record to prove it.