Whatever you do get papers and look at health clearances.
For doves most retrieving dogs would serve you well. Find a good trainer to follow their method. I would consider which you hunt more dove vs ducks when considering what dog to get.
I think in Georgia you can do a spaniel for ducks but you'd have to know your dog to know what temps to limit. I considered a boykin spaniel and the GSP's are good dogs if you take the time to run them. The GSP require more exercise than others IMO and what I've seen. You'd be leaving most of those dogs home this weekend with the cold. I do plan to have a boykin one day, they seem very loyal and "lab like". I've not hunted with a GSP but they seem a little high strung to sit for hours in a duck blind.
You simply cannot beat a lab for ducks in most hunt situations. I was in between a lab and another breed as well but could not be happier 11 years later that I went with a lab. My choc started with doves and even planted quail she did pretty good. I have a smaller sized lab and she doesn't shed nearly as bad as I thought she would. A labs discipline and obedience is astounding when trained correctly, my dog was so easy to train general obedience. Mine is good enough for me on my first dog trained but labs can be as good as the owner wants. I've seen some robotic hunting retrievers and then the switch goes off (trained switch) and they are great house dogs.
Are you against getting a lab or just wanting to know what other options should be considered? Good luck either way, there are some smart dog guys on this forum who can help with whatever you go with. Having a professional dog trainer (better be a duck hunter) to help you train your dog is worth the investment. I won't own another dog without help, me and the dog will benefit.
Depends on hunting conditions. Boykins are awesome little dogs and do well in all but heavily vegetated areas. Heavily vegetated areas require a bigger dog that can crash through the vegetation. Cheesies are tough muscular dogs, but they are temperamental and known to nip those that are not their master.
I dont think there is a better dove dog than a Boykin spaniel. especially in the south when its 90 on the opening month.
A lab is much better for overall duck hunting. My Boykin gets a little
cold when it gets in the 40's, he is a 30 lb slightly wave coat. keep that in mind if you are the travelling kind of hunter.
The Boykin is much easier in the house as well. Jmo. good luck.
What are you wanting in this dog? What are you expecting it to do versus what it was bred to do?
I have a DK (gsp) that is 4 and he will do whatever you ask him to but........ he doesn't love to do everything you ask him. He doesn't love to sit quietly for hours with little to not action. He doesn't love to enter the water when it's 25 degrees. He will but it's not passionate , however he will run for hours searching for birds. He will retrieve any game fur or feather.
I recently took to him to a trainer for an evaluation. The trainer asked me what I wanted him to do or what my expectations are for him. By the end of the conversation I realized I am wanting my DK to be a "retriever". I am wanting him to be something he is not. The draw of a DK for me was breeding control and versatility but the reality is I duck hunt 95% of the time and 5% upland work. Understand DKs and DDs (gwp) go through some unique testing and for some undesirable training (predator dispatch) along with tracking. They are very nose driven , so yes if they wind a rabbit , coon , fox , coyote or other fur game they will either find it or kill it , so control is key when you are walking a mile through the woods in the dark to get to your duck spot.
I'm not suggesting getting a DK (gsp) or DD (gwp) as alternate choices for a Lab. I am just giving you my experience of a different breed to do the work that a retriever was bred to do.
Of course whatever breed you decide to go with make sure the breeder is reputable and provides all the necessary health clearances for the particular breed you have decided to buy. Research the genetic health concerns for the breed you have decided on. Talk to your vet about the particular breed of interest for health concerns.
I have a Boykin. She is my first as previously I have only had labs. I use her upland more than waterfowl due to water levels where I hunt related to the gator population; if its not super shallow she doesn't go.
There are so many differences I don't know where to start but the Boykin has a lot of positives. Her size, lack of shedding, nose, drive, house manners, etc are all as good as I could hope for. The main negative is the cold, mine gets cold, in fact she was cold enough on Friday and Saturday down here in FL that I was a little bit worried about her. The temps were only in the mid 30s and the water was warmer than that. I do think that some Boykins have a denser coat than mine does.
I would have another lab, but I would have another boykin too.
Just to maybe clarify some negatives ive seen here. Ive hunted 5 different boykins the last 3 weeks. 3 client dogs and 2 of mine. Temps ranged from single digits out west for almost a week.to the really cold weve had in north georgia this weekend breaking ice. They all did great. One of these dogs hunts in south florida a good bit. I havent been but his owner says its the best dog in his group working thru thick hydrilla and other vegetation. They are deadly on a dove field no matter how hot. And my female picked uo ducks in ice water this week then quartered and flushed quail and snipe saturday. Is sleeping in my lap now. They do shed. Ask my vacuum cleaner. They can be a bit quirky at times. Good breeding helps. Dont skimp and look for the cheapest you can find.