Looking to buy and train a pheasant-hunting companion? Consider these canine candidates:

Springer spaniels. Pros: Very active in the field. Will turn themselves inside out looking for birds. Excellent retrievers. Exciting to watch. Cons: Long hair can collect burs. Sometimes a bit small to slog through some western Minnesota cattails. Lovable but can be excitable as house pets.

English setters. Pros: Elegant movers through woods and fields. Make excellent upland dogs, for grouse as well as pheasants. Cover a lot of ground, increasing their chances for bird contact. Lovable as pets. Cons: Coat feathering attracts burs and debris. Exercise needs can be considerable — setters like to run. Important to select correctly from setters that run big and those more accustomed to a foot-walking pace.

English pointers. Pros: Short hair, therefore they shed little and collect few burs. Most, with training, are extremely efficient bird finders. Like setters, they cover a lot of ground, maximizing bird contact opportunities. Breeding lines are important to consider, but can make great pets. Cons: Some (not all) can be a handful to live with and manage, in that they need running room to exercise. As with any sporting dog, careful selection from proven parents is important.

Labradors: Pros: Multiple uses afield, from hunting pheasant and grouse to waterfowl. Big enough to handle most Minnesota sloughs and other heavy cover. Most Labs hunt close and make good house pets. Cons: Don’t run as big as setters and pointers, therefore as pheasant and grouse dogs are less likely to contact as many birds. Stamina afield with some Labs might be less than springers, setters or pointers.

Dennis Anderson