Is your favorite hunting partner your four-legged friend? These days, there are all kinds of hunting dog breeds bred specifically to improve your odds out in the field or woods. With hundreds of dog breeds existing today, dozens of which are classified as hunting dogs, we won’t list them all here. Arguably, you might be able to train any kind of dog to hunt. However, there are some highlight breeds that fall into four main categories: pointers, hounds, flushers, and retrievers.
Pointing dogs locate and point out the prey to hunters. Upon locating prey (usually upland birds), these dogs are trained to freeze and allow the hunter to approach, flush, and kill the prey. Popular pointers include the English Setter, German Shorthaired Pointer, Hungarian Vizsla and German Wirehaired Pointers. Thinking ahead to the terrain you do your hunting in, wirehaired pointers have coats that offer them better protection in harsh terrain.
Flushing dogs will locate prey and, instead of pointing it out, will flush it out. Many flushers are natural retrievers as well. Flushers include setters and spaniels, like the Welsh Springer Spaniel, American Cocker Spaniel, English Setters, and Irish Setters. Some spaniels, like the Irish Water Spaniel, have water-repellent coats for the pursuit of waterfowl.
Hounds are characterized by their insistent barks and big, floppy ears. This category of hunting dogs is subdivided into sighthounds and scent hounds, depending on what sense they rely on to do their tracking. Sighthounds like the Greyhound and Irish Wolfhound stalk and chase their prey, born with the natural agility to take up chase. Meanwhile, scent hounds like the Beagle, Bluetick Coonhound, and Basset Hound will track their prey to a hiding spot, barking along the way to signal to hunters their location.
From the Labrador Retriever to the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, this category of hunting dogs is the most popular because of their dual reputation as family dogs. In the field or on the water, their purpose is to bring back dropped prey. These dogs are smart with hand, verbal, or whistle commands, and they’re bred to succeed in the water. With a double coat, webbed feet and an otter-like tail for maneuverability, these dogs are as agile in the water as they are on land.
Even today, hunting dog breeds are still being developed, and some people are turning their household pets into hunting machines. However, according to an article by Outdoor Life, the top hunting dog breeds (by prey) are as follows:
Ducks: Labrador Retriever
Pheasant: English Springer Spaniel
Goose: English Setter
Sea Ducks: Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Turkey: Appalachian Turkey Dogs
Hogs: Dogo Argentine
Deer: American Foxhound
Coons: Treeing Walker Hound
Bear: Plott Hound
Mountain Lion: Bluetick Coonhound
Squirrel: Mountain Cur
Chukar: German Shorthair Pointer
Depending on your hunting season of choice, it’s good to do your puppy purchasing about one year before that season commences. At two to four months, start with mild obedience training and socialization, before graduating to dead bird introduction around seven months. Build on these components as your puppy approaches one year of age, by introducing gunfire and electric collars. Beyond one year, hone in on fine tuning your adolescent pup’s ability to heel, retrieve, remain steady on prey, and intensify fieldwork. Be patient and flexible throughout this process.