5 Best Hunting Dogs
Not only do dogs make wonderful companions and domestic pets, but many also have an awesome work ethic and non-more so than the hunting breeds. With their highly honed senses and distinct characteristics, hunting dogs can up their game from pet to loyal working dog out with human hunting partner, eager to bring home the game. And this working partnership has been succeeding for hundreds of years, leading to some of the fantastic hunting dog breeds we have today. Many combine the focused traits of a working hunter with a trainable temperament and energy that also makes them loyal and trusted pets.
When it comes to what are the best hunting dogs, there are many to choose from. We take a look at five breeds which we think are real contenders for the title.
Types of Hunting Dog
Hunting dogs tend to be obedient, intelligent, loyal, robust and easy to train. Considering the types of hunting these dogs are bred to do, there are two main types to choose from:
- Hounds: Hounds are tracking animals that use their noses and highly tuned sense of smell to trail the scent of all types of game.
- Retrievers: Fast, alert and agile, retrievers do just that; they spot and run to retrieve shot and fallen animals.
How We Picked Our Top Five
With a hunting dog required to be fast, intelligent and focused, loyalty is also a key trait, which makes the following five breeds not only incredible hunting dogs, but they also have the personality to become fantastic family pets:
Trainable, agile and with a lovely nature, it’s no wonder that the lab makes such a popular family pooch, but his breeding is firmly in the gun dog territory. The Labrador retriever was bred to retrieve waterfowl but can also turn his paw to most types of small game. With their water-repellent coats and slightly webbed feet, the lab is a total water-baby and can easily swim through cold water to bring back your trophy, directly to your hand. And what sets the Labrador retriever apart is their sharp intelligence, grasping their training at an early age and able to work out complex commands and hand signals to get the job done. A medium to large dog with an athletic build and clear, kind eyes, the lab also loves family life but due to its loyalty doesn’t always like to be left alone and can crave the company of his human pack.
At around 15 inches tall, the beagle is not the largest of hunting dogs but where they lack in stature, they more than make up in personality, intelligence and a willful desire to get on with the job. And these characteristics, coupled with their cute looks make the beagle one of America’s most popular breeds. Beagles are scent hounds extraordinaire and excel in rabbit, fox and bird hunting, thanks to the 220 million receptors in their nose. Their long, floppy ears have been bred to capture scent particles and keep them close to their nose while the white tip of their tail stands tall when they are ‘beagling’, making it easier to spot them in the undergrowth or long grass. Plus, you will certainly know when they have found their prey as they certainly love to bark. As a family pet, they are adorable, great with kids and love hanging out with their humans, although they do need early and consistent training to keep them calm and in hand.
Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Originating from his namesake where he was bred to work the cold waters of the bay for waterfowl, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever shares many of the qualities of the more well-known Labrador or golden retriever. Intelligent, athletic and with a generous nature, this medium sized hunting dog is characterized by a tan or brown wavy, oily coat, webbed feet and an easy ability to swim in icy cold water. Bred to retrieve ducks and other fowl from the water, they were also used to protect their master’s guns and boat, and as such is a loyal dog that looks to his human for direction. A little slower to mature than quick-witted labs, the Chesapeake can be a little stubborn and so needs considered and focused training, but the results are worth it. They are also determined animals with an almost tireless energy which makes them perfect for long days hunting by the water. And their loyalty means they are kind and lively companions that are a total pleasure to have around.
Bred in the US from English fox hounds, the American variety also has a place in US history, as the dog of choice for George Washington. The clue is in the name as to what this hunting dog was originally bred for, and as a large scent dog they are more than up to the fox hunting job, evolving to also hunt larger game such as deer. With their long limbs and athletic body, the American Foxhound is an adept runner, with the stamina to track down their prey. As a breed, the foxhound also thrives on the chase, and can hunt with his human or as part of a pack. Their look is beagle-like, with the same tri-colors and scent-driven demeanor. But unlike the stockier beagle, the American foxhound is a leaner machine, adding to their reputation for athleticism. And while they are precise and determined hunters, take them out of the field and into the home, and they can make easy-going, loyal family pets.
Also known as the English Pointer, this lithe hound is a versatile hunting dog, working easily on both land and water. Predominately used as bird dogs, the pointer’s strong sense of smell also makes it an adept tracker, with their name coming from their ‘pointing’ behavior.
Once the pointer gets a scent of their prey, they’ll freeze and point their body towards the prey rather than going in to flush them out. As a hunting dog, the pointer is best suited to milder climates, as their coat is short and dense to keep them cool. And with their lean, tall body, they are effective runners with a determination to find their prey taking their hunting endurance to another level. Other popular pointer breeds include the German shorthaired and the German wirehaired and all share the same tenacity, alertness and athleticism. The pointer is a hunting dog that knows its job and is happy to get on with it, working well with his human handler to bring back the bounty. And with their drive and trainability as well as energy, they can make a wonderful canine addition to a fun-loving and active family.