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Hunting Dogs

The Ultimate Guide to Hunting Dogs

Are you a fan of the outdoors? Do you love to hunt? Then you might consider a hunting dog. Fortunately, this Ultimate Guide to Hunting Dogs has everything you need to know about hunting dogs; what it’s like to own a hunting dog and where to find hunting dogs for sale.

What is a Hunting Dog?

Humans have been hunting with canines for nearly as long as humans have been hunting animals to survive, which is to say a very, very long time - approximately 20,000 years. Over the years, humans have developed many different breeds of hunting dogs to assist them in hunting many different types of prey.
Every target game species calls for a different type of hunting dog to track it, bring it down and retrieve it. From the tiny Dachshund to the towering Irish Wolfhound, there is a hunting dog for every type of game you can imagine.
Some hunting dogs hunt in packs, while others are cut loose to work on their own but all need a patient, willful owner who understands their unique needs, temperament and physiology, and who has the time and effort to ensure they receive proper training, socialization and exercise.

What makes a Dog a Hunting Dog?

A hunting dog is any canine that participates in hunting with humans. Whether it’s a sensitive nose for tracking game, a small, narrow body for rousting game from its burrow or powerful muscles and jaws for bringing game down, all hunting dogs are specially developed to specialize in a specific role in the hunting process.
There are many different types of hunting and therefore many different types of hunting dogs, but all share at least one characteristic - they make the process of hunting prey easier for their human companions.

What are the Different Types of Hunting Dogs?

There are six main categories of hunting dogs that are further divided into many sub-categories based on the query and upon the dog’s skill set and capabilities. Keep in mind that, while many breeds can hunt several species of quarry, most have a specific strength that commit it to one form of hunting/query over another.

Hounds are the most recognizable and eldest type of hunting dog. They have a powerful sense of smell and great speed, which they use to assist hunters by identifying the location of prey, like fox, hare, deer and elk. Hounds are further divided into two categories - sighthounds and scenthounds.

Sighthounds, also known as gazehounds hunt by following prey at speed - never losing sight of it - until their companion can catch up to the game. These dogs are typically very fast, agile and have a keen sense of sight and smell.  Popular sighthounds include the:
  • Irish Wolfhound
  • Italian Greyhound
  • Greyhound
  • Afghan Hound
  • Whippet


Scenthounds follow prey by tracking its scent with their remarkably powerful nose. Scenthounds have great endurance but are not the fastest runners. Their method is to relentlessly track and follow game until the prey is cornered or too tired to flee. Popular scenthounds include the:
  • Beagle
  • Bloodhound
  • Basset Hound
  • Coonhound
  • English Foxhound

Gun Dogs

Gun dogs, sometimes known as bird dogs, are a type of hunting dog developed to assist hunters in finding game (primarily birds), rousting the game from its hiding spot and retrieving it from where it fell in the field.  Gun dogs are divided into five categories - retrievers, flushing spaniels, setters, water dogs and pointers.

A retriever is a type of gun dog developed primarily to retrieve birds or other prey and return them to the hunter without damage. They are distinguished from other gun dogs by their non-slip retrieval function, i.e., soft mouths and a great willingness to please, learn, obey and carry game in its mouth without biting into it. Popular retrievers include the:
  • Golden Retriever
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • Curly Coated Retriever
  • Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever


A setter is a type of gundog distinguished by its systematic and methodical hunting method, in which it silently searches for game by scent then, when prey is encountered, freezes in place rather than chase after the game, typically foul, grouse and pheasant.
The name “setter” derives from the distinctive stance they assume upon finding their quarry - a sort of crouch or "set". Setters are born with a natural proclivity to hunting and show great excitement and interest in birds in general. Popular setters include the:
  • English Setter
  • Irish Setter
  • Gordon Setter
  • ‎Irish Red and White Setter


Pointers are keen, hard-working gun dogs, distinguished by the characteristic stance it assumes when it has found prey, in which they stand perfectly still with one foot raised off the ground and point their nose in the direction of its query. Popular pointers include the:
  • German Short-Haired Pointer
  • English Pointer
  • Vizsla
  • Portuguese Pointer
  • Pudelpointer

Flushing Spaniels
Flushing Spaniels are gun dogs that are well adapted to find, flush and retrieve a variety of game from many types of habitat. Spaniels are distinguished by their high prey drive and remarkable ability to track the fall of the gamebirds shot from the sky,  then retrieve those birds for their master. Though there are many types of Spaniels, there are ten different Spaniel breeds recognized as capable hunting companions, including the:
  • American Water Spaniel
  • English Springer Spaniel
  • Clumber Spaniel
  • Boykin Spaniel
  • Cocker Spaniel

Water Dogs

A water dog is a type of hunting dog developed to flush and retrieve game from aquatic habitats. They have a natural proclivity for the water, a thick water-proof and an eagerness to jump in and swim. Some even have webbed feet. Popular water dogs include the:
  • Standard Poodle
  • Portuguese Water Dog
  • Spanish Water Dog
  • Barbet
  • Otterhound

Five Best Hunting Dog Breeds

Though opinion varies as to which hunting breed is the best overall, there are ten hunting breeds that stand out as particularly good at what they do. Be it deer, duck or boar, these are the five best hunting dog breeds to bring it down.

  1. Labrador Retriever - Known far and wide as the best all-around waterfowl dog in the world, the Labrador Retriever is the most registered dog in North America for both their prowess in the field and their disposition in the home. Developed in Canada’s cold and wet Labrador region, the Labrador Retriever is perfectly suited for their role, which is to mark, retrieve and deliver downed birds right into their master’s hand. Born with high intelligence and innate ability to grasp training at a young age, few dogs can match the Labrador Retrievers prowess in the field or in the water. They even have webbed feet. One of the best family dogs for children of all ages. Find Labrador Retriever puppies for sale.
  2. German Shorthaired Pointer - The German Shorthaired Pointer is what you get when a bunch of German Breeders decide to develop the Bester Jagdhund der Welt, i.e., the best hunting dog in the world. Born with the intelligence to learn to follow commands and outwit wily prey birds, these loyal all-round hunting dogs are the perfect choice for field, farm and family. GSP’s are keen hunters, capable of hunting prey of any size or variety - they can scent track, point and even retrieve downed game regardless of where it falls in the field, forest or even the water. If that weren’t enough, GSP’s possess an affectionate disposition, an overly sweet temperament and an affinity for children. Find German Shorthaired Pointer puppies for sale.
  3. Bloodhound - Born with the strongest nose on the planet, there is no better dog at scent tracking than the world-famous Bloodhound. These large, substantial canines are docile, friendly and relentlessly stubborn when on the scent. The indisputable leader of the pack when it comes to scenting abilities, Bloodhounds are also surprisingly swift and agile, able to keep up with even the fastest rabbit. Though they are remarkably stubborn, Bloodhounds are also incredibly sweet, sensitive companions who are well-suited for field and family life. Find Bloodhound puppies for sale.
  4. English Pointer - The high-energy English Pointer is the unquestioned ruler of the sporting world. As the name implies, Pointers are point game bird dogs, used for centuries across Europe and the Americas. These hard driving hunters are known to be tireless workers with great range and the ability to work well in the field with other dogs. English Pointers exhibit natural hunting instincts and generally bred for upland hunting in warmer climates with a need to cover larger areas. They are very loyal and known to make excellent companions both at home and on the hunt. Find English Pointer puppies for sale.
  5. Dogo Argentino - There are many specialist hunting dogs out there, but few have the prowess to take on full grown wild boar on their own, that is, except for the Dogo Argentino. Bred as catch dogs, Dogo Argentino engage tusked boars with their powerful jaws, holding the powerful animals in place until the hunter arrives. Larger and even more powerful than the Staffordshire Terrier (Pitbull), Dog Argentino are not your typical family dog. These are tremendously powerful canines with a job to do - selective breeding for hunting and lots of training are what prevent Dogo Argentinos from displaying aggressiveness toward people and/or other dogs. Find Dogo Argentino puppies for sale.