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Best Hunting Dog Breeds

Posted by: Dr Sarah Robinson
Filed under: hunting dogDog Breeds
Apr 2017

Choosing a hunting dog is a personal decision based on a large number of factors. A search through the AKC breed database for sporting dogs or hounds will show you that there is indeed a breed for every hunter. Perhaps the most obvious factor to consider when choosing a hunting dog is the type of game you are hunting. While waterfowl and upland birds are probably the first game that comes to mind when hunting with dogs, hunters also use dogs to hunt a variety of other game such as rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, deer, mountain lion and hogs. If not already dictated by the game you are hunting, the terrain you are hunting in will often affect the type of hunting dog you choose. Consider if your dog will need to retrieve ducks out of cold water or if he will be chasing birds up steep hills or foxes or deer through brush. Some breeds of dogs are more suited to certain environments than others. Other factors to consider are the type of housing available for your dog. If you have a small yard in a suburban neighborhood, you may want to consider a smaller and quieter breed of dog than if you have a large amount of acreage with no neighbors. Also consider your family environment. If you hunt rarely or if you have children, you may want a breed that will be a good family companion as well as a hunting dog. Every breed has their advantages and disadvantages and no one breed is right for every situation. Keep in mind that within a breed there are types and individual personalities so there is no cookie cutter formula for choosing the right hunting dog. Here are a few of the most popular hunting dogs and some of the qualities that put them on the popularity list.

Labrador Retriever

The quintessential American all-around dog, the Labrador retriever has it all – intelligence, stamina, athletic ability and loving personality. The Labrador retriever has been ranked by the American Kennel Club as the most popular breed period for the past 26th years. Labs work well in a multitude of environments and terrains, but are very well suited for water work. They have a double coat to insulate them against the cold and wet and webbed feet to enhance their performance in the water. Although Labs excel at duck hunting, they are highly adaptable and do quite well hunting game birds as well. If you are looking for a dog that will hunt and be a good companion to you and your kids in the home, the Labrador retriever may be the perfect fit. Labradors are also used as police working dogs, drug sniffing dogs, and service dogs. Their intelligence and willingness to please make them highly suited to filling in as a helpmate and companion.

Golden Retriever

While not as popular as the Labrador Retriever, the Golden can hold his own in the category of America’s Sweetheart of dog breeds. The Golden Retriever adores people and wants nothing more than to please. He is an excellent waterfowl retriever and his willingness to hunt far exceeds his impressive stamina. Compared to the Labrador, the Golden’s long, thick coat makes him less adaptable to warm weather situations and he gets quite messy in wet and muddy environments. Just like the Labrador, however, the Golden is an excellent companion for the entire family. He gets along with children and strangers quite readily and usually adapts well to pets of other species. Goldens are also popular as service and working dogs due to their tractable nature and intelligence.


If you are a bird hunter, the beagle is probably not on your radar, but if you hunt small game, especially rabbits, the Beagle is likely your first choice of hunting dog. Beagles have been used for centuries to hunt small game in tight spaces. They are compact, high energy dogs that are also popular as pets. They can be quite vocal when hunting or greeting strangers or loved ones so you may want to take that into account if you have a lot of neighbors. Although they are small and do not need a lot of living space, they have a lot of energy and will need regular exercise to keep them occupied. Beagles are hounds and hunt by scent so it is important to ensure they have an escape proof enclosure to keep them from wandering away from home. Because of their acute sense of smell, Beagles have also been used in security to detect weapons and drugs. They are friendly loving dogs and do well in family environments but care should be used when introducing them to other small pets such as cats or pocket pets as their prey drive may overcome their friendly nature. See more information

German Shorthaired Pointer

Another versatile gun dog, the German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP) excels at upland game bird hunting. They are intelligent and easy to train to point and retrieve game birds in almost any terrain. While not as suited for cold water environments as the Labrador retriever, they are used to retrieve waterfowl as well. Their short hair coat makes them well suited for warmer climates. GSPs are fast runners with a lot of stamina that lets them cover a wide range of territory. Some GSPs are even used to hunt small game although the game birds are by far the most popular use for this breed. GSPs are popular as pets as well.

Brittany (Spaniel)

The Brittany is a popular gun dog that is adept at pointing and flushing birds. They are also used for hunting ground game such as hares. They are spaniel-like in appearance but their hunting traits more closely resemble those of pointers. Because of these traits, the American Kennel Club dropped the spaniel moniker from the name and the breed is now officially known as Brittany by the registry. They are considered a good, medium-sized, all-around gun dog. They are loyal and sweet-natured dogs that make good family companions. They are also high-energy so regular exercise is a must. Brittanys are very intense dogs and often require a task or job to keep them focused. If you are not planning to hunt often with your Brittany consider taking up agility or some other sport to keep your dog’s energy focused.

English Springer Spaniel

Much like the Brittany, the English Springer Spaniel is a popular upland bird dog. They are adept at flushing birds, but may not be as versatile at other hunting tasks as the Brittany. They have similar personality to traits to the Brittany in that they are loyal, loving and high-energy dogs. They are also quite good at agility and obedience trials. English Springer Spaniels have more distinct bloodlines designed for field work vs. show so be sure to do your research and pick the type that works best for your needs. They are great companion dogs and tend to get along well with people and other animals.

American Foxhound

A different kind of hunting dog, the American foxhound was bred, as his name suggests, to run foxes to ground. While they are still used in traditional foxhunts, complete with bugles and horses, foxhounds have also found a calling hunting deer. Not as popular as some of the other hunting breeds mentioned in this article, foxhounds share many of the qualities of all of them. They are loving family companions and usually get along well with other pets, especially other dogs. They are bred to run for long distances so they will need regular exercise and make great jogging companions. Like the beagle, they are single-minded when they catch a scent and can be quite vocal so keep that in mind if you live in tight quarters with lots of neighbors. Their keen sense of smell can also get them into trouble if their enclosure is not secure enough to prevent escape.


This article is by no means a comprehensive list of good hunting dog breeds. As mentioned before there are hundreds of breeds and types to choose from, each one uniquely suited to a specific prey, terrain or hunting personality. There are as many hunting breeds as there are types of prey. This article focused on the more popular breeds and hunting types, but there are hunting dogs for large game, vermin, raccoons, etc. Obviously if you are hunting boar or mountain lion, you are not going to choose a Beagle or a Springer Spaniel. If you are looking for a good hunting dog, do your research. Think about what type of hunting you will be doing, whether extremely specialized or all-encompassing, and what other traits you want from your dog. Ask other hunters for their experiences with different breeds. Most importantly, understand that even though each breed has specific characteristics, each dog has a unique personality that may make him more or less suited to your requirements.


Name: Sarah Robinson

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Author bio:Dr Sarah Robinson attended veterinary school at Oklahoma State University receiving a D.V.M. in 2008. Sarah’s longtime interest is to help people to better communicate with their pet companions, and in doing so, to help them to strengthen their relationships with their dogs and cats.


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