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Hunting Dogs

by Brigitte Smith

Choosing a Good Hunting Dog

Dogs have been bred for the purpose of hunting with humans (both for food and for sport) for centuries.  For the record, I absolutely oppose hunting solely for sport, whether or not dogs are used.  But hunting for food utilized AS a sport is okay so far as I'm concerned, providing cruelty to the hunted animal is avoided.  A hunting dog can be trained to locate prey, or to retrieve downed animals (such as pheasant, duck, and other types of birds which are generally shot by the human hunter).  Training a dog to hunt and terrify the animal (which generally occurs when a pack of dogs is used (such as in fox hunting) is OUT as far as I'm concerned.  Fox hunting anyway comes into the category of hunting solely for the sport of it, since so far as I am aware, the fox is never eaten after the kill.  

Several breeds of dog have been used to help flush the hunted animals out into the open, to retrieve downed birds, and to sniff out and track animals for the hunter.  It is with these potential duties in mind that a hunting dog should be selected.

When selecting a dog for hunting purposes you may want to evaluate your needs and base the choice on what you want the dog to do, how easily the hunting dog can be trained, whether it is likely to be “spooked” by the report of a weapon being fired, and how good its nose is.

Hunting Breeds

Various breeds of dog have a natural aptitude for assisting in aspects of hunting.  For instance, hounds make excellent trackers, particularly bloodhounds.  Hounds have a very acute sense of smell, as compared to other dog breeds, and seem to be adept at following several scents at once.  Retrievers are, not surprisingly, great at retrieving.  And they also make excellent bird-dogs.

Hunting breeds fall into four general groups.  These are the general hunting dogs, gun dogs, retrievers, and bird dogs.  Some dog breeds may fit into more than one category.

Hounds and Trackers

Bloodhounds and other hound dog breeds that have a heightened senses of smell are used to track all manner of animals.  Whether in their traditional role in the British fox hunt or in tracking down deer, bears, and other such game for hunters in the US, they serve their purpose exceptionally well.


Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers are experts at finding and fetching fallen prey.  They are especially useful on duck hunts because their oily coats help them move effortlessly through water to find and retrieve the fallen waterfowl.

Pointers and Setters

These dogs are useful in hunting because they let the hunter know when prey is nearby.  They are most often used in bird hunts and are trained to freeze and point their bodies in the direction of the hunted bird (pointers) or hunker down low to the ground when they locate a bird (setters).  Spaniels also make good pointers.

Articles on Dog Health for Hunting Dogs

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