The adage “dog is a man’s best friend” might never ring truer than when owner and pet are paired together in the hunt. Dogs have hunted alongside their human counterparts for eons, creating an intense bond between them and their masters.
As much as you love the thrill of a good hunt, a dog is always going to love it more. They live for the chase that leads up to the moment when their teeth sink into their prey. If you’re looking to pick up a new hunting partner, then there are particular breeds who share the passion flowing through your veins and have a proven track record of excellence.
Here, we pay tribute to the best hunting dogs around. These are the top 10 breeds to take with you on your next trip.
How We Chose Our Breeds
When reviewing products, accuracy in the details and honest opinions are important to us. Selecting the best hunting dogs is a little different from picking products off of a shelf, though. This time around we decided to gather testimonials from real dog owners around the web.
Combining what owners had to say, we picked out similar qualities found in different breeds. For instance, the relentless nature of American foxhounds was noted by many a hunter while dozens of springer spaniel owners noted their retrieving abilities were on par with Labradors.
The breeds we’ve chosen have a reputation that precedes them. We’ve taken a lot of time and first-hand information into account when picking out these breeds to bring you the absolute best hunters around. Hopefully, our hard work shines through.
The 10 Best Hunting Dogs
Now that you know how we’ve chosen these beauties, it’s time to dive into what makes them exceptional hunters. We haven’t placed these dogs in any particular order, as each one has qualities that aid in a different style hunt.
1: The English Setter
When it comes to sporting dogs, the English setter is synonymous with tracking and has been since the days of bowler hats and railcars. They track pheasants with near GPS, pinpoint precision, and they can handle the terrain on any field with ease.
In fact, their noses are so fine-tuned that they can point out the next pheasant while retrieving the last one. It isn’t always easy to train a setter, though. They’re almost as varied as the human population when it comes to personality types, and you may find yourself with a handful.
Given a little patience, however, the English setter will make all your hours of training worthwhile when you see it in action. Hunters across the country agree, their noses were designed to track.
2: The Treeing Walker
These wily coonhounds will gladly accompany you on dozens of hunts from raccoons to deer and fox. They aren’t picky, and their tenacity highly admirable. With a love for the hunt, you can quickly train these hounds to track the prey of your choice.
Treeing walkers love to do two things; pin raccoons in a tree, as the name suggests, and bark. When tracking their prey, they’ll bark all the way down the trail with their noses in the dirt. Once they’ve found their target, however, their heads raise as they let out a distinct howl to alert you of their freshly cornered catch.
3: The Boykin Spaniel
If you’re looking for the qualities found in a Labrador retriever but want a more compact companion, then look no further than the Boykin spaniel. Originally bred for turkey hunters, these dogs found their niche in quail and duck hunting. Hunters also love to use them on the dove field.
They love heading into the water, are smart as a whip, and are well behaved when at home. They can be headstrong at first, but a little training goes a long way with this breed. As long as you keep them out of the colder weather (their coat is thinner than larger breeds), they’ll retrieve anything you shoot out of the sky in a hurry.
4: The German Shorthaired Pointer
Albeit descending from Germany, there’s no denying that this is America’s dog of choice for bird hunts. This breed retains their puppy-like energy well into their later years, giving them an edge over other dogs on many a hunt.
From Iowa to Texas, these dogs track down any pheasant you can imagine. It’s best to raise these dogs in the house without a kennel to strengthen the bond between you two, which increases their performance tenfold.
5: The Irish Setter
This breed comes in two varieties: show dogs and red-blooded hunting machines. Athletic, tough as nails, and extremely obedient, this breed makes for an excellent all-around gun dog. While many hunters choose to have them fetch birds, they’ll stick with you through deer and big game all the same.
They can be a little flighty or scatterbrained at times, but their loyalty and obedience outweigh that shortcoming within a year’s worth of training. Their red coats make them handsome companions, but don’t let their beauty fool you. The Irish setter is rugged and ready to tackle the thickest of brush.
6: The Golden Retriever
Famed hunting companions, the golden retriever’s deceptively handsome looks make it look more like a show dog than anything. However, their noses are second to none when it comes to turning up waterfowlers. If hunting fowl were an Olympic sport for dogs, the golden retriever would earn its name with an impressive collection of 1st place medals.
They make for wonderfully affectionate and loyal dogs in the home, but that obedience carries over when you’re out in the blind. Goldens are easy to train and eager to please, they’ll tear through cattails with an admirable determination. Simply put, you can’t go wrong with this breed.
7. The English Pointer
Lightning fast and intense to the point of almost frightening, English pointers are ferocious hunters. This breed is the epitome of high-performance gun dogs. You’ll need expert training skills to keep this dog under control. Otherwise, they’ll leave you in the dust during a field hunt.
Their ability to cover vast ground in record time makes them excellent bird hunters, and they make for wonderfully loving house dogs. The more time you spend training a pointer, the better. They’ll start to view hunting as a partnership instead of a competition.
This breed has a lighter coat than other similar sized dogs, so stay away from late season hunts if you live in a colder area. Perhaps the most breathtaking act a pointer does when hunting is stopping from a full sprint to strike point like a perfect statue.
8. The American Pit Bull
Pit bulls are highly misunderstood in today’s society. There’s no denying that they have a killer instinct, ask any boar hunter in Louisiana, but their compassion towards their owners and loving nature towards children defies any rumors you’ve heard. When treated right, this breed is a fantastic family dog.
On the hunt, however, is where their ferocity shines. You won’t find a pit bull sniffing through trails like a hound. Instead, they scope out the area like a T-2 Terminator waiting for the opportune moment to strike. These dogs are cold, callous hunters.
While they make excellent companions with pheasant and small game, this breed was designed for larger prey. After tracking their target into a corner, usually with the help of smaller hounds, they’ll hold their own against anything you sick them on. Throw in a Kevlar vest, and they’ll prove that no boxing ring is too dangerous for them to enter.
9. The Bluetick Hound
From bear to raccoon, blueticks show that looks do not equal athleticism. At first glance, you might think this breed is timid, but let one loose one a hunt, and you’ll be sweating buckets trying to keep up. Their noses are keen, and they’re not afraid to tree their prey or corner something larger than they are.
These dogs are high-energy despite their laid-back personalities. One moment they’re more than happy to nap in the back of your truck, the next they’ll be tearing through the woods for hours at a time. They earn the name hound, too, with the loud howl they let forth that sounds like a bugle.
10. The Mountain Cur
This breed was a staple in the days when early pioneers made their way across the Appalachians. They were used for everything from herding cattle to facing black bears and treeing squirrels. Today, nothing has changed.
To the untrained eye, a cur looks like your run of the mill mutt. However, anyone who has had the pleasure of tracking with these dogs knows that they’re priceless companions. The mountain curs almost died out in the late 1950’s as suburban life encroached on hardwoods country, but breeders worked to keep these faithful hunters alive.
If you’re looking for an all-around companion who can help you put meat on the table as well as they can fetch the mail, then the mountain cur is the dog for you. Their ferocious howls come in handy should you ever find yourself face to face with a bear. Despite their stature, these dogs fear nothing.
While these ten breeds are ones we consider to be the best hunting dogs, choosing the right one for you takes a lot of consideration and understanding of the breed. Each type was bred for a different purpose, and each requires a different level of training for both hunting and home.
The first aspect consider is whether or not you can give the dog the attention it needs at home. Several hunting breeds are medium to high energy animals, which means they need as much exercise off-season as they get during the season. You’ll need to be able to take it for runs, walks, and play with it often.
If you have couch potato tendencies, then you’ll want to consider a low-key breed who doesn’t mind lounging around when it isn’t hot on the trail. It is also important to consider whether your home is suitable for the breed you’re looking to purchase. Smaller homes might rule out larger breeds and caging them outside is detrimental to their mental state when it comes time to train them.
Talents and Abilities
The second thing to think about is what type of hunting you will be doing. Some breeds were made to pin their prey in a tree; others were born for the wetlands. Consider your prey, then decide if the breed you’re thinking of buying will be able to aid you in your hunt.
You might want a dog who can track a bear from miles away but can also catch a pheasant. Maybe you need a companion who can retrieve a duck from the water or one that can pin a raccoon. Take a close look at each breed’s talents and abilities despite their looks.
Some dogs are harder to train than others, regardless of breed. However, breeds tend to come with their own level of training difficulty. Consider your abilities, how well can you teach a dog to hunt?
If the breed you’re looking at might be too much for you to handle, it probably is. Stick with a dog that matches your level. You want it to listen to your every command when out in the woods or field, and you need it to understand specific cues for its safety as well as yours.
Choosing the Right Dog
Ultimately, you’re purchasing a companion that will accompany you on hunting trips for over a decade. This is your new running pal and your new best friend all in one. If you treat your new dog right, they will become the most valuable asset on your hunt.
Nothing strengthens the bond between pet and owner quite like tracking and taking down prey. Dog will always be man’s best friend as well as an expert hunter.