Dogs: How to Pick the Right Hunting Companion
When choosing a dog to accompany you on hunting trips, it’s important to consider the type of hunting you will do and what style of hunting you prefer. If your style is keeping your hunting dog close, you will not want to choose a dog that is bred to range (you will over-control this dog and this will damage its hunting abilities). The four main types of hunting dogs are Flushers, Retrievers, Pointers, and Setters. Each has its own set of skills and can aid you in different ways. Consider your hunting needs when choosing the right hunting companion, but remember that your dog will be around the house living with you in your daily life far more often than it will be out hunting with you, so choose a dog that has an excellent pet personality as well as hunting skills.
When choosing a future-hunting puppy, make sure you feel confident in the breeder. They should be able to tell you about the personality traits and conditions of the mother and father as well as any behaviors they have noticed with the puppy so far. When you visit the site, you should be looking for a puppy that appears healthy with a shiny coat, good teeth, and clean eyes and ears. A good hunter puppy should be curious (but not try to bite you) and full of energy when it is awake. Bring a ball or feather to see how the puppy reacts. They should take interest and sniff the ball or feather and then try to follow it, bite at it, or play with it as it moves across the floor. Watch for how the puppy reacts to the others. It should be social, playful, and generally nonaggressive.
You also want to make sure you can devote enough time to training the dog for your specific needs. It doesn’t matter what type of breed you have chosen if you cannot train it, and a dog that is difficult to control is extremely dangerous when you’re hunting. If you do not have enough time to train your dog, or are not confident in your training abilities, hiring a professional trainer is an excellent option and can produce some great results. Once your dog is trained, you should easily be able to call him when you need to. If you are constantly whistling or calling your dog to do something other than what it is doing, you may be over controlling and this can hurt its hunting instincts.
Pointers such as the English Setter, the English Pointer, the Hungarian Vizsla, the German Wirehaired Pointer, or the Brittany Spaniel are the traditional hunting dog for birds. These dogs must understand gun range and have good manners around other dogs. Pointers are excellent flushers as well, but they are susceptible to cold and therefore not idea for hunting waterfowl, and nearly useless at retrieving. Pointers are ideal for hunting in the uplands, but often have more aloof personality, so they may not be the best family dog.
Retrievers such as the Golden Retriever, the Labrador Retriever, the standard Poodle, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, and the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever are meant to retrieve game after the hunter has shot it. These dogs must be excellent at finding and bringing back game whether it’s over a long distance field or in the water. Labrador Retrievers are a favorite among hunters for their calm nature, trainability, and versatility.
A pack of hounds such as the Blackmouth Cur, the Beagle, the Redbone Coonhound, and the Bluetick Coonhound will help you sniff out and track game. These dogs are excellent for hunting rabbits.
The Boykin Spaniel, the Springer Spaniel, the American Water Spaniel, and the Cocker Spaniel are excellent flushers for wild turkeys and pheasants, but if you’re going for waterfowl, a retriever will be better. These dogs are meant to find the upland game and nudge them out of the bushes so they fly into the open where the hunter is waiting and aiming.
The Pudelpointer, German Shorthair, and German Wirehair or Drahtaar are excellent dogs if you need them to perform a variety of pointing, retrieving, or scent-trailing, but the aren’t necessarily the best at any one skill.
For more information on picking the right hunting dog for you, click here.
What breed of dog accompanies you on your hunts? Leave a comment below and let us know why you chose the breed you did!