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Dogs and people have been living and working together for thousands of years. In fact, our canine companions were some of our earliest hunting partners. Over the years, we’ve developed many breeds to help us hunt, each of which has specific skills that can help us find and secure several types of game. These hardy pups are athletic, have coats made for hunting, and, most importantly, have a nose that helps them sniff out game.

Some breeds are great with locating big or small game, some can flush it out for you, and others help retrieve it. Depending on your desired quarry, some four-legged hunting companions are better-suited breeds than others.

Dog Breeds For Locating Quarry


When you’re hunting for game, you’ll want a dog who can literally point them out. That’s why it’s helpful to have a Pointer by your side. These noble, medium-sized dogs have been pointing out game of all sizes since around 1650, when they were first developed in England. These pups are so set on finding prey that their hunting instincts kick in at only two months old.

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German Wirehaired Pointer

If you plan on hunting in harsh terrain on land or in the water, a breed well-suited for this type of work is the German Wirehaired Pointer. That wiry coat acts like a suit of armor for this pup, protecting the breed from everything from thorny bushes to inclement weather. The coat is even somewhat waterproof for hunting waterfowl.

German Wirehaired Pointer retrieving a duck in a field.
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Dog Breeds For Flushing Birds and Waterfowl

When on the hunt for upland game of the feathered variety, a spaniel breed is a good choice. These friendly dogs come in a variety of sizes and were originally bred to flush out birds and waterfowl.

English Springer Spaniel

The English Springer Spaniel is a popular breed in the United States and can look quite regal. But don’t be fooled by the smaller size of these pups, as they make excellent hunting partners.

English Springer Spaniel bird hunt
©Field Dog Imagery

Irish Water Spaniel

For a canine companion who can really dive into flushing out waterfowl, the Irish Water Spaniel is a solid bet. These curly-haired pups have a naturally water-repellent coat, making them perfect for getting to waterfowl in rough terrain. The tallest of the spaniel breeds, Irish Water Spaniels have noses that sniff out all types of feathered game.

Irish Water Spaniel sitting in tall grasses.
©slowmotiongli -

Boykin Spaniel

Alternatively, you could head out with an American original, the Boykin Spaniel. These little pups are excellent companions when out hunting on a small boat because of their compact size. But smaller frames don’t hamper them from flushing out game, and these multi-talented dogs will even help retrieve it for you.

Boykin Spaniel carrying a bird in its mouth through a marsh.
©American Kennel Club

Dog Breeds For Retrieving Birds and Waterfowl

When hunting for birds, especially waterfowl, you’re likely to want to bring along a Retriever, whose main job is in their name. These pups are eager to please and excellent learners who excel at just about any job you give them. But they were originally bred to retrieve or return downed birds on the hunt. This is a skill that all types of retrievers have developed.

Labrador Retriever

If you’re seeking an energetic and intelligent companion to help retrieve birds on land and in the water, you may want to hunt with a Labrador Retriever. After all, these regularly are among the most popular dogs in the United States for a reason. Originally from Newfoundland, Labs have a short, waterproof coat, protecting them from the elements and making them hardy hunting companions. Labs are also known for their energy and eagerness to please.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Dedicated duck hunters should consider the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Their fox-like looks mean that ducks often think that the red-coated pups are actually foxes. This lures the ducks out and once you’ve downed them, a Toller will be more than happy to retrieve them for you.

Dog Breeds For Hunting Small Game

When on the hunt for everything from raccoons to rabbits, having a hound along with you is the best way to find small game.

Treeing Walker Coonhound

The Treeing Walker Coonhound, for one, excels in its ability to track and tree raccoons. Not only does this breed have a nose for game such as raccoons, but they’re also quick on their feet. Walkers trail and tree the quarry, hence the moniker. They use their voice to signal once they’ve located the raccoon, and they will ensure the game can’t get away until you arrive.

©valentyne -

Pharaoh Hound

Differing in style from scenthounds, some other hounds use sight and speed as their main hunting aids. Known as the national dog of Malta, the Pharaoh Hound is smart as a whip and fast as one, too. If rabbits are your game, then the Pharaoh Hound is the dog to bring with you. These Sighthounds sniff out and chase rabbits with vigor. And they even work right along with ferrets to corner their game.

Pharaoh Hounds together outdoors.
©lenkadan -

Dog Breeds For Hunting Large Quarry

When you’re set on big targets like deer, moose, or bears, you’ll want a powerful pooch by your side.

Norwegian Elkhound

A dog like the Norwegian Elkhound won’t just help you find big game like moose over rocky terrain. These brave dogs will also keep the game at bay until you arrive. Don’t underestimate these medium-sized dogs. They’ve been hunting for thousands of years, originally with the Vikings. Elkhounds continue to be used to take down moose to this day.

Norwegian Elkhound sitting on a log bench outdoors.
Vladimir Berny/Shutterstock

Karelian Bear Dog

Another pick for hunting larger quarry is the Karelian Bear Dog. This medium-sized spitz is a working dog and, as the name suggests, a fearless hunter of bears. The Karelian Bear Dog is a hardy pup who can work in harsh conditions and hunts prey with silent stealth. Only when they find prey will this breed bark to alert you to the find.

Karelian Bear Dog laying in the grass.
Related article: Hunting With Dogs: Training & Safety Tips
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