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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 have 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.

English Pointer pointing quail.

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.

Dog Breeds For Flushing Birds and Waterfowl

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

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.

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.

Dog Breeds For Retrieving Birds and Waterfowl

When hunting for birds, especially waterfowl, you’re likely to want to bring a Retriever along, 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.

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 are the most popular dogs in the United States for a reason. Originally from Newfoundland, Labs have a short, waterproof coat, protecting them from elements and making them hardy hunting companions. As great an all-rounders known for their energy and eagerness to please, Labs are often coveted hunting companions.

For dedicated duck hunters, be sure to consider the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Their fox-like looks means 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. 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 like raccoons, but they’re quick on their feet. Walkers trail and tree the quarry, thus how they got their moniker. They use their voice to signal once they’ve located the raccoon, and will ensure the game can’t get away until you arrive.

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.

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. One like the Norwegian Elkhound won’t just help you find big game like moose over rocky terrain, but these brave pups will 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.

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.

Have a dog who loves to hunt all the time? Check out these AKC performance sports that allow your pup to hone those skills and show them off to a crowd.

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact us at enewsletter@akc.org
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