Hunting Dog Breeds: 5 Reliable Friends to Count On

When it comes to hunting, man and dog have always made a great team. That’s because dogs have been domesticated from the dawn of ages with this particular purpose in mind, along with guarding and companionship.

[the_ad_group id=”21″]

And if you like the sport, you should definitely consider a four-legged friend to help you in this endeavor. But it’s also good to do your research regarding the various hunting dog breeds, so you can pick the best companion depending on their physical traits, behaviors, and personalities.

The Dogs and Their Game of Choice

In this section of the article, we’ll tell you which breeds are more appropriate for the various game you could be after.

Hunting Dog Breeds

But there are a lot of hunting dogs out there, so you can take your own pick depending on your own preferences. Just know that hunting dogs can be:

  • Hounds: sight hounds, scent hounds, and lurchers. They’re used mainly for tracking game, either small or big.
  • Gundogs: retrievers, setters, spaniels, pointers and water dogs. They’re used mainly for hunting small animals, including in water.
  • Feists: are primarily used for small game, but they work in packs and have a specific bay.
  • Terriers: used for hunting and killing, can track their game in dens and can even tackle bigger animals.
  • Curs: are mainly employed for large animals and their hunting style is similar to that of terriers.
  • Dachshund: a miniature dog good at hunting small to medium animals, is furthermore perfect for hunting underground.

That being said, let’s see what sort of dog you can actually get:

Labradors for waterfowl hunting

When it comes to these smart puppies, you’ll find there are two breeds:

The English lab

  • It’s the English breed.
  • It weighs a bit more.
  • It’s huskier.
  • Calmer.
  • Reaches maturity faster.

The American Lab

  • It’s the USA breed.
  • It looks more supple.
  • It’s tall rather than just big.
  • More on the wild side.
  • Reaches maturity slower.

Both types of labs have some common features, though, like:

  • A smooth double coat that’s also water-resistant.
  • Large head.
  • Thick nose.
  • Broad muzzle.
  • Strong neck.
  • Long body.
  • Medium ears and eyes.
  • Short hair.
  • Webbed feet.
  • The tail becomes progressively narrow towards the tip.

All these physical characteristics are what make this sort of dog so great when it comes to hunting aquatic animals or waterfowl. Since it can swim with no problems, and it has a water-resistant coat, it’s clear that this is it’s dream job.

Labradors for waterfowl hunting

Think of its other characteristics too, like it’s hydrodynamic shape. The lab’s body was made for swimming, since it’s strong, lean, with webbed feet that look like paddles and an otter-like tail.

Besides, considering that both males and females are in a weight range of 55-75 pounds, and a height range of 21-24 inches, you can rest assured they’re strong enough to get that fowl back to you with no problems. And they can do as many laps as needed, so you can hunt all day long.

But the mindset of a hunting dog is also quite important when it comes to hunting. The personality of a labrador is defined by characteristics such as:

  • Loyalty.
  • Affection.
  • Patience.
  • Intelligence.
  • Eager to please.
  • Playful.
  • Likes to swim.
  • Dependable.
  • Friendly.
  • Needs leadership.
  • Thrives in a pack.
  • Easy to train.
  • Needs a lot of exercises.
  • Destructive tendencies appear when there’s no strong leadership.
  • Has a lot of energy.

Basically, labradors will do great for catching waterfowl because that’s a pretty difficult job, but they’re extremely dedicated and hard-working. They will do anything you ask them to, especially if you’ve trained them from a very young age.

Plus, you can truly rely on your lab to get the job done and put in the long hours too, seeing as they’re so energetic.

Labradors hunting

So what can you expect of these puppies?

  • They can manage living inside close quarters, but they prefer living in a yard.
  • You need to exercise them regularly, with brisk walks and jogs.
  • You have to act like a true pack leader.
  • They love getting new tasks and learning new stuff.
  • They can become overweight pretty fast, so don’t overdo it with treats.
  • Their lifespan is about 12 years.

Dachshund for underground hunting

These hunting dogs are very well-liked, and that’s probably why there are so many types of them, with a lot of sizes, colors, patterns and cross-patterns. But the main thing you should know is that you can choose between:

The most important difference between these three categories when it comes to hunting relates to their size and weight.

Dachshund for underground hunting

The standard dachshund is about 10 inches tall and weighs a bit over 11 pounds, while the miniature version is about 6 inches tall and weighs less than 11 pounds.

However, all these dachshunds have some physical traits in common, such as:

  • Weirdly elongated bodies.
  • Muscular build.
  • Short legs.
  • Longer head.
  • Arched skull.
  • Long muzzle.
  • Strong jaw.
  • Non-pendent lips.
  • Scissors bite for the teeth.
  • Mobile and long ears.
  • Pointy tail.
  • Smooth, uniform coat.

All these features turn the dachshund into the perfect fox catcher, but it can also do a pretty decent job of finding and retrieving other small-medium animals that dig burrows.

That’s because of their weird shape: they have a disproportionately long body that makes them perfect for getting into all sorts of dens. After all, Dachs means badger in German.

But dachshunds can also dig their way in and out proficiently with the help of their strong, sturdy little legs. Their long ears which can move freely are perfect for hearing the game that’s underground, and their strong teeth are amazing for retrieving.

The fact that they have a muscular build and a convex shaped skull makes them all the more ready to hunt foxes. Their long muzzle and strong jaw will not let little critters get away, and their pointy tail will let you know as soon as they’ve found something.

Dachshund hunting

Image credit:

But the dachshund’s personality is also great for hunting because:

  • They are very curious and excited about new things.
  • They’re brave but also smart.
  • Their devotion can be explained through their affectionate nature.
  • They need strong leadership.
  • They’re very protective.

So these little adventurers are brave enough to face new, different hunting challenges with courage and wits. They’ll do as you command as they’re loyal dogs who love their owners, and you can rely on their protective nature when you’re out hunting.

Still, remember that the Dachshunds thrive under the leadership because they’re strong-minded and otherwise pretty hard to train. So unlike the Labradors, which are eager to please and therefore learn pretty fast, these dogs are rather proud and resistant to obedience training.

But after they learn, they’re a pleasure to hunt with.

Other things you should know about dachshunds are:

  • They’re prone to various health issues, including spinal disc because of their elongated shape.
  • They don’t need to live in a yard for exercise because they’re a smaller breed.
  • They’re very energetic, so they need daily walks and playtime.
  • They can easily get to be 15 years old.
  • They’re pretty high-maintenance when it comes to grooming.

For more insight on the best rabbit hunting canines, check out our earlier piece for reference.

Dogo Argentino for bigger game hunting

A mastiff sort of dog, this one is perfect for hunting bigger animals, including wild boars and bears. In fact, the people who developed this particular breed were looking for a strong animal that could help with their hunt, but likewise, protect them and prove a great companion. Check out our list of the best boar hunting dog breeds to help your.

So they ended up with this amazing beast, that’s big, courageous and has a lot of energy. The Dogo Argentino had a lot to lose at the beginning of the 20th century because of its imposing gait since it was used in a lot of dogfights and became pretty feared.

Dogo Argentino

Its bad reputation is what led to the adoption of further legal means of protection against these dogs, which owners must know, like mandatory:

So if you’re considering getting this sort of breed to help you along more dangerous hunting trips when you’re out hunting for bigger animals, you’ll have to respect all these legal requirements.

And the dogs can only be walked when wearing both muzzle and leash, by people who are at least 16 years old.

[the_ad_group id=”22″]

Conversely, their hard work and devotion are renowned even in the military, police and fire departments all over the US, seeing as they’re the perfect work dogs. And you can use them for hunting bears and boars thanks to physical traits such as:

  • Massive gait.
  • Muscular build.
  • Large chest.
  • Strong neck.
  • Round, big head.
  • Huge muzzle.
  • Powerful jaws.
  • Scissor-bite teeth.
  • High, vertical ears.
  • Muscular thighs.
  • Long, thick tail.
  • Thick coat.

Basically, you’ll get a 25 inches tall and 90 pounds heavy beast that will prove a trustworthy companion for bigger game.

All their characteristics scream out power and strength, starting with their muzzle and jaws and ending up with their powerful legs. And their overall appearance is that of a true hunter, strong enough and with a lot of stamina for fighting bigger game.

The temperament of the Dogo Argentino is outlined by features like:

  • Loyalty.
  • Playfulness.
  • Protective and loving nature, especially with kids.
  • Easily trained.
  • Thrives under authority.
  • Becomes dominant fast under lax leadership.
  • Needs consistency and rules.
  • Aggressive with other dogs.

These dogs are also great for hunting bears and boars because they will protect you with their lives.

And they’ll also put their well-being on the line to help you with your hunt: they’ll fight the prey with fierce loyalty and courage, but they’ll follow your directions to the letter.

Other things you should know about this breed are:

  • Their health is great, not being prone to a lot of medical issues.
  • They can live in an apartment if you exercise them plentifully, but they like yards better.
  • Below freezing temperatures are a no-no for their living arrangement.
  • They need an intense exercise routine.
  • They can live to about 12 years.
  • They’re low maintenance.

English Foxhound for hunting deer

The English Foxhound is a breed developed even before the 19th century, so it’s backed by a lot of tradition in Great Britain. It’s a typical hound and, as its name suggests, its original job was to hunt down foxes.

The hunters were riding horses, so the English Foxhound had to run for impressive distances alongside their owners. That can be explained by an increased level of energy, strength and very keen sense of smell.

English Foxhound for hunting deer

Therefore, these dogs are perfect for hunting and tracking, but they’re also protective watchdogs and prove very agile on the field.

Since they’re excellent chasers and have more stamina than you can imagine, they’re largely used today for hunting and tracking deer. The physical traits that render them perfect for this role are:

  • Athletic build.
  • Wide skull.
  • Long muzzle.
  • Large nostrils.
  • Low, flat ears.
  • Straight legs.
  • Padded, round feet.
  • Long, high tail.
  • Short, thick and smooth coat.

All these characteristics are amazing when it comes to running and resistance. Their athletic build is what will help the English Foxhound resist a very long time out hunting and running the deer to exhaustion.

But their aerodynamic shape contributes to reaching higher speeds, along with their shiny, thick coat. Their legs are straight, yet powerful, aiding them with long distance running, and their padded feet can sustain a lot of effort.

Plus, their large nostrils can sniff out basically anything from afar, which is also an advantage regarding increased tracking abilities.

Both genders reach about 21-25 inches in height and 65-70 pounds in weight, which is a medium size. That’s an additional reason why they’re good for hunting medium size game.

The temperamental characteristics of this breed are outlined through their:

  • Courage.
  • Dedication to tasks.
  • Immense stamina.
  • Willingness to work under a strong pack leader.
  • Friendliness.
  • Protective instinct towards kids especially.
  • Love for kinship.
  • Their tendency to bark. A lot.
  • Need for rules and consistency.

All these traits render this particular breed great for deer hunting. Apart from having a lot of energy that helps them run at decent speeds for hours at a time, they adore team-work.

English Foxhound hunting

They’ll gladly follow your orders, but since they like other dogs so much, they’ll work together with them too. They’ll protect you if push comes to shove, and they’ll prove faithful and brave on the field.

Plus, their love for barking will scare the deer and convey to you the proper warnings.

The only downside is that they need a bit of authority and obedience-learning in regards to their training.

Plus, you need to exercise them a lot, seeing as they were made for running. So you can’t neglect them when the hunting season isn’t open and have to take them on a daily jog or bike ride.

Other things you should know about this breed:

  • They don’t pose many health issues.
  • Apartment life isn’t for them since living indoors doesn’t give them many opportunities at a good run.
  • Can be trained quicker when they’re running, especially if you put a backpack on to make them feel more responsible.
  • Their increased sense of smell means they’re prone to running off if they have no
  • They live a maximum of 10 years.
  • They’re low maintenance when it comes to grooming.

Beagles for small game hunting

These cute puppies are all you need if you’re out hunting smaller game. That’s because their breed was developed about 5 centuries ago in England by hunters who needed a faithful companion for hunting rabbits and field birds.

Beagles for small game hunting

This breed is a mixture of various hounds, and it likes to work in bigger teams, possibly because that’s how its ancestors used to work. However, it’s a small dog that likes to bark, and it has a powerful nose that renders it so helpful, that many narcotics units use it to find hidden drugs. You can check our top pheasant hunting dogs by reading our earlier article on this.

The general characteristics that make this dog perfect for hunting smaller game are:

  • Its miniature size.
  • Its strong, sturdy build.
  • Long, convex skull.
  • Medium muzzle.
  • Large eyes.
  • Wide, long ears.
  • Large nose and huge nostrils.
  • Round, strong feet.
  • Smooth, medium coat.
  • Specific barking sounds when hunting.

Its small size, around 15 inches in height and 23 pounds in weight, complemented by a resistant, powerful appearance will help this dog run long distances in search of your game. Its tracking and hunting abilities are aided by the increased sense of smell, along with improved vision and hearing.

Since it has strong, round feet, a Beagle will likely run a lot without putting too much pressure on its limbs. Its coat makes this creature quite aerodynamic, and its specific barking sounds will prove a great means of alert when out hunting.

The personality traits that make the beagle so great for small game hunting are:

  • Loving nature.
  • Sociability.
  • Courage.
  • Wits.
  • Protectiveness with kids.
  • Gets along with other dogs.
  • Good hunting instincts.
  • Strong-mindedness.
  • Obstination.
  • The need of strong leadership.
  • Proneness to separation anxiety.
  • Calmness.
  • Curiosity.

The Beagles are naturally curious and have an instinct for hunting and tracking down smaller animals. They work amazingly well in a team with other dogs and with lots of people, provided you give them a good training and prevent their tendencies towards stubbornness.

Beagle hunting

Since they’re fairly intelligent creatures, they can outsmart any sort of small game and put their curiosity to good use when tracking them. However, they’re pretty calm and won’t get too excited by a good hunt, which makes them less prone to stupid mistakes.

Other things you should know about Beagles are:

  • They have medical problems including heart, eyes, and spinal issues.
  • You can keep them in an apartment because they’re small, but you should still exercise them regularly.
  • They thrive in a small yard, where they have the chance of squeezing in their own exercise/ playtime.
  • Their stamina is high.
  • They like to wander away from home in search of that titillating smell they need to hunt down.
  • Their lifespan is about 15 years.
  • They don’t have a lot of grooming requirements and they’re pretty low maintenance.

What’s Up, Dog?

So far we’ve tried to give you a complete selection of the dog breeds generally used for different styles of hunting, as well as for a vast array of game.

And if you take a good look at the five dog breeds we’ve discussed, you’ll find these are perfect home companions too since they’re all friendly, sociable, loving and great with kids.

What’s Up, Dog

However, they all require a lot of playtimes, exercise, and leadership, so don’t neglect them outside hunting season.

[the_ad_group id=”23″]

That being said, which dog do you prefer and why? Do you already have or had a hunting dog? What sort of obedience training do you think would be more appropriate for your four-legged friend? Is there something we’ve missed in this article?

Let us know all your thoughts, the comment section is waiting for your input.


Shawn Harrison

Shawn Harrison is our expert in hunting. He was born in Alaska, so hunting was his hobby since high school. Later, Shawn took a Hunter Training at Alaska Department of Fish and Game to structure his knowledge and now he is open to share his knowledge with our readers. Shawn is taking ‘Safety First’ approach on all of his trips, especially is some people are going hunting for the first time.


  • I’m am currently on my first bird dog after getting tired of paying guide fees or relying on buddies that had dogs.

    Since I am relatively new to hunting birds and at the moment I am open to hunting almost everything with wings, I chose a versatile breed. However, another consideration I had was dog temperament. With a young family at home, I wanted an animal that would behave well around children.

    After a lot of consideration, I went with a Pudelpointer and I couldn’t be happier. He is calm, self-controlled, seems to learn things much faster than I do and has proven to be a great hunting companion. Hopefully once fully trained he’ll be able to handle hunting waterfowl, quail and even deer.

    • Pudelpointers are also good dogs for this type of activity. I really appreciate the concentration and how calm this breed presents itself, which helps a lot for agitated hunters who sometimes get too excited.

  • I would personally recommend Springer Spaniels to anyone who is currently looking for a gun dog/hunting dog.

    In my humble opinion, they’re the most versatile gun dogs once trained. I have three springers all of which absolutely love the water, are amazing swimmers and have a solid retrieve drive that would rival any lab. They are extraordinary brush busters and will cheerfully plough through anything in their path like a dog twice their size. They’re also good in sub-zero temperatures, however, perhaps their only downfall is that they don’t cope especially well with icy waters.

    They do require a fair amount of training and a close working relationship, so in the early days can be challenging, but once trained, you’ll never look back.

    • Spring Spaniel is a good recommendation, Rob. They are swift, compact, and are also charming and intelligent hunting companions. I can’t think of any disadvantage of the breed except for its low tolerance to cold weather. Overall, a great and well-rounded partner!