The 15,000-year-old delicate friendship between humans and canines evolved into a remarkable bond that birthed some of the best hunting dogs today. Over centuries, these dogs were selectively bred for the perfect blend of physical (and mental) attributes — expertly honed to sniff out, stalk, and retrieve all kinds of game.
Today, the North American Versatile Hunting Dogs Association (NAVHDA) recognizes over 30 breeds of hunting dogs — each tailored for a specific type of hunting expertise.
Hence, the best hunting dog breed depends on your unique requirements, how well you train them, and the essential dog hunting equipment you use. These include a vest, collar, harness, jacket, coat, eye protection, boots, and a lot more.
This post will deeply dive into all these factors and help you sniff out the best hunting dog for your needs.
A Brief History of Hunting Dogs
The enduring history of today’s best hunting dogs and their unwavering service to early humans traces back to ancient cave paintings spanning thousands of years. Across diverse ancient cultures, evidence abounds of these canines faithfully serving their human counterparts.
Notably, Egyptian King Ramses’ tombs depict vivid scenes of him alongside dogs geared with dog hunting equipment, while Ancient Romans valued dogs as both hunting and guarding companions. Even the Greek philosopher Socrates held dogs in high esteem, considering them revered philosophers.
By the 14th century, the practice of selectively breeding dogs for hunting gained prevalence in Europe, albeit primarily among the nobility due to the demanding nature of breeding.
Dr. John Caius’ 16th-century book, “Of Englishe Dogges,” marked the first detailed account of hunting dogs in Britain.
Over 9,000 years of selective breeding resulted in a diverse collection of specialized breeds, each a testament to the enduring partnership between humans and canines.
Types of Hunting Dogs
Today, hunting dogs are classified into three primary categories, complemented by four additional specialized classifications — all based on their unique skills and the type of game they excel at hunting.
Gun Dogs/ Bird Dogs
Gun dogs — aptly named for aiding hunters with firearms — specialize in small game, particularly birds and fowl. They are further categorized into:
- Retrievers like the Labrador Retriever and Chesapeake Bay Retriever have the best prey instincts to locate and bring back shot games expertly.
- Spaniels such as the English Cocker and King Charles excel at flushing out game from bushes, making them easy targets for hunters.
- Pointers, like the English and German Shorthair, use their snouts to pinpoint small game.
- Waterdogs are a type of retriever that excels in water and hunting waterfowl. If you have a waterdog, don’t send them in water without a waterproof vest or jacket.
Hounds are a distinctive group of hunting dogs that harness their heightened senses for hunting. They are categorized into two types:
- Scenthounds excel in tracking scents with unparalleled precision. These robust dogs, often hunting in packs, pick up even the faintest scent trail. Notable scent hounds include the Bloodhound, Beagle, and Basset Hound.
- Sighthounds rely on their exceptional eyesight for spotting, chasing, and capturing prey. Tall and sleek, these chasers are built for speed. Popular sight hounds include the Greyhound, Afghan Hound, and Saluki.
Regardless of your hound type, ensure to keep them on a leash until they are trained completely.
Terriers, such as the Jack Russell Terrier, are small hunting dog breeds used to hunt small burrowing mammals like rats, badgers, and foxes. Terriers are adept at locating hidden dens and capturing or even killing the target.
Some larger variations of Terriers can also be used to hunt pigs and boars. Terriermen (the title given to hunters who employ Terriers) will first use scenthounds to corner the prey and then unleash the terriers to charge, bite, and restrain the target until the hunter arrives for the kill shot.
Curs, like the Catahoula and Black Mouth Cur, are robust North American treeing hounds, adept at pursuing larger game.
Sleek and low, these cartoonish dogs are actually highly skilled burrow hunters. Dachshunds utilize their keen scenting skills to pursue and flush out small game.
Small yet mighty, Fiesta resembles terriers, excelling in small game hunting and expertly cornering prey among the branches.
If you’ve ever wondered what is the most fearless hunting dog, Laikas are good contenders.
Hailing from northern Russia, these notoriously low-maintenance hunting dogs thrive in harsh climates, showcasing versatility in hunting styles — treeing small game, pointing larger prey, and collaborating with their pack to corner formidable bears and boar.
African Wild Dogs
African Wild Dogs — also known as painted dogs due to their distinct patterned coat — aren’t technically hunting companions.
Instead, they are wild animals — now classified as endangered — typically found in Southern Africa. Regardless, they deserve a special mention here as these natural-born hunters showcase a captivating aspect of the canine hunting world.
Unlike our typical domesticated hunting dogs, African dogs are born with the instinct and knowledge to hunt and kill. Built to operate in highly coordinated packs, their innate skill for stalking and capturing prey in the wild surpasses even the king of the jungle, boasting much higher success rates.
4 Best Hunting Dog Breeds
Here are some of the best hunting dogs from each category discussed previously based on official rankings by the American Kennel Club.
1. Best Gun Dog or Bird Dog
When it comes to the best hunting gun dog, Labrador Retrievers come out on top. Though these family-friendly canines are usually kept as pets, they are secretly very skilled hunters.
They have a temperament marked by friendliness, moderate energy levels, an outgoing nature, and a willingness to please. Labrador Retrievers are extremely easy to train, hence making them great hunting partners.
Invest in a complete dog agility training kit to prepare your pet for the upcoming adventure.
2. Best Hound Dog
Bloodhounds take the lead among the many wonderful hound dogs.
Their formidable appearance may seem imposing — and they certainly are a force to be reckoned with when they get down to business. However, these dogs actually possess a loving, loyal, affectionate, and calm disposition, making them an exceptional choice for hunting and companionship alike.
Still, you should act responsibly and carry a waterproof vest, coat, jacket, leash, and collar in your hunting inventory.
3. Best Pointer Dog
The German Shorthaired Pointers (GSPs) stand out as the best hunting dogs in this category for numerous reasons. Known for their agility and powerful build, these dogs boast strong, lean legs.
Thriving on vigorous exercise, positive training, and abundant affection, GSPs epitomize the ideal hunting companion. However, they can get lost in the woods. To prevent that, make sure they are wearing a reflective vest.
4. Best Terrier Dog
Miniature Schnauzers are among the best small hunting dog breeds.
Don’t let their small size and goofy faces fool you — these dogs mean serious business when it comes to hunting. Bright, friendly, easily trainable, and family-oriented, Mini Schnauzers excel as watchdogs but truly shine as hunting partners.
Due to their small size, tracking these dogs in the woods would be like finding a needle in the haystack. So, ensure they are wearing reflective clothing.
Benefits of Using Dog Hunting Equipment
Just like you, your furry hunting partner requires some essential dog hunting equipment to help optimize their performance on the expedition — even if they’re the best hunting dogs in the game.
Remember: as responsible dog owners, you must not only hone their hunting skills but also ensure their safety and well-being in the field. This especially includes protecting their chest and core area.
Some benefits of a hunting vest or coat include:
- Warmth — In colder climates, a well-fitted hunting vest provides crucial insulation, ensuring your dog remains comfortably warm during extended hunts.
- Visibility — A safety vest’s vibrant and distinctive hue enhances visibility, allowing fellow hunters to spot your dog easily amidst the terrain, minimizing the risk of accidents.
- Protection — A spiked hunting vest like the one from CoyoteVest acts as an additional layer of protection for your pooch against other animals.
- Additional comfort — For water dogs navigating aquatic environments, a buoyant vest offers not just safety but an extra layer of comfort, making their hunting experience more enjoyable.
You can easily buy many quality dog hunting gear from Amazon and online stores like Northland Dog Supply. This store has a wide variety of dog hunting equipment that not only protects your furry pet but also makes them look stylish.
Check Northland Dog Supply’s Dog Accessories Collection from here.
Beyond a hunting vest, you should also include the following dog hunting gear in your inventory:
- First aid kit, including bandaging material and wound care items. Check out Kurgo Pet Tactical First Aid Kit on Amazon.
- Shelter such as a hunting blind and elevated stand for your dogs like the Ameristep Doghouse.
- Travel essentials like water, food dishes, toys, and treats
How to Train Hunting Dogs
So far, we’ve already seen some of the best hunting dogs, each purposefully bred to locate, flush out, or retrieve various types of game in various environments.
Although these canines possess a natural hunting instinct, this doesn’t mean they will know what to do or what you expect of them.
Even the best hunting dogs necessitate thorough training. Remember: training is an ongoing, lifelong process, ensuring your canine companion evolves into an adept and responsive hunting partner.
Some of the basics of training your hunting dog include:
- Getting your dog accustomed to the sound of gunshots so that they don’t startle during hunts.
- Instilling basic obedience in your hunting dogs — such as sit, stay, and wait — so they can be on their best behavior during lengthy hunting expeditions.
- Fostering game retrieval skills by simulating various hunting scenarios with decoys.
- Incorporating dog agility training to maintain peak physical condition for navigating challenging terrains.
For best results, invest in the Home Plus Kit from SwiftPaws. It includes all the essential training tools, such as 3 pulleys, remote, flags, line, line winder, and stakes. You will also get a main unit, a battery, and a charger.
You can train your dog with many skills on your own, such as fetching, line coursing, or ensure their general fitness. Get this kit now and spend some quality time with your pup.
As you may have gathered by now, determining the definitive best hunting dog breed is not straightforward. Retrievers, Bloodhounds, and German Shorthaired Pointers, all make great hunting companions.
Before you head hunting with your pet, invest in the right hunting dog equipment, such as Northland Dog Supply’s Hunting Vest and Dog Coat. Not to forget the CoyoteVest’s Spiked Vest for additional safety.
Each hunting breed offers unique strengths, so the perfect hunting companion is a personalized amalgamation of your needs and training methods. Invest in the SwiftPaws’ Home Plus Kit to train your pup right in your backyard.
Frequently Asked Questions
The best dog for hunting is the Labrador Retriever due to their exceptional retrieving skills in water and on land. They are also quite brave and fearless. Golden Retrievers come in second spot.
You must train your hunting dog with obedience training and agility training and make them accustomed to gun shots. Additionally, fetching exercises also help. Invest in SwiftPaws’ Home Plus Kit to get an all-in-one solution for your hunting dog’s training.