What Breeds Make the Best Hunting Dogs? Our Top 10 Picks!

According to the  American Kennel Club, hunting dog breeds are more varied than even some hunters might realize. There are dozens of dogs that hunt with or for humans, falling into the following categories: hounds, gun dogs, feists, terriers, curs, and dachshunds.

What Are Hunting Dogs?

Hunting dogs are trained canine that hunts for or with humans and has several types of hunting dogs developed for specific tasks. Many hunters are loyal to their breed; whether it’s a cocker spaniel, an English setter, an English springer spaniel, a Brittany spaniel, a Boykin spaniel,  beagles or a Labrador, each breed will produce great hunters and a loyal man’s best friend.

The hunting dogs, or group of sporting dogs, are a group of distinct dog breeds that were originally bred to assist hunters in discovering their quarry and collecting it. This group is made up of dogs like spaniels, retrievers, pointers, and setters.

American Kennel Club Definition of Hunting Dogs

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), man has been breeding dogs for particular duties since the start of time. Among the first duties assigned to early canines were jobs such as hunting, guarding, and herding. As human beings developed, their canine counterparts did so. Dogs became more and more adapted physically and intellectually to the particular job for which they were bred.

 This implies that the resulting puppies will be recognizably German Shepherds if you were to raise a German Shepherd with another German Shepherd.

The AKC group breeds dogs according to their purpose as follows. 

Sporting Group 

This group of dog breeds was created to work intimately with their beings during hunting. Within this group, distinct races have distinct duties and sets of skills within the hunt. Some are good at discovering the prey or flushing it, while others are good at getting it back. A noteworthy part of this group is that almost everyone is making excellent companion dogs.

Two of America’s favorite breeds are Labrador and Golden Retrievers. This group’s other animals: the spaniels and the setters. Biddable, smart, faithful, and affectionate are sporting dogs.

Working Group

The working group includes Rottweiler, Doberman Pinscher, Bernese Mountain Dog, and the Anatolian Shepherd. These dogs are learners who are very smart and fast. They are active and vigilant, making excellent watchdogs and guards. Generally speaking, they are faithful and make excellent companions. They need to be well educated and socialized from an early age due to their strength and protective instinct.

Toy Group

What they lack in size, in personality they make up for! These are affectionate, friendly pooches that create dogs that are excellent companions. Some of the favorite toy breeds of hunting dogs include the Italian Greyhound, Pug, Pomeranian, and of course, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. The prevalent denominator among these races is their instinctual capacity to regulate other animals ‘ motion.

Herding or shepherd breeds of dogs have been created to round up and defend animals. You have probably heard of Border Collies, German Shepherds, Australian Cattle Dog and the whip-fast Belgian Malinois in this group. These are smart dogs that are rewarding to train. They are faithful companions.


This is a group of dog breeds still in their stage of development. In other words, they have not licensed types of formal AKC. However, the AKC offers this platform to guarantee that breed records are kept safe and reliable. This group includes American Leopard Hound, Bologna, Caucasian Shepherd Dog, and Czechoslovakian Vlcak.

Hound Group 

This is one of dog breeds ‘ most varied group. Hounds are used most frequently for hunting. Their capacity to scent or run down their quarry defines them. Some hounds have a distinctive hiss when their prey has been spotted. “Baying” is something that needs to be experienced firsthand before you decide to bring one of these pooches into your lives! This category includes the Afghan Hound, Basset Hound, Beagle, and Dachshund.

Terrier Group 

Originally bred these spirited dogs to hunt and kill vermin and guard the property of their families. They create beautiful animals, but they can be stubborn and have elevated concentrations of energy. Terriers come from the lower Cairn Terrier to the bigger Airedale Terrier in many distinct shapes and sizes. The Russell Terrier, Scottish Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier are other breeds in this group.

The non-sporting group includes a broad range of dog breeds. In appearance or character, there are few similarities. Most of these dogs, however, protect both their family and property. This separate category involves races like the Shar-Pei, Bichon Frise, Bulldog, Dalmatian, and Poodle. There are several hundred races of purebred dogs in the globe. The AKC recognizes not everyone. This category may include breeds undergrowth or not yet acknowledged as AKC-registered races — for instance, Laekenois from Belgium, Incha Orchid from Peru, and Dutch Shepherd.

How to Train Hunting Dogs?

Good hunting dogs start their training at the moment you held the puppy for the first time. It is how to continuously ignore distractions your dog must learn to ignore while executing a command.

Knowing a few necessary training steps is an advantage.  Your dog should stop, go away from you, and come back when you want. Every trained dog progresses at his own pace, but here are some rough guidelines to follow on your first year together.


Give your pup its hunting dog name then acquaint your canine apprentice with people, grooming, places and the vet. After you have completed the vaccinations, familiarize your pup to other friendly dogs. This is the time for housebreaking, crate training, teaching puppy to respond to his name and teaching “no.” At this age, you can do mild exercises only since the joints are not yet fully developed for excessive running. Let your loyal puppy get used to a collar and leash but prevent yanking. Why? Because your dog will cooperate with praise than with punishment.


Obedience and being loyal are the primary goals. Getting your pup to come to you when called by their hunting dog names and yield to a leash are the first orders of training. Active pups can investigate the field on a check-cord and learning the windshield-wiper pattern with their nose and prey drive. If your flusher puppy sits on his own, you command “hup.” if you have a training table, gently hold your pointer pup while introducing “whoa,” command.

The dog’s prey drive will be activated if you introduced dead birds at this age. Once activated,  you might check-cord your pup into the scent cone of hard-flushing live birds. For puppies to start learning winging steadiness, you need to have a firm grip on the leash. Hunting dogs breeds like Spaniels and Retrievers will learn that “hup” is a command to sit on flush, but the prey drive exercise is about getting them fired up about the hunt and bird contact, not command performance.

Dipping in warm, shallow water should be in the program, but let the pup decide when to swim. Get your puppy used to gunfire by starting at a distance using cap guns. Then you can move to pistols and shotguns when you see that gunfire doesn’t bother them anymore. Do this always while the puppy is cutting loose in bird contact.

AGE 8 to 11 MONTHS

Introduce the electronic training collar, but use it only when you know the canine fully understands a command. At this age, Pointing, nose and hunt instincts are becoming prominent now. Duck hunting dogs like retrievers should bring retrieving bumpers back by this time. Once the canine is properly gunshots-trained, take the puppy for short hunt stints. Field dogs should be sweeping back and forth with the check-cord attached its the same thing with the spaniels and retrievers.

AGE 12 to 16 MONTHS

The adolescent dog should have most commands established. Pointers should stand a bird until it flies; flushers should “hup” on the flush. Learning to sit still and keep quiet while on the hunt should be a priority while out in the woods or marsh. It goes the same with easy marks by watching falling prey to have accurate retrieves.

Dog training is a lifetime of devotion, effort, and fun. It will have its up and downs, and even the best pup will go off the plan, so work on regular remedial work. But when the man’s best friend points his first grouse or runs toward a downed pintail, you’ll know it was worth every minute.

There are plenty of great hunting “Mutts” out there as well, but we are going to focus on the first breeds that most Americans stick to when picking out their hunting dogs.

Hounds are assorted into sighthounds, scent hounds, and lurchers. Gun dogs include such breeds as retrievers, setters, spaniels, pointers, and water dogs.

While there are plenty of dogs that fall into some of these categories, we obviously can’t cover them all.  Below is our Top 10 picks for just about every type of hunting you can think of.

Picking the best hunting dog breeds is no easy task because the selection honestly depends on many different factors. After careful consideration, we bring you our top 10 picks for best hunting dog breeds.

Best Hunting Dog For Waterfowl: Labrador Retriever

Duck hunting dogs like Labrador Retrievers is built and trained for cold-water work, as duck hunters will tell you. It’s playful, and energetic nature belies its abilities as a gun dog. Its weather-resistant, short coat both repels water and keeps the dog warm in the blind.

The Lab is capable of persisting for long hours under challenging conditions. Its powerful jaws lend to its capabilities as a retrieving gun dog, and in fact, it is a skilled retriever both on land and in the water.

A dog with an even temper, the Labrador Retriever is a favorite of waterfowl hunters and one of the best duck hunting dog breeds. It’s also an excellent dog for beginners if you are a first-time dog owner.

Top Quail & Pheasant Hunting Dog: The English Springer Spaniel

The English Springer Spaniel is a breed of gun dog that specializes in flushing and retrieving. Its compact body and strong, muscular legs give it the power and endurance to keep going even under trying hunting conditions.

The curly-coated retriever Springer Spaniel excels at seeking out and finding a game, then driving it from hiding for its master. It’s said the name “Springer” came from its ability to cause birds to spring into the air.

The working Springer Spaniel is a stable fellow, well balanced, and tends to have few health complaints. Hunters of quail, pheasant, and grouse frequently cite the English Springer Spaniel as their upland hunting breed of choice.

A Great All Around Hunting Dog: The Coonhound

The Coonhound is a variety of scent hound, a dog that runs its game by scent alone. There are several breeds of coonhound, each suited to a specific hunting purpose. They are great helpers if you are out there checking the field with your rangefinder, looking for a massive game.

It’s known in general as a courageous beast with a nose, which is why it’s frequently used in hunting for deer, bear, wolf, and cougar. Coonhounds are tough, agile creatures that give the impression of intense, unwavering alertness.

Every Coonhound, much like humans, has its unique voice, and owners claim they can recognize the bay of their hound from as much as a mile away. Trained coonhounds have a great deal of stamina and are capable of running for many miles when on the scent.

Top Pick for Small Game: The Beagle

The Beagle is a single-minded, determined, unshakeable animal when it is on the hunt. Initially bred for hare hunting, the Beagle is used today to track rabbit, deer, and other small game.

Beagles have a keen sense of smell that is why you’ll see them used as detection dogs. Expert at driving prey toward the hunter, the Beagle is a persistent when tracking game, and its stamina sets it apart from a lot of other scent dogs as it will go the distance. The beagle’s alertness and intelligence make it a much-desired dog for hunting small game.

Best Grouse Hunting Dogs: English Setter

The English Setter is an excellent and graceful animal use in hunting for quail, pheasant, and ruffed grouse. It’s a dog bred for endurance and athleticism, and it is capable of long stands in hard weather.

Like a pointer, the English Setter “points” to the location of the prey or ruffed grouse, giving the hunter ample time to set up and shoot. Unlike the Pointer, however, the English Setter prefers to remain close to the hunter thus making them great companions, so they’re always in the line of sight. It’s a fantastic dog to watch as it sniffs the air for its prey before holding point, motionless, waiting for the kill.

A Great Dog For Duck Hunting: The Chesapeake Bay Retriever

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a gun and duck hunting dog initially bred to retrieve waterfowl, specifically (but not exclusively) duck.  The duck hunting dog has a lot of endurance, ability, and intelligence.

The “Chessie” is a sturdy dog, with a double coat that does a great job of insulating it against icy water. This is a big dog, too, and it needs a lot of exercises.

Most owners agree that its owner should train the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, in an environment where as a puppy, it can socialize with other dogs.

This loyal beast is the waterfowl hunter’s friend for life.

Best Bird Hunting Dog: German Shorthaired Pointer

The German Shorthaired Pointer is probably the most popular pointing german hunting dogs in the world. It is a sleek, powerful animal with the uncanny ability to move and turn with astonishing rapidity.

German Shorthaired Pointers have a robust and broad muzzle, making it perfect for pointing and retrieving massive game. The German Shorthaired Pointer has webbed feet and will go after waterfowl in the water without hesitation.

A versatile creature, the German Shorthaired Pointer is the average North American gamebird hunter’s dog of choice.

A Great Dog For Hunting Badgers& Rabbits: The Jack Russell Terrier

The Jack Russell Terrier is known as a working dog thanks to its toughness and stubborn nature. Its robustness makes it a formidable companion when you’re hunting groundhog, badger, or fox.

The Jack Russells are flushing dogs that locate the prey in the earth, either chasing it out of the hole or holding it in place until the hunter can dig it out. You’ll either have to be in good condition to work flushing dogs like the Jack Russell Terrier or it will get you into shape quickly.

No matter how far you can walk in a day, the Jack Russell Terrier will outpace you several times.

Best Fox Hunting Dog: The American Foxhound

Last and certainly not least, the American Foxhound is, as its name suggests, bred to hunt foxes. According to the American Kennel Club, with its extraordinary sense of smell and sharp nose, it’s also considered to be the best breed for running deer drives thanks to its stamina.

Yes, and the unmistakable baying sound it makes when on the hunt! It is an agile dog that is perfect for hunting over rugged terrain and upland hunting sites. The American Foxhound loves to be outside, and when it is on the scent, it will tear off, commands notwithstanding.

A Great Dog For Squirrel Hunting: The Feist

A Feist is a small dog, bred in the southern United States, frequently used for small game hunting, frequently squirrel hunting. Alone or in packs, the Feist works above ground and barks up the tree to alert hunters that prey is hiding there.

Feists are smallish dogs, weighing 25 to 30 pounds with short coats and long legs. They’re bred almost exclusively for hunting, and they are quiet about it, too, unlike hounds.

Feists use their senses to locate, hunt and tree the squirrel before barking loudly to alert the hunter, much in the same way a coonhound does with raccoons.

A Feist will chase a squirrel to the ends of the earth or until it loses sight of it.


Choosing the best hunting dog is a very personal choice, and it will largely depend on what type of hunter you are and what kind of game you will be hunting.

What are the best-hunting dogs? If you are compound bow hunting big game, then evidently a keen tracker like a Coonhound might be a better choice than a Jack Russell Terrier.

The same applies if you are hunting small game with a crossbow.  You’d likely be looking at a Beagle over a Labrador retriever.

Anyone of these hunting dogs will do the trick as filling in for both your best friend as well as keen hunting partner for years to come.

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