A hunting dog can be man’s best friend: a trainable, loyal, and energetic complementing aid to a hunter’s favored outdoor activity. Historically bred to hunt with humans, these dogs discover, smell, tail, collect and run faster and more efficiently than any human ever could.
The top categories for best overall hunting dogs are amongst the larger group of gun dogs, scent- or smell hounds. They are historically trained to support valuable hunting elements, I.e., locate game at a distance, tremendous speed, and endurance, hunt or retrieve at command, and agility to prey.
In society’s evolution, canines have been developed to adapt to their owners’ physical and intellectual commands for society’s productive benefit. Through hundreds of years of training, specific dogs are natively able to smell, see, locate and retrieve game better than others – let us look at the best all-around hunting dogs.
What makes an excellent hunting dog?
Defining the best type of overall hunting dog considers various aspects that might not come to mind at first glance. The answer is merited by an array of beneficial qualities to humans that are not isolated to hunting aspects alone.
Among the sought-after qualities in an overall- excellent hunting dog breed is not only the intellect and companionship but what the dog breed is historically trained for, and the breed’s modern-day popularity.
What you plan on hunting should determine the type of dog you want. It is a key distinction to score a hunting dog’s ability to do certain tasks because, while dogs can be versatile hunting companions, the type of hunting is wildly diverse and calls for specific qualities and needs from its dogs.
An outstanding hunting dog will, at its foundation, be:
- Loyal and committed to pleasing its owner
- Trainable and obedient
- Fast and fit, possessing stamina and endurance to go on long expeditions
- Able to retrieve prey
- Capable of swimming
- Have a strong prey drive
- Courageous and fierce when it comes to hunting
These qualities are found amongst most hunting dogs. To narrow down our search for the best overall determining factors of a good hunting dog, we need to selectively look at the subgroups that exist under hunting dogs and what qualities exist uniquely in each.
What Breeds of Hunting Dogs Are Highly Praised?
There is a primary pool of hunting dogs under which each sub-breed is categorized from. These groups were traditionally all distinctively bred to play certain roles in specific forms of hunting.
They are comprised of: gun dogs, scent/ smell hounds, and included in this selection are dogs that are not akin to either of these groups: Curs, Dachshunds, Feists, Laikas, and Terriers.
Each breed has developed a skill set over hundreds of years contingent on the type of game they had to hunt, what terrain they hunted in, and the dog’s role in the hunt.
While it is not completely sensible to single out qualities that fit all hunting dogs – because they possess a skill set that exists in its complex, historical merit – the following categories note what each of these dog groups is capable of and what qualities are discerned as outstanding:
1. Gun Dog
As the name suggests, gun dogs were developed to tirelessly aid gun hunters by identifying mainly birds and small mammals such as rabbits, raccoons, coyotes, or predators. Their main job is to locate, tail, and consequently retrieve prey after a shot is fired.
They are exceptionally agile, fast, and resilient working dogs. Their intelligence and eagerness to please their owners make them a high contender for being one of the “best” all-around hunting dogs. The subcategories under gundogs are Retrievers, Pointers, Setters, Spaniels, and Waterdogs.
Because this group is comprised of dogs that are meant to track, indicate, flush or retrieve prey. They are strong and smart, but their disposition is not to physically hurt or kill, but to find and ”hold” prey while indicating the location to their owners.
Gundogs can be further sub-categorized by their various abilities to retrieve, listen to commands, enduring strength, and be intelligent in their work ethic. The dogs that fall under this group are Retrievers, Pointers, Spaniels, Setters, and Waterdogs.
You get three types of hounds: Sighthounds, Scent hounds, and Lurchers, with various breeds categorized under each.
This group bears a leading ability to capture and track small to medium-sized game for miles, even if the prey is located miles from them. They will either have an exquisite sense of sight, smell or speed or possess all three.
Sighthounds use their speed to chase after prey and either assist humans with hunting or seize the prey itself. The characteristics that engender this skill is their large nasal cavities and long ears: their noses pick up a wide scent range, and their ears usually either hang on the ground or touch their surroundings – storing scents for a long time.
3. Cur Dogs
Cur dogs are celebrated for the versatile hunting abilities they bring to the table, despite having a small build. These dogs resulted from a few breeds and are considered North American “working dogs” because they were trained to protect their families or livestock around the clock.
These small yet feisty dogs are specially used for hunting wild pigs and medium-sized cats. Among the best of Cur dogs are the favored hunting dog called Catahoula Leopard Dog.
These tiny dogs have been the center of countless humorous birthday cards while being humanity’s remarkable breed development experiment. Originally from England, these dogs were developed to sniff out small burrow animals above and below ground.
Feists have a small built and hunt in packs. They are used to hunting small animals such as squirrels, and when it comes to sourcing their prey, they are relentless with an energetic determination. They were developed in the United States and are related to the terrier family.
Laikas are dogs hailing from cold corners of the world, such as Russia or Siberia. They are ruthless and fearless dogs who hunt in packs and work together to corner big animals such as bears.
These dogs are additionally trained to work independently from their owners and spend long hours by themselves, resulting in them not being considered companion dogs that are fit for individuals who seek a dog integrated closely with family life.
Terriers are versatile dogs that can locate, catch and kill small game. Ranging from smaller terriers, such as the Fox terrier, or larger family members, like the Bull terrier, these dogs can do their job above or underground and are well-adapted house companions.
These dogs have a keen determination that stretches so far. They will dig deep tunnels to go after their prey. The latter also means that, if you are a keen gardener, you will most likely sit with a landscaping disaster if you do not discipline your terrier.
Now that we have covered the respective origins of various hunting dog groups, it enables us to intuitively pinpoint where certain dogs have been made to have specific qualities, technologically speaking, allowing us to discern why certain dogs are more versatile and far-reaching than others.
The top 8 best all-around hunting dogs
Among the specific group of gundogs are retrievers whose versatility triumphs, not only the league of gun dogs but also qualifies them as a key favorite contender of all hunting dogs. They are fearless hunting companions, ready to go the extra mile to retrieve at all cost.
- Some of the most favored retrievers are the Chesapeake and Golden Retrievers. However, all retrievers are, as the name states, excellently developed to be hunting companions. They are also loyal, gentle family companions who work well with children.
- The main hunting characteristic of the retriever family is that they are mainly used for bird hunting. They possess impressive stamina and an energetic demeanor that will retrieve at long distances at once but are comfortable staying in the hunter’s short range.
- Additionally, they would be inclined to track prey even through the coldest waters, boosting their hunting companionship. Their built is extremely suitable for wet conditions, as retrievers commonly have thick coats, insulating them against the cold.
2. Pointers and Setters
- A popular favorite under the hunting community is Pointers and Setters, who can be grouped under this category as they serve similar functions. They are distinct hunting aids – freezing when they locate prey, signaling their owners without making noise.
- Their versatility is outstanding. The prey being hunted can vary, and the Pointer’s function in the hunt can take on many forms, as they can trail, retrieve and point. Furthermore, they are fast, enthusiastic, and clever concerning commands.
- Pointers and Setters can detect prey at a considerably far or near distance when hunting with their owners. They cannot endure the same terrain and temperature as Retrievers, but they work in teams, making their joint efforts brilliant hunting support.
- Spaniels are wickedly good at detecting, tracking, and sniffing out prey successfully. Spaniels work close to their owners and have the expert skill of locating and flushing (an act that forces birds to leave cover) is their forte.
- What makes Spaniels an anatomically brilliant fit for hunting dogs are their compact bodies and strong legs – this provides them with muscle and resilience to hunt for long hours on end while also being able to maneuver through small spaces.
- Under this subgroup is the Springer Spaniels, specifically are favored as the best of their kind. They get their name from their ability to “flush” game, such as birds, out of trees by jumping through coverage under which birds lie.
4. The Coonhound
- Coonhounds fall under the scent/sighthounds and are considered the best hunting dog of this specific subgroup because of their variety of skills.
- These dogs are distinguished for their distinctive smell, as coon hounds can identify “cold” scents (scents of prey that were at a location days before).
- Additional to possessing an impressive tracking ability, these dogs have a loud bay (combination between a howl/bark), are strong and fearless, and can hunt big game, I.e., bears, deers, or wolves.
- Weimaraners are all-purpose hunting dogs that hunt all types of game: originally bred to hunt boars, bears, and deers, but since adapted to mainly hunt birds (specifically waterfowl) and, sometimes, even predators.
- Weimaraners are extremely loyal to their owners and will fearlessly protect and serve them at all costs.
- Bloodhounds are a large breed that falls under the scent dogs. They are stubborn, leading dogs that require strict discipline and an owner to take charge in their training. Hunting dogs are highly skilled in tracking or hunting prey and are often used to track humans.
- As their name preludes, they are fierce track dogs committed to finding and even killing their prey if their owner trains them to hunt effectively. Their heavy, large ears can hold still in the wind, encapsulating scents during the hunt as they track.
- Beagles are trained to hunt small prey, and what makes them unique is that they herd and direct the game in the direction of its owners. Small, stubborn, but with an unwavering intellect and an energetic disposition.
- As a family of the retrievers, one of the most popular gun dogs and America’s most popular family dog, Labradors rank high on the list of hunting dogs as they are commonly found in all parts of the world.
- As with Retrievers, they can withstand extremely cold temperatures and waters and accompany their owners on long, enduring hunting trips. They have positive temperaments and can grow old and still hunt well.
- However, Labradors have a longstanding history of becoming genetically risk-prone to limb deformities, placing them lower down on the list of best-hunting dogs.
Why Consider Having a Hunting Dog
Hunting dogs were formerly developed to cater to the need of hunting. Hunting is nowadays a sport, far from a primal need. While hunting dogs have a legacy of established hunting skills, you can enjoy the intelligence and versatility of these dogs without ever going to hunt.
The reason is that hunting dogs possess qualities that prove their intelligence, loyalty, and servitude to their owners – characteristics that make for a great companion dog. The flipside of this commitment is that the dogs would need to be stimulated to the extent they would on an expedition.
A further negative consideration to this question is the different environments that need to be created for dogs to thrive in. The same constellation of complex generational development that causes a dog to respond well to certain commands also explains why they would refuse certain behavior.
A key example can explain why Beagles make great hunting companions but are frustrating to train to cohabitate with you in a household. They were trained to hunt far and independently from their masters on a hunting trip, thus literally being out of “range” of their owner’s commands, rendering their personalities as stubborn and difficult to adhere to commands.
Consider having a hunting dog as your companion if you are also committed to training and learning with them. You will only reap the rewards of seeing their brilliance if you follow the responsible steps of doing as much research about their behavior as possible.
Hunting dogs will not be for everyone’s lifestyle and personal capacity, and the preemptive education of the different expectations of these dogs are pivotal to undertaking the commitment of purchasing a living animal that will live with you its entire life.
The first historical evidence of a hunting hound dates back to 1,7 million years ago. Depictions of canines are found in cave paintings, and dog remains are found at archaeological burial sites of soldiers from thousands of years ago. Dogs have been working with humans for an eternity, and we need to be mindful about how we have nurtured different dogs to be a certain way.
Considering the “best” all-around hunting dog is a metric that should be seen as somewhat subjective and arbitrary, even though popularity reports support the notion of the mentioned dogs in this article to be correct choices.
Truthfully, all-round best-hunting dogs are deemed to be:
- Overly versatile in multiple skillsets.
- Adapted to multiple environments and terrains.
- Effortless to train, susceptible to commands.
- Lastly, but as important to the life of hunting grounds, like companionship and domestication.