Being a sporty type of person, I’ve always dreamed of long hikes to vast landscapes stretching out to the horizon. Unfortunately, coming from a family of four lovable people who’d rather spend the day on the couch, dream hikes can get pretty lonely. What better way to put an end to this solitude than to get me a furry new companion? Besides, one can never have too many excuses when it comes to adopting another dog.
Hunting dogs are perfect companions for people who like doing activities that require a lot of exertion. They are lively, dedicated and possess great olfactory senses. To help decide what kind of dog would best suit your lifestyle, read on.
Hunting Dogs as Family
Hunting dogs have a natural instinct to chase and kill small prey so you have to train them to follow your commands. This may be time-consuming and difficult but must be started while they are still puppies. They’re highly intelligent and loyal, so they’ll catch on.
Owners must be cautious when introducing them into the household especially if there are other small pets in the house. Look into breeds that find preys as opposed to chase and kill them.
Smaller dogs tend to be more enthusiastic so larger dogs might be a better choice. The larger dogs are also more patient and friendly. So they’re more suitable for a household with children. Also, remember that since they’re bred to be very active so they must get plenty of exercises and proper foods. Ensure that they get long walks and plenty of games to keep them mentally active. This will also be great for the owner’s heart and health.
What to Look For In a Hunting Dog?
The traits that you want in your hunting dog may vary depending on the prey of your choice but these are some that can help you get started-
Though most are usually calm and obedient, you must ensure your dog has a good temperament especially if it is also the family dog.
The dark woods with scary predators might be intimidating for your dog. Having a calm approach will teach your dog to follow your example. Fearlessness will also guarantee a greater variety of prey.
- Stamina & Endurance
Hunting requires long hours of patience and walking great distances. Therefore it is important that your dog does not tire out easily.
Intelligent dogs train faster. Preys are usually fast and sneaky so your dog must be cunning and fast enough in order to catch them.
- Jaw Strength
This depends on the type of game you intend to hunt. Soft jaws are most suitable for birds and are more popular.
- The Sense of Smell and Sound Sensitivity
Whether it is to flush, track or point and mark out preys, having a great sense of smell is an indispensable trait. Your dog must also be able to withstand the sound of firearms that will be used in hunting.
Long or fluffy coats might get in the way of running through thick vegetation so keep that in mind while selecting your hunting companion.
Hunting Dog Classifications by Breed
Confusion may arise about which dog to choose given the huge array of breeds considered as hunting dogs. Some breeds have only recently been bred to function as hunting dogs while others have been loyal companions for centuries. Broadly hunting dogs may be categorized into hounds and gun dogs as they are the most common.
While some hounds prefer doing all the hard work themselves (from chasing to killing), others only locate prey. Based on their specialty, hounds are chiefly sight or smell type.
1.1. Sight Hounds
These heavily rely on their sight to catch even the fastest prey. Built for speed, these slender hounds are as elegant as they are fast. Typical examples are:
- Afghan Hound
- Scottish Deerhound
1.2. Smell Hounds
Smell hounds use their excellent nose to track prey. Though not as fast as sight hounds, they are useful for preys which are elusive and good at hiding.
Some popular Scent Hound breeds include:
- Basset Hound
- Hunting dog breeds
- Gun Dogs
- Gun Dogs
They have been only recently bred to be hunters so they mainly assist the owner on hunting expeditions. As they are trained to work with firearms, they chase, track and flush prey towards the hunter without being gun-shy.
Usual examples are:
- Retrievers, such as Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers
- Setters, such as English Setters and French Setters
- Pointers, such as the English Pointer
- Spaniels, such as Cocker Spaniels and Papillons
- HPRs, such as German Pointers and Vizslas
- Water dogs
Hunting Dog Classifications by Tendency
While selecting your hunting dog, it’s good to keep in mind what type of game you prefer to hunt. This is because there are breeds which are more suitable for hunting a particular game.
- Bird Hunters
Labrador Retriever, Short-haired Pointer, Boykin Spaniel, Golden Retriever, and English Springer Spaniel are the most popular for bird hunting. Remember that some breeds show an affinity for hunting only certain games. For example, Retrievers are able to watch their owners hunt for long hours and remember precisely where the prey has fallen. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever flush out ducks within shooting range of the owner whereas English Springer Spaniel is the best for upland games like pheasants.
- Rabbit Hunters
Small games like rabbits need to be dealt with differently. As they’re more difficult to detect, scent hounds are most appropriate for hunting them. This category includes beagles because of their agility owing to their diminutive stature and alerting loud barks help to locate preys. Others include Basset hounds, Dachshunds, Terriers, and Weimaraners.
- Deer Hunters
Deer run very fast for miles once startled. The dogs when hunting deer must have an incredible amount of stamina and speed to match up to them. American foxhounds are most suitable for this as they enjoy the thrill of the chase and alert the hunter about the deer’s whereabouts through constant barking.
- Larger Game Hunters
Large games such as wild boars, mountain lions are very difficult and often times dangerous to hunt. So first and foremost ensure the safety and weigh the risks associated with hunting them. These dogs must be large and sturdily built and have a keen sense of smell so breeds like the Coon-hound, Plott Hound, American Pit-bull Terrier, and other pig hunting dogs make good choices.
Most Popular Hunting Dog Breeds
Among the numerous hunting dog breeds, certain breeds have managed to win the hearts of owners for their beneficial and unique characteristics.
- German Short-haired Pointer
The power, speed, and endurance of these dogs’ coupled with their quick ability to adapt and learn make them one of the most popular breeds. Their affectionate nature and playfulness make the hunting experience more enjoyable for the owner.
- English Setter
These magnificent dogs are as powerful and stealthy as they’re graceful. Their unique qualities have led them to be bred as ideal hunting dogs for centuries. They may be considered as nothing short of royalty among the hunting dogs.
Don’t be fooled by the cute and seemingly fragile appearance of beagles. Their hunting prowess is quite evident in their efficiency to hunt hares and other small games.
- Golden Retriever
Known for their keen memory, these beautiful dogs are able to remember the precise location where the prey has fallen and can retrieve the birds on command.
- American Pit Bull
Considered to be fearless fighters, these unbeatable dogs are gifted with both strength and endurance. Thus making them the most popular choice for hunting large games.
Health Problems of Hunting Dogs
Like all pets, your hunting dogs are vulnerable to certain ailments, more so because of the risks associated with hunting. Therefore the owners must be well aware of these risks and take precautions to avoid them. The health problems plaguing dogs vary depending on breed so it is beyond the scope of this article to list them here.
However, you may State of Pet Health report put out by Banfield Veterinary Hospital. This report looked at data from 2.5 million dogs to determine the most common health concerns. You may also check other sites to find out problems associated with specific breeds.
Choosing the perfect breed to be your furry companion on your hunting adventures is quite a tough decision. The traits mentioned above might help you get started. Thorough research while considering all drawbacks is important to help choose the best dog for you. It is good to remember that though some dogs are genetically hunters, they might not like hunting. Since many dogs double as family pets, it is crucial to consider all necessary factors before you welcome a new member into your family.