The Best Hunting Dogs
The best hunting dogs bring a range of skills to the table, from flushing out prey to retrieving downed waterfowl. Many of the best dog breeds for hunting also make great companions and members of the family, offering the best of both worlds. When looking for a canine companion, look for their breed's specific history and abilities in scenting, tracking, flushing, pointing, treeing, and retrieving, and how these relate to the type of game you are hunting.
The Labrador Retriever had ranked as America's No. 1 dog for several years in a row, though the French Bulldog upended its reign at the top in 2022, according to the American Kennel Club. Its versatility makes the breed a great choice for many types of hunting, and labs excel at all types of training like service dog work, obedience competition, and performance sports. They also make wonderful family pets and can play with the kids after a long day of retrieving in the field.
Brittany Spaniels are excellent pointing and flushing dogs for hunting quail and pheasant. Their medium size makes them easy to travel with, and while they are known for being very energetic and athletic, they are loving family dogs, as well. Just make sure your household is an active one, and your Brittany has plenty of athletic outlets when you're not out hunting together.
The wiry Airedale Terrier is a favorite of squirrel hunters. They are also used effectively for bird hunting and for fur tracking and trailing. Their high-energy, determined "terrier" nature and their ability to tolerate cold weather makes them a wonderful hunting companion.
This breed from Germany is not as well known in the United States, compared to many other traditional hunting dogs, but they receive strong support for their versatility. Pudelpointers have a small but growing and passionate fan base in the U.S., and they score high for the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association's test in natural ability and utility.
German Wirehaired Pointer
Also known as a Drahthaar, the German Wirehaired Pointer is another excellent, versatile hunting dog that does well in tracking, pointing, and retrieving with birds and other game. Not all GWPs are considered Drahthaars, though, which must go through a bevy of hunting tests first.
Beagles are a popular choice for hunters of rabbits and other small game. Their highly attuned scenting abilities make for a great tracking dog, and their small size allows them to move easily through foliage that may be more difficult for a larger dog. They are hardy dogs with easy going temperaments who are pleasant family companions, as well.
Beagles have been used for hunting since the 15th century, when they were bred from bloodhounds and other hounds to hunt rabbits and hares.
The athletic American Foxhound is a favorite among deer hunters. They were originally bred to hunt foxes, but their long legs and high stamina makes them very effective at chasing faster prey. Like all hounds, they also have extremely good scenting abilities. They are known for being good family pets, but like many other hunting dogs, they require a lot of physical and mental activity to keep them from becoming destructive.
Chesapeake Bay Retriever
The Chesapeake Bay Retriever, fondly known as a "chessie," is similar to a Labrador Retriever but has a thick, curly coat. They are excellent cold weather and water dogs and excel at many types of hunting, particularly duck hunting. Chessies were created in the Eastern United States specifically to hunt waterfowl during cold, icy, and wet conditions. Like labs, they are generally friendly and outgoing dogs who are intelligent and easy to train, but they do require lots of exercise.
Aside from excelling at all types of hunting, Golden Retrievers are considered one of the most intelligent hunting dogs. They are happy dogs that enjoy being with people and "working," which makes them great choices for hunting, service work, performance sports, and therapy. They are best suited for duck hunting and retrieving.
Coonhounds are often used for hunting larger game like deer and predators such as bears, coyotes, and mountain lions. They are highly athletic and strong runners, and known for their loud, soulful baying noises. Despite their tenacity during the hunt, they are known for being wonderful with children and are good family dogs, but they require a knowledgeable owner with a secure property.
Choosing the Best Hunting Breed for You
There are many breeds of dogs that make excellent hunters, but there are some breeds that are better suited for hunting than others. Another factor to consider when choosing your breed is whether or not your dog will be a family pet at home during the off season while not being used for hunting purposes. If you are searching for a companion and a hunting buddy, some breeds are more suitable than others. Research each breed prior to making your decision.