The Best Hunting Dog Breeds

Finding the right dog is a process. Once that's decided, it's a journey.

Nose into the wind, your dog homes in. With renewed energy, it succeeds yet again, and you think, Man, I love that dog. The bond man and hunting dog share is a special one, and the hunting relationship between the two is a tandem with a rich heritage.

Those who love hunting dogs might already know what they want. Those who are new to the concept, who like the idea of hunting dogs, but aren’t quite sure what to get yet, might need assistance. Here is what you should know about hunting hounds. These are the favorite hunting dog breeds picked by our experienced team.

The Deutsch Drahthaar is a great dog for those who like to hunt many different types of game.

Most Versatile Hunting Dog: Deutsch Drahthaar

While it’s not as common as other dog breeds, the Deutsch Drahthaar is an excellent option for those who enjoy many different types of outdoor adventures.

“I use her for blood-trailing, upland birds, retrieving waterfowl, and I even take her rabbit and squirrel hunting,” said Spenser Bradley, a land specialist with Whitetail Properties. “I went for a versatile dog, because I love to hunt everything.

“Beyond that, I have a biology and conservation background,” he continued. “These dogs are absolute machines, and specialists in recovering dead game. That fits well into my conservation background, because I’m not wasting any game when using her for hunting. If there’s a way for that game to be recovered, I’m confident she will do it.”

Of course, Bradley notes that, with the best hunting dogs, it depends on where you live, what kind of hunting you do, the household you live in, your family life, and your lifestyle. Even with these considerations, this breed shines.

“They are very loyal but independent,” he said. “They have a ton of energy, and they’re dogs that need to have jobs, and it needs to be hunting related. These are not dogs that can just loaf around the house.”

Incredibly, this breed is regulated by some of the strictest rules in the dog world. “There is an entire testing system with these dogs,” Bradley said. “To be certified to breed, they must go through this testing system that shows they are able to do all the things that a Deutsch Drahthaar is supposed to do, which is tracking, retrieving, working upland game, etc. The testing system is outstanding. In my opinion, it’s a waste to get a dog like this, and not run it through the testing system. It improves the breed and gives you a better hunting dog.”

Interestingly, the German Wirehaired Pointer and Deutsch Drahthaar are related, but the two breeds split off due to disagreements on how to manage the breed. Originally, this dog received its name from its hair. It has a very wiry coat that helps protect it from the elements, including wind and rain. The German wirehaired pointer is also known for its grit. This upland-focused dog also isn’t afraid of water, and it does well retrieving game no matter what the landscape has to offer. Grasslands, brushy briars, wet marshes, and more — this dog can handle it.

Fastest-Learning Hunting Dog: German Shorthaired Pointer

The German shorthaired pointer, most known as a GSP, is one of the most popular hunting dog breeds in America.

“I’ve had several of them,” said Brent Grosse, a land specialist with Whitetail Properties. “I love their natural ability, which seems to be ingrained in all of them. They’re first year, at about five months old, I think it’s cool that a pup that young basically comes out of the box ready to go. That’s been my experience with this breed, going back to the late 80s, and I own three right now.”

Primarily, Grosse and his family hunt pheasants, because they’re located in Iowa. They also spend some time out West on the plains birds — especially Hungarian partridge (gray partridge), sharp-tailed grouse, etc. Grosse and his crew love to hunt any upland game bird.

Whitetail Properties Land Specialist Tim Kent also prefers this breed. “From an upland standpoint, it’s difficult to beat their energy or stamina,” he said. “They’re intelligent dogs. It’s hard to beat a GSP. They can go and go and go. They don’t have a lot of quit in them. And if you get one that’s really birdy, they live for it, and it’s just as much for them as it is for you.”

Grosse and Kent also commend the GSP’s ability to be great house dogs. “How well-behaved they can be as pets,” Grosse said. “They live in the house and spend some time in the kennels. For the most part, they live as our family pets when not being trained, field trialing, or hunting. I think a lot of people think they can be too wild to live indoors. Honestly, I believed that when I was younger.”

“I don’t know if they’re all this way, but my GSP has been a great family dog,” Kent said. “She’s very loving. But when you take out that shotgun, and fire one round through it, she knows what’s up, and she’s ready to go. It’s cool to have that mix of personality.”

The Labrador retriever is one of the most popular dogs in America.

Best Family Pet and Hunting Dog Hybrid: Labrador Retriever

The famous labrador retriever is on most people’s lists of top dogs. It’s great on land and on the water. It comes with a coat of short hair, but it’s waterproof, making these dogs excellent waterfowl retrievers. Of course, that same durable coat works well for pulling doves and upland birds out of the thick, nasty stuff, too.

The breed started in Newfoundland, and its ever-popular reputation originated and spread from there. Today, it’s renowned as one of the best hunting dogs that also pairs well with family life. But once time to hunt, you slap on a proven dog vest and go to work.

“I’ve trained three black labs to a finished dog,” said Ben Richardson, land specialist with Whitetail Properties. “I enjoy working with them. They are just more personable. You’re working with them every day.”

He’s mostly used labs for waterfowl hunting, and occasionally a dove hunt or two each year.

“I like their ability to learn, their personality, and their attentiveness,” Richardson said. “I’ve had two females and a male. The males are like bowling balls in a China shop. To me, a smaller-framed female is easier to train. But you can keep them in the house, if you want to. They’re obedient.”

Furthermore, those who like Labrador retrievers, but want something slightly different, have a couple great alternate options. These include golden retrievers and Chesapeake Bay retrievers. The former is known for being incredible family dogs, and while the latter is, too, it’s especially popular for loyalty, prey drive, and intelligence.

Most Popular Upland Bird Dogs: English Pointers and English Setters

Perhaps two of the most popular hunting dog of all times, the English setter and English pointer come with plenty of press. These dogs aren’t secrets, and everyone already knows about them.

English pointers are intense and full of energy. Many handlers say it isn’t an easy breed to train. And chances are good individual dogs will offer significant challenges. But when a dog clicks, and it really shines, it’s a great thing.

Of course, while a different breed, English pointers are related to English setters. Some dog owners might prefer the latter. While English setters are very good at locating game birds, they don’t go “on-point” like most English pointers.

Additionally, there are other good options for those who don’t want an English setter or English pointer but hope for something similar. Other dogs to consider include Boykin spaniels, Brittany spaniel, English springer spaniels, Irish setters, and more. These aren’t as popular as others on this list. However, these dogs have great personalities, offer incredible work ethic, and can deliver some surprising results. Not to mention being great house and family dogs.

Best Rabbit Hunting Dog: Beagle Hound

The mighty beagle was made for running down bunnies, and running down bunnies it does well. This breed dates back to the 1400s. Of course, even around home, they bark a lot. But it’s just because they’re among the most cheerful of dog breeds. If you don’t like that, maybe beagles aren’t for you.

“I’ve had labs, and I enjoy training labs, but my best memories are from beagles,” Richardson said. “We used to do a lot of rabbit hunting as kids. We always had eight to 12 beagles.”

For Richardson, getting another beagle dog was an incentive for him and his brother to make straight As.

Best Deer Tracking Dog: Bloodhound

At some point, most deer hunters need the service of a deer tracking dog. They make a subpar shot and require the services of a blood- and scent-tracking dog that can help recover the downed game. Usually, handlers prefer bloodhounds.

Of course, other breeds are quite popular for this, too. Just a few of these include:

  • Beagles
  • Blue lacy dogs
  • Catahoulas
  • Curs
  • Dachshunds
  • German jagdterriers
  • German shepherd
  • Jack Russell terriers
  • Labrador retrievers
  • Slovensky Kopov dogs
  • And more

Best Coonhound Dog: Treeing Walker

Black and tans, blueticks, redbones, and more, the best coonhound debate rages on. But the crème rises to the top, and here, that’s the treeing walker dog. While each of these breeds are exceptional, the typical treeing walker offers more drive and grit.

Best Bear and Hog Hunting Dogs: Plott Hound

Some of the toughest dogs around, Plott hounds are popular for dangerous hunts, such as bears and boars. This breed is ideal for tackling physical challenges, and mitigating wild game that can hurt it.

Of course, there are other options. The family of cur dog breeds are certainly among the more utility-based breeds around. Some of the most popular include black-mouth, Catahoula, and mountain cur. These dogs are exceptional hog dogs, but some use these to hunt bruins, too.

Best Squirrel Hunting Dog: Mountain Feist

There are many dogs that serve as great squirrel dogs, but the best one is the mountain feist. This canine is incredibly intelligent, has a great sniffer, and produces an excellent prey drive. This breed doesn’t quit, and it gives a lot of effort during the hunt. That said, these dogs do have a lot of energy, and that’s something to remember when considering home life. Fortunately, these are quite small, and aren’t as imposing as larger dogs.

Whatever dog breed you choose, make sure it's right for you, your family, and your adventures.

Get Your Pick of the Litter

No matter your preferred type of hunting, there’s an associated dog hunting adventure waiting. Determine the right dog breed for you, and welcome home the latest member of your family. Soon, it’ll be time to hunt.

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