Discovering the Best Hunting Dog Breeds

Carly Brasseux // December 27

Hunting, a tradition as old as humanity itself, has always relied on our partnership with dogs (man's best friend, right?). These four-legged companions have played pivotal roles in tracking, retrieving, and flushing game, making them indispensable to hunters. In this guide, we'll explore the best hunting dog breeds, each with its unique qualities and characteristics.

best hunting dog breeds

Retrievers: Masters of the Waterfowl Hunt

Labrador Retriever

Pros: Excellent waterfowl retrievers, highly trainable, friendly, and versatile.
Cons: Can be hyperactive, may chew when bored, need regular exercise.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Pros: Strong swimmers, cold-resistant, determined retrievers.
Cons: Independent, reserved with strangers, strong-willed.

Pointers and Setters: Masters of the Upland Game

English Pointer

Pros: Agile, excellent pointers, good for upland bird hunting.
Cons: High energy, needs consistent training, can be aloof.

German Shorthaired Pointer

Pros: Versatile hunters, loyal, intelligent, great family pets.
Cons: High exercise needs, may be too energetic for some.

English Setter

Pros: Graceful, great with kids, gentle, good for quail hunting.
Cons: Require grooming, can be stubborn, need regular exercise.

Spaniels: Flushing Out Success

Irish Setter

Pros: Energetic, friendly, affectionate, excellent bird dogs.
Cons: Need space, can be mischievous, requires grooming.

Cocker Spaniel

Pros: Friendly, adaptable, good for flushing game.
Cons: Prone to ear infections, require regular grooming.

English Springer Spaniel

Pros: Eager to please, good family pets, great for flushing birds.
Cons: High energy, need mental stimulation, may bark a lot.

Versatile and Loyal: The American Water Spaniel

American Water Spaniel

Pros: Versatile hunters, intelligent, good family dogs.
Cons: Can be reserved with strangers, need regular exercise.

The Boykin Spaniel: A Waterfowl Specialist

Boykin Spaniel

Pros: Excellent retrievers, friendly, great for waterfowl.
Cons: Require mental stimulation, may be stubborn, need regular exercise.

Beagle: The Small Game Specialist

Beagle

Pros: Excellent scent hounds, friendly, great for small game.
Cons: Can be stubborn, and easily distracted by scents.

The Coonhound Group: Masters of Tracking

Coonhound

Pros: Exceptional tracking abilities, loyal, good for raccoon hunting.
Cons: Need secure fencing, can be independent.

Bluetick Coonhound

Pros: Exceptional scent hounds, determined, good for raccoon hunting.
Cons: Require secure fencing, can be independent.

Treeing Walker Coonhound

Pros: Great treeing instincts, energetic, good for raccoon hunting.
Cons: Can be stubborn, need regular exercise.

Black and Tan Coonhound

Pros: Excellent tracking skills, loyal, good for raccoon hunting.
Cons: Need secure fencing, may be stubborn.

The Unique Curly-Coated Retriever

Curly-Coated Retriever

Pros: Great swimmers, versatile retrievers, intelligent.
Cons: Independent, slow to mature, need regular exercise.

Portuguese Water Dog: A Waterborne Companion

Portuguese Water Dog

Pros: Exceptional swimmers, loyal, versatile water dogs.
Cons: High exercise needs, may be reserved with strangers.

The Rat Terrier: Small Game Specialist

Rat Terrier

Pros: Agile, excellent for small game, loyal.
Cons: Energetic, may have a high prey drive.

Feist: The Squirrel Hunter

Feist

Pros: Excellent squirrel hunters, agile, adaptable.
Cons: Can be stubborn, and need consistent training.

The Plott Hound: A Boar Hunter's Companion

Plott Hound

Pros: Exceptional tracking abilities, loyal, good for boar hunting.
Cons: Need strong leadership, may be stubborn.

Treeing a Raccoon: The Treeing Walker Coonhound

Treeing Walker Coonhound

Pros: Great treeing instincts, energetic, good for raccoon hunting.
Cons: Can be stubborn, need regular exercise.

Tracking with Style: The Bluetick Coonhound

Bluetick Coonhound

Pros: Exceptional scent hounds, determined, good for raccoon hunting.
Cons: Require secure fencing, can be independent.

The Versatile Bloodhound

Bloodhound

Pros: Outstanding scent trackers, gentle, calm demeanor.
Cons: Drool excessively, can be stubborn, needs regular grooming.

Basset Hound: The Scent Specialist

Basset Hound

Pros: Excellent nose, affectionate, good for trailing game.
Cons: Can be stubborn, prone to obesity, need exercise.

Jack Russell Terrier: The Fearless Hunter

Jack Russell Terrier

Pros: Energetic, fearless, excellent for small game.
Cons: Can be aggressive, need consistent training.

Border Terrier: The Fearless Hunter

Border Terrier

Pros: Fearless, good for small game, adaptable.
Cons: Can be stubborn, and require grooming.

Gordon Setter: Grouse Hunting Specialist

Gordon Setter

Pros: Loyal, excellent pointers, good for grouse hunting.
Cons: Require grooming, can be aloof.

The Intelligent and Adventurous Curly-Coated Retriever

Curly-Coated Retriever

Pros: Great swimmers, versatile retrievers, intelligent.
Cons: Independent, slow to mature, need regular exercise.

Llewellin Setter: The Upland Game Expert

Llewellin Setter

Pros: Excellent pointers, great for upland game hunting.
Cons: Require grooming, need regular exercise.

Red Setter: The Grouse and Partridge Specialist

Red Setter

Pros: Energetic, affectionate, great for grouse hunting.
Cons: Require grooming, may be stubborn.

Large Munsterlander: The Versatile Hunter

Large Munsterlander

Pros: Versatile hunters, loyal, intelligent.
Cons: Need regular exercise, may be aloof with strangers.

Braque Francais: The French Pointer

Braque Francais

Pros: Excellent pointers, adaptable, good for upland game hunting.
Cons: May require extensive training, and can be reserved with strangers.

Field Spaniel: The Energetic Flusher

Field Spaniel

Pros: Energetic, affectionate, good for flushing birds.
Cons: Require grooming, may bark excessively.

Sussex Spaniel: The Calm Flusher

Sussex Spaniel

Pros: Friendly, good for flushing birds, calm demeanor.
Cons: Require grooming, may be stubborn.

Bavarian Mountain Hound: The Deer Tracker

Bavarian Mountain Hound

Pros: Excellent scent hounds, determined, good for tracking deer.
Cons: Can be independent, need regular exercise.

Finnish Spitz: The Vocal Hunter

Finnish Spitz

Pros: Excellent scent hounds, loyal, good for cold-weather hunting.
Cons: Can be vocal, and require grooming.

Norwegian Elkhound: The Cold-Weather Specialist

Norwegian Elkhound

Pros: Excellent cold-weather hunters, loyal, versatile.
Cons: Can be stubborn, and require regular exercise.

All-Purpose Hunting Dog Breeds: The Versatile Trio

Labrador Retriever, German Shorthaired Pointer, Vizsla

Pros: Versatile, loyal, intelligent, great for various hunting types.
Cons: Require substantial exercise and mental stimulation.

These descriptions provide a brief overview of each hunting dog breed's characteristics, pros, and cons. When choosing a hunting dog, consider your specific hunting needs, lifestyle, and preferences, and consult with breeders or trainers to find the best match for your hunting endeavors. Whether you seek a waterfowl retriever, an upland game specialist, or a tracking expert, there's a hunting dog breed out there ready to be your loyal hunting companion.

About the Author

Carly Brasseux

Carly Brasseux is a determined and passionate freelance outdoor writer, published author, business owner and social media/marketing consultant based in Texas. In a world where women are the fastest growing segment of the hunting population, she is a major proponent of those women wanting to learn more about the outdoors and hunting. Her handle, Miss Pursuit, is an expression of her enthusiasm for all things outdoors, from educating women through her experiences learning to hunt over the last decade, to getting out with her kids to explore the wild. Her expertise in social media and marketing, as well as her vast network of people in the outdoor industry, have given her the influence to make an impact for years to come. Member of the Mule Deer Foundation, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Stewards of the Wild and the Texas Wildlife Association.