How to Care for Hunting Dog Breeds
Regardless of where you stand on the sport of hunting with dogs, the fact is that there are dozens of breeds that were made for that purpose and have unique needs.
Hunting dogs can be found in several subcategories of dog breeds listed by kennel clubs such as the American Kennel Club (AKC), including Sporting Dogs, Hounds, and Terriers. Dogs from these groups, or mixed breeds with parentage from these groups, are typically high-energy, intelligent, and sometimes feisty (we’re looking at you, Terriers). So, if you’re planning on bringing one of these dogs into your home, keep some of these tips in mind so you and your new pet are happy.
History and Breeding
Historically, man had to obtain his own food because Walmart wasn’t around yet. This was often a dangerous and difficult task, but it was the only way some cultures were able to put food on the table. Over time, as hunting became more refined, the need for assistance arose, and humans turned to their best friends to fill the need.
As such, hunters began training dogs to perform certain tasks to assist in capturing animals by treeing them, retrieving them, tracking them, or even rounding them up and running them to the hunters. As the practice grew, the breeds became specialized, with hunters intentionally breeding the traits that made those dogs successful in hunting.
So, these hunting dog breeds became known for certain traits and accustomed to lots of activity, training, and time with their humans. Those traits are still prevalent in these breeds to this day, and if you’ve ever owned one of these dogs, you’ve likely noticed their “quirks” that made them excellent hunting and sporting dogs.
Hunting Dog Breed Considerations
If you are looking to get a dog for hunting or sport, you will likely have a breed in mind already, because each breed has skills that pertain to specific types of hunting. However, if you’re looking at a breed as a pet, you’ll also want to be aware of the breed’s history to ensure you select a dog that fits your lifestyle.
The AKC considers dogs breeds that were bred to help their hunters track or fetch their game to be sporting dogs. These dogs are going to love being outside, feeling just as comfortable in the woods or water as they do on your couch or cozy bed. Each breed has unique qualities, but they are all usually intelligent and high-energy, so be prepared for an easy-to-train outdoor activity buddy. If you have a large yard or love hiking or boating, these dogs are great for you.
If you aren’t using these breeds for hunting, keep their activity levels up with training and play. Just like humans, these dogs can get bored when not engaged in something they’re passionate about, so train them for agility courses, or take them to your local dog park for a few good rounds of fetch.
Sporting dogs come in all shapes and sizes, from smaller breeds like Cocker Spaniels to larger breeds like Irish Setters, so if you have a smaller space or yard, there is likely a sporting breed to meet your needs. Water dogs like Retrievers are going to have coats that were made to repel water and keep them insulated. This means lots of shedding and fur, so keep in mind the grooming needs of each breed to keep them comfortable.
If you’ve ever lived with Hounds, you’re familiar with their siren call. Ever on alert for predators and prey, hound dogs have a voice (called tongue in the hunting world) and are not afraid to use it. Hound breeds are diverse and unique from one another. One thing they have in common is their love of hunting and howling, so they may not be the best choice for city or apartment dwellers.
Some Hounds like Beagles, Bloodhounds, and Basset Hounds see the world through their nose and are fantastic scent dogs. Because of this, there’s a chance they will come home smelling of something interesting, or even give you gifts of small critters their nose discovered. Also, pulling them off a scent is a task in and of itself, so be ready for multiple delays on walks as they discover their surroundings via their nostrils.
Other Hounds were bred specifically for endurance to chase down prey. Breeds like Foxhounds and Irish Wolfhounds will chase down game or set them up for their hunting companions. This is not to say they are aggressive. For example, the Irish Wolfhound, though large and powerful, is known for their calm temperament. Hunting is in their nature, so training and keeping a watchful eye on them is a must.
Bred specifically to help their families reduce pests on their property, Terriers are the most unexpected group to be considered a “hunting dog.” No one would look at those silky little Yorkies and think “that’s a hunter if I ever saw one,” but once that dog gets into action, those minds will quickly change.
As a group, Terriers are often feisty, temperamental characters. Breeds range from small to medium, and they are spirited, intelligent, and sometimes mischievous. Some were bred to hunt rats and burrowing nuisance animals, so if you have a backyard, be prepared to fill in holes because they love to dig. Like Hounds, you may find that they leave you “presents” of small animals when left unattended too long.
So, Should You Get a Hunting Breed?
If you keep your dog’s needs in mind and they fit your lifestyle, hunting dogs will be a companion for life. Keep them active, because a bored dog equals a destructive dog, and be ready to train them because they love to learn. All-in-all, hunting dogs can be great companions both outside and in.