Because hunters pursue a wide variety of game -- all of whom present different challenges -- they enlist different dog breeds to accompany them. Labrador, golden and Chesapeake Bay retrievers are well-suited for waterfowl, while English springer spaniels, English setters and Brittanys are better suited for hunting upland birds. Some breeds have impressive athletic abilities, such as rabbit-hunting beagles, deer-chasing American foxhounds and boar-fighting Dogo Argentinos. While few breeds possess the skills to excel in all scenarios, German shorthaired pointers are rather well-rounded.
First developed in Newfoundland, where they assisted fishermen in retrieving nets and capturing escaped fish, modern Labrador retrievers make excellent hunting dogs. Labrador retrievers are a high-energy breed, with an unparalleled drive to fetch downed waterfowl. Intelligent and friendly, “Labs,” as they are often called, also make excellent family pets.
One of the most popular breeds in the United States, golden retrievers are not only excellent hunting dogs, they also perform admirably as guide dogs or search and rescue dogs. Friendly dogs, golden retrievers are equally happy retrieving waterfowl or playing with their family. While their water repellent, double coat sheds seasonally, it also keeps them comfortable while working in the water. Like Labs, golden retrievers have a "soft bite" that helps them to fetch downed birds without mangling them.
Chesapeake Bay Retrievers
Equipped with webbed feet, Chesapeake Bay retrievers are excellent dogs for retrieving waterfowl in cold weather. Described as “the toughest water retriever” by the American Kennel Club, Chesapeake Bay retrievers originated in the United States, during the first part of the 19th century. While these dogs have a relatively short, double coat, both layers contain protective oils, which help to keep these dogs warm in cold, wet conditions.
English Springer Spaniel
English springer spaniels are medium-sized hunting dogs, who weigh as much as 50 pounds. Originally bred as flushing dogs, springers are excellent upland game birds, whose boundless energy and desire to please their owners allow them to work all day. Although they also make excellent family pets, English springer spaniels require regular brushing and grooming to keep their long hair from matting.
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While few breeds have comparable pointing skills, English setters are not enthusiastic retrievers. Their feathered coat is quite handsome, but requires regular grooming to keep it looking its best. Hunters should opt for “field” lines, which have lighter feathering. English setters have a strong desire to be with their pack -- including the human members of their pack -- and require plenty of attention and exercise.
The Brittany is a quick, athletic breed, equally capable at flushing or pointing. Originating in France, the breed originally was called the Brittany spaniel. As hunters discovered that the breed’s hunting style was more similar to that of pointers than flushing dogs, the AKC truncated the name. Brittanys require plenty of exercise, although they make loyal, loving pets.
Available in 13-inch-tall and 15-inch-tall varieties, beagles are energetic, playful and slightly mischievous. Despite their small size, beagles are accomplished hunters that are well-suited for finding, flushing and retrieving rabbits. Built low to the ground, beagles are skilled trackers, with an incredible sense of smell, rivaling that of basset hounds. Because beagles are a vocal breed, they are easy to track when they are out of sight.
Long-legged and lean, American foxhounds are built to run. Because they are full of energy and have the endurance to chase deer while barking and howling at the top of their lungs, American foxhounds are ideal accomplices for deer hunters. American foxhounds work well with other dogs, and can make good pets, but they are independent dogs who require a skilled trainer.
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Well-muscled, athletic dogs, Dogo Argentinos were developed to hunt big game -- including cougars and wild boar -- in packs. Despite their intimidating appearance, the AKC describes Dogo Argentinos as “cheerful, humble and friendly.” These dogs, which may stand up to 27 inches at the shoulder, are energetic and require plenty of focused exercise and play.
German Shorthaired Pointer
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Excellent all-around hunting dogs, German shorthaired pointers are capable of pointing, setting, flushing, trailing, tracking and retrieving game. German shorthaired pointers are intelligent dogs, with even, family friendly temperaments. Blessed with great stamina, German shorthaired pointers have the energy to spend the day pursuing a variety of game species, including deer, quail and chukar.