A List of the Best Hunting Dogs
Putting together a list of the best hunting dogs could take a great deal of study and might even require a number of interviews with those who should know from experience what the best breeds might be. On the other hand, there are plenty of lists out there that are totally subjective and based on hearsay and opinion.
You Can Always Start with the Lab
Most any list will include the Labrador retriever, a breed closely associated with waterfowl hunting. Few lists would include the poodle, which is actually a mistake, as the poodle was originally bred to be a hunter and proved to be a very good one at that. The peculiar way in which its coat was trimmed was to enable it to move through the water quickly and more efficiently. Before you even start on a list of the best hunting dogs, you really need to ask the question “hunting for what?” since many if not most breeds are rather specialized in that regard. A number of breeds are suitable for either upland game bird or waterfowl hunting, while others are best at finding and flushing out rabbits or “varmints.” A few breeds might be used for larger game, although dogs are generally not used for that purpose with the possible exception of hounds. The hound is good at tracking and finding almost anything.
Not to Forget the Multi-Breed
Your list would likely include pointers, retrievers, flushing dogs, and hounds. There are many different breeds to choose from. There is one problem, however. Many dogs are bred to hunt, while others just kind of take to it naturally. The latter often includes the non-specific breed, or to be more exact, the mutt. No matter what type of list you put together, someone is going to be quick to point out that you missed the best breed of all. Either that person has a specific breed in mind or he or she is being critical because you didn’t include the mutt in your list.
Since some dogs are best at retrieving ducks while others are best at chasing rabbits and so on, a good way to start your list is to look for a breed that is a good all-around hunter. Even that search will involve quite a few breeds, but at least it’s a start. One thing to bear in mind, based on the number of all-around good hunters there are, there’s a good chance the winner will be a breed you’re not at all familiar with. That’s just another way of saying there are an awful lot of good canine hunters out there.
Almost every breed has its pros and cons, so your best all-around breed is more than likely going to be one that has a few more pros than cons. In this respect, the retrievers usually stand out. There are plenty of canines good at finding or flushing, but don’t have the slightest inclination to retrieve anything. The very best retrievers would be the Golden retriever, the Labrador retriever, and the Chesapeake Bay retriever. Of these three, the nod should probably go to the Labrador retriever.
The Pointers and Flushers
When it comes to pointers and flushers, the top canine hunters include the spaniels, setters and pointers. The Cocker Spaniel might be good for rabbits, but in general it is too small a dog for waterfowl. The English Springer Spaniel tops the list of flushers. As far as pointers are concerned, it is tough to pick the best, but some say the Brittany is hard to beat, mainly because this breed is usually a good retriever as well. The main problem with pointers is their thin coat. The lack of a thick fur coat makes them excellent warm weather hunters, but not the type you would take duck hunting in November.
As far as running down larger game is concerned, there are a number of breeds that can run most any animal into the ground. One of the best is the American Foxhound. The Beagle would give it a good college try, but its legs are too short to keep up with a deer. A Beagle is, however, definitely top dog when it comes to running down rabbits and other smaller-sized game. A Beagle is, of course, a hound, as is the Foxhound, so the Bloodhound should also be considered a candidate. The Bloodhound’s forte, of course, is tracking, whether that is a deer, a wild boar, or an escaped convict.
Those breeds listed here certainly qualify as being the best at what they do. No one really knows what the very best hunting dog is. As one person so accurately put it, “The best matador in the world never set foot in the ring.” Somewhere out there one of the best hunting dogs in the world is going about its business. Its owner likely thinks it’s at the top of its trade, but is probably unaware how good it actually is.
Twice Again – The Poodle
Two more breeds should be added to the list. One, the poodle, has already been mentioned. The poodle is actually a very good gun dog. It is highly intelligent and can be taught to retrieve. The poodle, in fact, can be taught quite a bit.
The other breed is one that is mentioned in a number of lists but is a breed few are familiar with, few outside of Germany, anyway. It’s a somewhat strange looking dog with an even stranger name and is considered by some to the best of all of the breeds in the hunting arena. It’s something like a Labrador but a bit stronger. It’s a pointer that is also a retriever, so it is effective in both upland and wetland environments. It’s the Pudelpointer. As the name suggests, it’s a cross between the German Poodle (Pudel) and the English Pointer. It is a highly intelligent breed that is also widely used as a tracker.
Some dogs have a natural affinity for hunting. Others could be excellent retrievers, pointers, flushers, or trackers, but are never adequately trained. Many breeds or individual dogs are good enough without being great, but nevertheless make great hunting companions, which may be all you are looking for in your dog. If you are looking for the best, however, think of the Pudelpointer (or Poodle-Pointer if you prefer).