Find a hunting pup that is your match

Beagles hunting
A group of beagles getting in some practice chasing a rabbit.

Every hunter dreams of owning the perfect canine companion.

But too often, the dream becomes a nightmare. It happens when the dog and owner aren’t a good match. Read on.

The right dog with the right owner can make a great team.

Of course, several factors have a place in the equation. Training, conditioning, and planned practice, weigh in but there’s one thing that determines the outcome more than anything else.

Must be a match

The hunter and the dog must be a match and that means just any pup won’t work. If the dream is to come true, it is important to consider each breed on more than its potential because before Fido can reach his, hunter and canine must bond, a connection that is easy if personalities are similar.

How about a pointer who is bred for the job of finding birds, holding them for a hunter, and fetching downed birds with a soft mouth.

But individuals from many of the pointing breeds, for the most part, come with a built-in desire to hunt big, that is, to cover a lot of real estate in a hurry. That’s perfect for big, open country, but here in the northeast most bird hunters are hunting smaller fields and heavier brush, so maybe a tighter running dog would be a better fit.

But there’s more, so much more.

Each breed has potential while each pup within the breed has its own personality, just like hunters. Here’s a quick rundown of today’s popular hunting breeds for comparison.


The beagle is about as blue-collar as a dog can be. These little guys are the easiest of all breeds to train and hunt. A pup needs only to be exposed to the fields and briars. In time a beagle pup will get a nose full of rabbit and the rest is history.

But he is a hound and the personality of a hound is all about “me.” Few hounds are great listeners and in a perfect “dog world” a hound could do well without any human help. A beagle is driven by his nose and that’s about all there is to it. It can be taught to sit, come, and do a trick or two but he’ll perform cuties only if he’s not hunting.

The best part about beagles is that they are always happy. Cuss at them if you wish, yell at them if you want, they don’t care.


Retrievers are popular with Ohio hunters. For the most part, retrievers, unlike hounds, are people-oriented. Take a Labrador for instance: a dog that wants to be under control, really wants it.

Walk away from a Lab and he’ll follow. Stop and he’ll stop. And more, a Lab will constantly look to the boss for instruction. Easy to train, easy to love and as far as personality, a Lab is like a good kid.

Punish a Lab for a misdeed, paddle it, call it names and he’ll forgive your indiscretion in minutes, maybe seconds. A lab could only be improved if it could walk on two legs and wear a ball cap backward.

Golden retrievers can be a little more reluctant to accept lessons and are a bit more sensitive. Chesapeake Retrievers are outstanding workers, tough as nails and a bit stubborn.

Spaniel breeds

The spaniel breeds are another story. Great hunters, spaniels are compact and quick. They love the hunt and are easy to train. Spaniels like to please, and they can be taught to check in constantly making them a fun hunting companion. Brittany’s are pointers and English are flushers. Both tend to be a bit soft and not quick to forgive ill behavior. That is, spaniels can be emotionally damaged by rough treatment and severe reprimands.


German shorthair pointers are right down the middle when it comes to temperament and personality. They’ll run big if encouraged or stay close if instructed. Shorthairs will tolerate about any human behavior and they’ll put birds in the basket as well as any dog bred.

Bred-in personality

But bred-in personality can be toned and groomed by careful training and social interaction. A growing pup will learn from its environment very quickly and once learned, a dog’s behavior and imprinted personality is hard to change.

A trainer who is calm and soft-spoken will most often raise a hunting dog that is relaxed and responsive to voice commands. On the other hand, a pup that is surrounded by loud, harsh, and demanding instruction will react accordingly. That pup will grow to be nervous and anxious to be out of earshot. Think about it.


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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.



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