How to select the right hunting dog breed


The holidays are often prime time for adding a sporting dog to the family. For sure, a cute puppy can be a real joy, but puppies grow quickly and as they grow, they require training.

So consider the following words before selecting a puppy.

Good hunting dogs are born to be good, but can often be sidetracked, or kept from being a truly good performer, by the wrong owner.

That is, a hunting dog and its owner have to play well together if they are to reach their potential.

Step one is to understand that the process of raising and training a canine hunting companion is made easy when owner and dog share common personality traits.

Let’s simplify that statement by example.

Joe Birdman is a dyed-in-the-wool grouse and pheasant hunter. Until recently, Joe has been hunting with friends who have dogs and he has spent a bunch of Saturday mornings drooling over the perfect and enthusiastic dog work on the outdoor shows, so he knows something about how retrievers and pointers work.

Joe wants his own bird dog, but he’s not sure which breed to select. After all, there are setters, spaniels, pointers, and retrievers to consider.

He has a job to do but before selecting a breed he ought to be looking in the mirror.

Breed personality

Yes, each breed has its pros and its cons. But more importantly, each breed has its own personality. Of course any individual in a litter of puppies may display some varied behaviors, but for the most part, each breed has general characteristics.

So while Joe is reflecting on his own personality, let’s look at some breeds.

Pointers are wide ranging bird finding machines that need plenty of space. They work hard, run big, and don’t pay a lot of attention to the boss unless he is equipped with an electronic transmitter that, when touched, can send negative encouragement via a shock collar.

But given that, the most popular pointers for our region, are without a doubt the more biddable German Shorthair and Wirehair pointers, both of which can be contained and controlled by verbal commands and whistles.

Another nice pointing dog is a Brittany spaniel, but hands down the German Shorthair is the most popular.

Before going further, let’s talk about Joe. He’s a lover, a quiet, mostly reserved guy who doesn’t often raise his voice or get too excited about anything.

Joe would do well with a Brittany because this breed is at its best with an owner who trains with a step by step plan not by brute force. He would also connect well with a Shorthair.

Joe would probably get very tired and extremely frustrated with big running pointer.

Temper tolerance

Joe’s cousin, Fred Shortfuse, is also considering a bird dog puppy but he ought not to grab a puppy from the same litter as Joe’s.

Why? Because Fred is loud and aggressive, the complete opposite of quiet cousin Joe. You would never guess Fred’s mother and Joe’s mom are sisters.

Fred is going to need a dog with more tolerance for temper tantrums, Fred’s average and everyday behavior. Fred needs to look very seriously at the retriever breeds because they are more apt to ignore human short comings.

While a Brittany spaniel will cower and sulk for hours after being reprimanded, a Lab or Golden retriever is forgiving to a fault.

In fact, an even-tempered and laid back retriever will return for more in minutes if not seconds. If a big burley retrieve could laugh it would certainly just giggle when yelled at by the boss.

In short, attitude and temperament come in various sizes and degrees. While shopping breeds, a smart hunter will pay attention to the typical personalities and traits he or she can expect out of a pup.

It’s all about matching human hunter and four-legged hunter. It’s the key element in eventual joy or frustration for both.


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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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