Personality matters when pairing hunters, dogs


Good hunting dogs are born to be good but can often be side tracked, 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 look at.

Breeds differ

Mr. Birdman has a job to do but before selecting a breed he ought to be looking in the mirror. Yes, each bred 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 Mr. Birdman.

Reserved type

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 plan not by brute force. He would also connect well with a shorthair.

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


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.

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

Get our Top Stories in Your Inbox

Next step: Check your inbox to confirm your subscription.
Previous articleApplications now available for Pa. conservation tax credit program
Next articleAsk FSA Andy: Preventing barn fires
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.



We are glad you have chosen to leave a comment. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated according to our comment policy.

Receive emails as this discussion progresses.