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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Hunting Dogs

Hunting is as much about tradition and family as it is bringin’ home a bag full of birds. One member of the family who loves hunting more than anybody else is the huntin’ dog. Hunting dogs are a big part of a hunter’s success, so we thought we’d share some time-tested wisdom about our four-legged hunting friends.

History of Hunting Dogs

Hunting dogs have been with us somewhere between 12,000 and 20,000 years. Dogs have appeared alongside man in virtually every recorded culture. In the European Middle Ages, specialized breeding for hunting and other purposes became a job for nobles because they were among the few who possessed the resources and time needed for breeding and training dogs.

Hunting Dog Breeds for Different Game

Different dogs do different things, so finding the best hunting dog depends on what you need them to hunt. There are three main categories of hunting dogs: gundogs, terriers, and hounds.

Gun Dogs

Gun dogs are best at tracking, pointing and retrieving different types of fowl and small game. Breeds include spaniels, pointers, retrievers, setters and water dogs.


Terriers are good at rooting out and treeing or killing small game, like in squirrel hunting, but can be used to track larger game as well. Terrier breeds include Jack Russell terriers, wire fox terriers, Yorkshire terriers, Boston terriers, bull terriers, Scottish terriers and border terriers.


Hounds are particularly good at tracking by scent or sight and can be indispensable hunting companions. Scenthound breeds include foxhounds, beagles, coonhounds and basset hounds. Sighthound breeds include the pharaoh hound and the greyhound. Hounds are great at tracking large game and can be good for deer hunting and bear hunting.

Hunting Dogs 101: How to Train & Care for Hunting Dogs

You’ll want to start training your hunting dog as a puppy, beginning no later than eight-weeks-old. Remember that the best reinforcement is positive reinforcement. As your dog begins to get the hang of commands, use positive tactics to reward him for good behavior.

Crate training is good for hunting dogs. The key to doing it the right way is to coax the dog into the crate as a desirable place and to never use the crate as a punishment. Introduce the crate slowly, using small windows of time, and gradually increase the amount of time they spend in the crate. Your dog will be happier and feel safer for it. The crate will become a home rather than a prison, and using the crate will also minimize indoor accidents. Some of the critical commands you'll need to teach your dog to obey are:

  1. Come
  2. Sit
  3. Stay
  4. Kennel
  5. Heel
  6. Whoa
  7. No
  8. Fetch

Here are some basic guidelines for training a hunting dog to point, tolerate guns, and retrieve small game:

  1. Positive reinforcement is key in all training. Reward your dog when he does the right thing.
  2. First, begin teaching the dog basic commands like “sit” and “stay.” You need to make sure your hunting dog is obedient to your commands before you take him hunting.
  3. You need to keep your hunting dog by your side on the hunt (until it’s time for him to retrieve), so teach him to stay by your side, using the command, “Heel.
  4. In a controlled situation, introduce your hunting dog to the scents of the birds or game you’ll most likely be hunting, and with pointers, instruct them to point when they identify a smell. (With this training, be sure to keep the dog from running off on a chase. You want your hunting dog to learn the discipline of restraint.)
  5. Next, teach him to retrieve by playing fetch. You can aid the process by rubbing scent onto the ball or decoy that you’re throwing. Once he’s getting the hang of it, reward him with a treat. Always remember that positive reinforcement works best.
  6. Teach your dog to tolerate the sound of gunfire. Take them target shooting. Get a friend to throw decoys while you shoot, and have your hunting dog retrieve them.

Now you know the ins and outs of hunting dog basics. Check out the Carhartt Collection of hunting gear and clothing before you take the dog out on a hunt to be sure you’ve got everything you need.

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