Hunting With Dogs 101

Hunting with dogs is a time-honored tradition that dates back hundreds of years, and it’s still going strong today. With the right dog at your side, you can enjoy days in the woods without ever needing to break out the gun again. Take an intro course on everything from hunting techniques to training methods so you’re ready for any prey come next season!

Ancient pottery artwork men hunting with dogs and spears.

Note from the editor: This is a guest post by Jake Hall.

The hunting season is approaching, and you may be considering obtaining a dog to assist you in your endeavors. Dogs have a long history of serving as hunting partners for keen outdoorsmen, so I’d like to offer you a crash course on how to get started hunting with dogs today.

Canis familiaris is without a doubt the most significant animal to assist man in his search for sustenance (the domestic dog). Although some horse enthusiasts may believe that our equine friends have aided humans for longer, the hunting dog dates back 20,000 years, whereas the horse was not domesticated until roughly 4,000 BCE. While contemporary man has forgotten past hunting techniques and customs, an ancient hunter’s livelihood relied on his hunting prowess.

Men have depended on dogs to hunt for food, housing, and clothes for millennia. Around 9,000 years ago, with the domestication of cattle, the dog’s function moved from hunting to herding and defending, signaling the start of man’s quest to selectively breed his closest friend to meet particular working demands. The dog has always served a role since then. As fast-developing agriculture and industry reduced man’s need on wild game gathering for subsistence, so did his reliance on the hunting dog. Hunting became a pleasure, typically retained as a family heritage, and dogs were utilized as working animals much less often.

As vital as a man’s position as a provider is to his family and his personal well-being, a deeper awareness and connection to nature is essential to a hunter’s growth and success. Fostering human-animal interactions may teach every hunter about his role in the cycle of life and the importance of hunting a live species. Working dogs aren’t for everyone, and they certainly aren’t for every hunter, but there are few things more rewarding to an outdoorsman than building a communication channel with an animal and seeing it appreciate and try to meet your demands.

Breeds and Techniques

Hunting dogs are divided into three categories: hounds, gun dogs, and terriers, with the exception of guardian and herding types. Despite the fact that many terrier breeds have been developed as house pets, others are still produced as working dogs. These terrier breeds have a variety of applications, including varmint hunting and blood tracking bigger, wounded wildlife, although many of these hunting methods have gone out of favor in the United States. As a result, we’ll concentrate on hunting with gun dogs and hounds, which are more readily accessible and legal. It’s critical to comprehend what distinguishes these groupings, but first and foremost, one must comprehend wild game. The simple version is that there are two sorts of games: those that run and those that hide. Gun dogs are employed to detect camouflaged, concealing game, whereas hounds are used to follow running game.


Hounds of Scent

Mountain cur treeing a squirrel on a hunt in mississippi.

On a hunt in Mississippi, Crockett, a Mountain Cur, treeing a squirrel.

Smell hounds are distinguished by their ability to scent and their loud voice. The majority of breeds in this category have booming, powerful voices that they easily use while tracking a scent. Although this may be a problem in populated locations such as densely packed neighborhoods or apartments, it is a very important quality for a hunter who wants to track a dog even when it is out of sight. Endurance is essential for staying on a track and following it over long distances and difficult terrain.

In their pursuit of game, all of these breeds are similar, although some have been developed expressly to push an animal that finds sanctuary in a tree, in which case the dog will wait at the foot of the tree until the hunter comes. These “tree hounds” are very effective in keeping wildlife in a tree so that the hunter may study it before harvesting it. When determining the gender or legality of bigger game, this might be a valuable tool. Tree hounds are often used to track squirrels, raccoons, bobcats, mountain lions, and bears (such as Curs and Coonhounds). Rabbits, foxes, coyotes, wild boar, and deer are examples of non-treeing game that may be hunted with both tree and running hounds (more information on breeds below).

Gun Dogs

Two german dogs locating pheasants in forest.

Two German Shorthaired Pointers locate pheasants and “point” them.

Gun dogs are those breeds that are most adapted for hunting upland and wetland game, particularly birds and rabbits. The pointers, flushers, and retrievers subgroups of this group are further divided into three subgroups. Hundreds of books have been published on the various gun dog breeds and their hunting strategies, but the fundamental goal is the same for all of them: to find game within shot range of the hunter and then recover the fallen wildlife. These breeds excel in locating concealed birds by detecting smell in the air, unlike hounds that follow the foot trail left by running animals. This group hunts in a more structured manner in order to find these concealed creatures in much closer proximity to the hunter. Gun dogs are an excellent alternative for people looking for a flexible hunting dog that can track down a variety of birds and return them to the hunter.

Selecting a Breed        

The first important consideration when selecting a hunting dog is the game that will be pursued. If pheasant or quail seem sweeter than rabbit or squirrel, then immediately away a hunter may concentrate on the gun dog group instead of the hounds. The ultimate purpose is to put food on the table, and the hunter is responsible for just harvesting wildlife that he intends to eat. Trying to get a Coonhound that was raised to chase down animals for miles while barking to identify birds within shotgun range would be futile. All canines can be educated to do particular tasks, but just as men have deeply ingrained instincts in our masculinity, animals have deeply ingrained instincts in their approach to hunting. As a result, it’s critical to narrow down your ideal game before narrowing down your breed selection to a certain group.


Second, the kind of hunting you choose will reduce your breed choices to a subgroup. Would you rather a gun dog detect birds and force them to fly right away, or would you rather he discover the bird and wait for you to come before flushing it? Spaniels are excellent at sticking near to the hunter and flushing birds for quick shot. To find game, pointers will extend their range and stay steady, “pointing” at it for the hunter to flush and shot. When it comes to hounds, you may choose whether you want the dog to bark during the whole chase of your game or if you want him to keep quiet until the game is spotted. Curs, like Coonhounds and smaller hounds like Beagles, Bassets, and Teckels, are renowned for howling while following a track, while Coonhounds and smaller hounds like Beagles, Bassets, and Teckels, are noted for staying quiet until the game is in sight.

Following the selection of a subgroup, a particular breed may be chosen. Even if the parameters have been restricted thus far, there is still some work to be done in order to find the ideal hunting buddy. If a rookie hunter wants a pointing dog, for example, he or she may not know the difference between a German Shorthaired Pointer and an English Pointer, or a Brittany and an English Setter. Although they may hunt in the same manner, breeds vary in terms of activity level, flexibility, desire to please, and hunting technique. Finding your ideal dog may be as simple as researching bloodlines, contacting breeders, and seeing various breeds hunt in person. Research is crucial, and finding breeders that exclusively produce high-quality working animals will take time, so plan on spending several months identifying breeders and hunting with their dogs before purchasing from their stock. Finally, all dogs have one thing in common: they have been loyal to humans for thousands of years.


Hounds of a Large Size   Hounds of the Small Size   Curs
Bluetick*   Beagle   Mountain*
Tan and Black*   Basset   Kemmer*
Walker in the Woods*   Teckel   Blackmouth
Plott*       Catahoula
Leopard of America*        

*Tree Hounds are a breed of dog that lives in the woods.

You may hunt squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, wild boars, mountain lions, bears, foxes, bobcats, and coyotes with these breeds.

Gun Dogs

Pointers   Retrievers   Setters   Spaniels
English   Labrador   English   Springer
Brittany*   Golden   Gordon   Cocker
German Shorthaired* is a breed of dog that originated in Germany.   Bay of Chesapeake   Irish   Field
Drahthaar* (German Drahthaar)   Poodle (standard)        
Wirehaired Pointing Griffon* (Wirehaired Pointing Griffon) (Wirehaired            

*A versatile breed, capable of hunting both birds and furred prey as well as retrieving ducks.

You may hunt quail, pheasant, partridge, duck, dove, geese, grouse, woodcock, and rabbit with these breeds.

The First Steps

A gordon setter after a successful ruffed grouse hunt.

After a successful Ruffed Grouse hunt, a Gordon Setter.


Those new to hunting (and even seasoned hunters) may be scared by the prospect of rearing a working animal, but it is not as tough as it seems. When training a hunting dog, the most essential thing is to keep to a particular training schedule. There are thousands of approaches to teaching obedience and hunting skills, but mixing and matching strategies, particularly as a beginner trainer, might cause your dog to get confused. Dogs thrive on consistency, so committing to a single philosophy and training method will save you time and ensure that your dog is confident in meeting your needs.

The importance of obedience and training in the development of a good hunting dog cannot be overstated, yet without exposure, a dog can never completely mature as a hunter. During the first two years of their lives, young dogs must learn experience and spend a significant amount of time really hunting. You must be willing to spend several days in the field each month, as well as ensuring that your protégée has as much interaction with game as possible. Young canines should be taught to hunt in the wild rather than in the backyard. A day’s job in the life of a hunting dog includes running through briars, swimming over streams and rivers, and being exposed to the weather, and it is the trainer’s role to assist the dog grow brave during these sessions. So, during the first year of its existence, anticipate to spend at least an hour in the field, 2-3 days a week, to develop a courageous, experienced hunting dog.

Because raising a puppy takes a lot of time, energy, money, and patience, another alternative for first-time dog owners is to purchase a young, already trained dog. Many breeders and trainers will have 1-3-year-old dogs who have been taught in obedience and have hunted for one or two seasons. Buying one of these dogs will need you to discover how their existing trainers have treated them, and bonding will take a bit longer than with a puppy, requiring you to concentrate on creating confidence and trust. These dogs are also more costly than puppies, but they have already had all of their basic training and will be ready to go hunting as soon as you acquire them.

For prospective gun dog owners and houndsmen, there are several resources available online. Hunters with dogs are also always happy to assist individuals who are new to dealing with working breeds. For novice hunters or trainers, forums like,,, and others are essential information. The best way to meet other dog owners, participate in field trials, and obtain training assistance is to join a local American Kennel Club, United Kennel Club, or Versatile Hunting Dog Assoc. club. For rookie hunters seeking for expanses of publically accessible property, state wildlife departments, the Army Corps of Engineers, and private landowners are all feasible options. Always check state hunting rules to see whether hunting particular game is permissible and if dogs are allowed on public property while hunting with dogs.



Ben Lilly and Holt Collier on bear hunts in louisiana.

Dogs have been utilized by many renowned hunters throughout history. Famous houndsmen Ben Lilly and Holt Collier took Theodore Roosevelt on bear hunts in Louisiana with a pack of bear hounds. The “Teddy Bear” was born during the Holt Collier hunts, and Ben Lilly’s tough lifestyle made an indelible mark on TR.

Hunting has been a need of man’s life since the beginning of time; we’ve depended on hunting for ages to produce food, clothes, and tools in order to live. A successful hunt may be the difference between life and death, and generations of hunters have relied on their four-legged companions to give them the best chance of survival. Many effective hunters depend only on their own abilities to hunt, but working with a hunting dog is an excellent method to combine your own abilities with the benefits provided by a dog. Our forefathers had a deeper understanding of the relationship between man and environment, as well as our links to the land. We may enjoy a more profound connection to the game we seek and boost our daily dosage of manliness by working directly with a piece of nature.



Watch This Video-

“What do dogs hunt in the wild” is a question that I am often asked. Dogs are an excellent hunting partner, but they have to be trained properly. Reference: what do dogs hunt in the wild.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does hunting with dogs work?

A: Hunting with dogs is a game where the hunter and their hunting dog will hunt prey, and then there are several variants of this. For example one variant would be to have a stag beetle strapped onto your back which you must free from its habitat in order for it to go into hibernation. Another variation could be that you have an army ant colony on your head as ants try to eat away at your brain, or lastly theres something simpler like mice who run around in circles trying not get eaten by the cat

What Animals Can you hunt with dogs?

A: You can hunt with your dogs on the following animals. Bear, Boar, Buffalo, Caribou, Deer (Roe deer), Elk

What is the best dog to take hunting?

A: The best breed of dog to take hunting is the pointer. They are highly intelligent, energetic and have a great sense of smell.

Related Tags

  • hunting dogs 101 reviews
  • hunting dogs 101 grand rapids
  • how to hunt deer with dogs
  • hunting dogs breeds
  • types of hunting dogs