Hunting Dog Breeds: 33 of the Best Gun Dogs

Hunting Dogs with Birds

Hunting and dogs go back thousands and thousands of years forming a partnership that is strong and vibrant to this very day in the hunting community. For many dog breeds, especially coming from Europe, it is in their blood and natural born instinct to hunt, flush, retrieve, tree, and track.

While most breeds can be trained to assist in a hunt, there are certain types of dog breeds that excel above all others. The AKC calls this the Sporting Group and is comprised mainly of pointers, setters, hounds, retrievers, and spaniels. Qualifying breeds need to be brave to wild animals, obedient to the master’s command, diligent to focus on a trail, possess keen eyesight, tuned ears, with an uncanny sense of smell.

Many of these dogs can perform multiple tasks that overlap with a wide variety of game. And there is much debate when pairing 1 hunting dog to only 1 type of game. Proper training is just as important in selecting the right hunting dog. With that said, below is a list of 33 dogs that comprise the best hunting dog breeds all-around.

The Game

While there is an endless amount of animals you can hunt, we’ve broken down the game into 4 major groupings. Yes, there are other animals we could have included, but kept to the more traditional and popular hunting species fitted to specific dog breeds. The 4 major groupings this list uses are waterfowl, upland game, small game, and big game identifying 15 different types of game.
Types of Hunting Game

  • Waterfowl – Duck & geese
  • Upland Game – Pheasant, quail, grouse, and wild turkey
  • Small Game – Raccoons, squirrels, opossums, rabbits, and foxes
  • Big Game – Whitetail deer, wild boar, mountain lions, and bears

The Tasks

When out on the hunt, there are a variety of tasks & uses a gun dog can perform to assist in a successful hunt. The 8 tasks are as follows:

Dog Tracking Tracking is a skill where the Hound Dog group excels above all others. Bloodhounds, coonhounds, Basset hounds, etc., all make excellent trackers to follow a scent and stay on it. Whether it’s tracking a wounded deer or sticking to a raccoon scent until it climbs up a tree, hound dogs have the keenest noses.

Bay Catch Hog DogsBay dogs are very useful when hunting animal such as wild boars. These dogs are trained to chase and run down game until they are cornered and then ‘bay’ or howl until the hunter can come and finish the kill. This skill is known as baying. In tandem with bay dogs are catch dogs which will not only corner the animal but bite and lock their jaws keeping the wild hog in check.

flushing-dog Flushing dogs make great bird dogs such as waterfowl and upland game by ‘flushing’ them out of hiding in the thick grass cover or nearby water marshes and tall grass. Many flushing dog breeds are also natural retrievers which make this a great combo and skill set as a bird hunting dog.

Dog Pointing Pointer & setter dog breeds are a specific type of gundog that possess the skill in finding game. The ‘pointing’ comes from the dog’s body stance when they have spotted game by pointing their muzzle at the game with a straight back and sometimes raised leg. Setters have the tendency to just ‘freeze’ or set when game is within distance notifying the hunter where the game is positioned.

Dog RetrievingRetrievers have the specific task to retrieve downed game after a kill usually birds. The Labrador Retriever is the most ideal retriever as well as the most popular dog breed currently in the US. Retriever dogs have the skill to pick game with a ‘soft mouth‘ that will carry a bird without biting into it or damaging the game. Other popular retrievers include the Chesapeake Bay Retriever and the Golden Retriever.

Dog SwimmingWhile not a specific hunting task, a strong swimmer dog is essential to assist in hunting and retrieving waterfowl. Most dogs will fall into 1 of 3 categories in their swimming ability, strong swimmers, dogs that can be taught, and dog breeds that stay away from the water. A strong swimming dog would be the Brittany while a poor swimming hunting dog would be the Basset Hound. Here are 8 breeds that make strong swimmers.

Dog TreeingDogs that can tree have the ability to chase an animal or game until it retreats up a tree. The dog will then keep the game there by howling and barking until the hunter can come and finish the kill. Raccoon & mountain lion hunting are prime examples of this. Baying and treeing are overlapping skills that keep the game trapped until the hunter can get a shot off. Treeing Walker Coonhounds are one example dog breed with this skill so much as its name is derived from treeing!

Dog RunningStamina and endurance is what makes a true dog runner. These dogs are bred to run and chase the game for hours on end. If you need a dog breed that won’t tire this skill is a must. Note running whitetail deer in the US is currently legal in only 11 states, and always stirs debate when talking with fellow hunters.

The Dog Breeds

We’ve taken the time to cull the 33 top hunting dog breeds with a brief profile, picture, and their strengths to better help you make the decision on what type of hunting dog you should get. While there’s always room for debate, the top skills & quarry which come most natural are listed next to each dog to give you an idea of their strengths as well as ideal game. Please comment below as well if you can add some knowledge to your breed to help other hunters out!

American Foxhound

Foxhound SKills
American FoxhoundSource: Paul-W
With a distinct bellow and unmatched stamina, American Foxhounds were originally born and bred to hunt foxes with their sharp noses as a scent & running hound. Coming in triple colors black, white, and tan, Foxhounds are independent breeds but work well on the hunt in packs. Their howl can be heard for miles, which makes them not the ideal city dog.

Bred to roam, they need lots of exercise and do well running game particularly fox and deer and can handle multi-day hunts with ease. They are also very friendly with kids and make great family pets with enough outdoor exercise. If you’re looking for a runner or tracker this breed will not disappoint.

American Foxhound Club

American Water Spaniel

AWS Skills
American Water Spaniel
The American Water Spaniel is a rare dog breed developed in the upper Midwest during the 1800’s and is recognized as truly American by the AKC. It has a long history as a gun dog for both retrieving and flushing bird game.

All upland game birds and waterfowl can be targets for this rare breed making this a unique dual skilled dog. Very energetic and friendly, they are easily trainable, very obedient, and fiercely loyal. Easy going they make great family dogs as well with a spaniel’s charisma. American Water Spaniels, as the name suggests, are strong and powerful swimmers taking to water with the greatest of ease.

American Water Spaniel Club

American Bulldog

American Bulldog Skills
American BulldogSource: Shriver’s Bulldogs
The American Bulldog has a strong, stocky, and muscular build, and can easily pass for the iconic ‘muscle dog’. When hunting wild pig you need two types of dogs, bay dogs and catch dogs. The American Bulldog is a notorious catch dog, in which the bigger and badder the breed the better. The catch dog has the responsibility, once the wild boar is bayed up, of locking its jaws on the pig’s head, face, or neck to hold it down until the hunter can come along.

Among catch dogs, this one is at the top. Training a hog dog is no easy task, which usually requires some professional training. Most catch dogs wear protective vests to guard their vital organs near their neck and heart.

American Bulldog Association

Appalachian Turkey Dog

ATD SKills
Appalachian Turkey DogSource:

A rare dog breed, the Appalachian Turkey Dog was bred in the foothills of Virginia to run ahead of the hunter barking and chasing wild turkey out of their hiding places. Not recognized by the AKC, it truly is a rare breed, and you will have to hunt and do your due diligence to find the right pup.

This breed was developed by a cross of the Plott Hound, pointers, and setters. If turkey is your game, take a serious look at this hunting dog breed.

Appalachian Turkey Dog

Basset Hound

Basset Hound Skills
Basset hound
Adorable, laid back, and gentle dog, the Basset Hound breed will often surprise people when talking about a hunting dog. Make no mistake, despite its short frame and slow-paced nature, these hounds have some of the sharpest noses
amongst canines, second only to Bloodhounds. Primarily a scent hound, its short stature makes its nose close to the ground ideal for following in any all types of scents.

The Basset Hound is very fond of hunting small-game especially rabbit, but can easily be trained for coon, possum, and squirrel. These hounds are comfortable hunting in packs and train well when hunting alongside an older hound familiar with tracking and catching quarry.

Basset Hound Club of America


Beagle Skills
Beagles are another scent hound that follows in the footsteps of the Basset with a focus on rabbits and hare for quarry. Apart from their keen noses and their talent to track, beagles are energetic and intelligent and always make the top 10 family-friendly dog breed lists that circulate. Their appearance is identical to the foxhound sporting 3 colors of black, tan, and white in a smaller frame.

The history of hunting hare goes way back and the breed was so popular it was often called Beagling. They will never tire until the game is caught and their loud and continuous bark makes them easy to follow and spot when out of sight. Their temperament is very friendly, jovial, and curious. In more recent use of Beagles for hunting, they have been used to flush game as typical gun dogs.

National Hunting Beagle Association

Black and Tan Coonhound

Black & Tan Coonhound SKills
Black Tan CoonhoundSource:
This hound dog is through and through a hunter, tracking his game until it is treed or cornered and then bellowing his deep howl that can be heard for miles and miles. Yes, the Black & Tan Coonhound goes back thousands of years to medieval England and is a cross between a Bloodhound and Foxhound. Their primary game are possum and coons, but are capable to run much bigger game such as mountain lions & bear or any other animal that can be treed.

This variation of coonhound is said to have one of the best ‘cold noses’ in the business, able to pick up the faintest scent left by its quarry long ago. Once detected it will stick to that scent until it is up in a tree long after you’ve given up. This breed was bred to do one thing, tracking, treeing, and howling, and it truly shines!

Not suitable for city life and not much of a family dog, they love to be out in the field with the quarry coping equally well in both cold and hot temperatures. This breed needs firm training, a consistent leader, and daily exercise and he’ll become the loyal sidekick you’ve always wanted.

American Black & Tan Coonhound Club

Black Mouth Cur

Black Mouth Cur Skills
Blackmouth Cur

Bold, strong, and fierce, the Black Mouth Cur is an athletic breed with many talents when it comes to hunting. It can be trained to track, bay, and tree if necessary. From the small squirrel to the mighty bear, there is no game to nimble or dangerous that the Black Mouth Cur won’t back away from. Quarry included are: hogs, squirrel, raccoon, bear and mountain lion.

While they are fearless in the wild, they are very docile and playful in a family setting and very gentle with people and children. They don’t do well in small tight spaces or confined yards, they need space to run and explore. They are also very smart and take to training very easy as well as they are very protective. These dogs are workers and its history is traced back to herding in Europe, so it is advised not to get this dog if you don’t have a job for them!

Black Mouth Cur by UKC


BloodHound Skills
BloodhoundsSource: John Leslie

With the best noses in the business, Bloodhounds can trail any scent and are relentless hunters that will see the job through. Don’t let their ‘lazy image’ deceive you, this breed is a true working dog and they have much endurance on long and arduous hunts. They love to run in packs and have a long history of hunting, keep in mind they are not true runners and are slower than other breeds. They make excellent blood trackers if tracking wounded game such as deer or mountain lion. Their keen sense of smell has them now mainly tracking humans alongside law enforcement.

They are very tolerant dogs and are patient with young children. Note that they’re oversized skin has them drooling with lots and lots of slobber so be prepared!

American Bloodhound Club

Blue Lacy

Blue Lacy Skills
Blue Lacy DogSource:

Officially the State Dog of Texas, the Blue Lacy was originally bred out of necessity for herding difficult livestock on the farm. Their herding ability was so successful that Texans began using them to hunt & bay hogs and tree coons with similar accolades. These dogs are very fast and love to run out in the open, so they need lots of space to play and roam when not on a hunt.

These dogs also have very sharp noses and can pick up cold trails with a high level of success. Blood trailing of wounded animals comes natural to a Blue Lacy giving them the ability to locate ‘lost’ quarry. Their character is fierce, driven, and loyal but never aggressive and are easy to train. Their high energy levels make them not the best pet for young children.

Texas Lacy Game Dog Association

Blue Tick Coonhound

Bluetick Skills
Bluetick CoonhoundSource: Huckleberryblue

Bluetick Coonhounds are popular hunting dogs for their ability to stay on task and run with the most dangerous game until the end. They have a distinct coat pattern of dark blue which gives them their name Bluetick. When on trial like all coonhounds, their loud-echoing howl can be heard for miles and miles making them easy to follow, and their endurance is hard matched giving them stamina to follow a trail all night long. These are faithful, affectionate, gentle, and fearless coon dogs.

Their main quarry is the raccoon but can trail and tree any number of small and big game. They have also been useful and effective to hunt in packs in catching cougars. Be sure to have secure and high fencing around your house if you bring one home. Their love for hunting will find a trail causing them to roam and roam if there is nothing to keep them in check.

Bluetick Breeders and Coonhunters Association

Boykin Spaniel

Boykin Spaniel Skills
Boykin Spaniel
Close cousin to the American Water Spaniel and originating in South Carolina, the Boykin Spaniel is multi-talented able to flush, retrieve, and feels right at home in the water. As most Spaniels, they are eager to please, bouncy, adventurous, and make great family pets. With their affinity to water and strong swimming ability, they make great waterfowlers.

Not only that, their light-weight size make them ideal for small boats or canoes without too much tipping or rocking. Compare that with an 80lb. golden retriever or other large dog. Their flushing ability has also been well-received from turkey hunters alike. This dog breed has all-around top marks from the hunting community and will not disappoint!

Boykin Spaniel Society


Brittany Skills
BrittanySource: Craige Moore

One of the best bird dogs, the Brittany is a lovely mix of a spaniel & a setter making it a breed of many talents. Its origins flow back to 17th century France who’s strengths lie with pointing and retrieving. These dogs are highly energetic, small, friendly, and sweet-tempered. They make great companions with their eager to please nature as well as wonderful family pets.

This is an intelligent dog breed who loves to hunt and is one of your more compact gun dogs standing only around 20 inches tall. These dogs are also very hardy and do well in the cold and damp weather.

The American Brittany Club

Chesapeake Bay Retriever

cbr skills
Chesapeake Bay Retriever

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a large bodied retriever marked by its wavy thick coat unlike a Labrador Retriever’s smooth coat. This dog loves to hunt and to retrieve as well as anything to do with the water. Its history comes from the Chesapeake Bay area in the early 19th century being primarily bred as a ‘Ducking Dog’. Their ability to perform in cold and icy water & stellar swimming skills make them sought after retrievers in colder climates. This is marked by their oily double coat that insulates them in demanding environments. Chessies are through and through sporting duck dogs and need a job or task to perform to keep them busy and spend pent up energy.

CBRs are courageous, smart, determined, with a strong work ethic. This type of dog breed can be somewhat overwhelming for first time dog owners as they need a firm hand in training and discipline. Though they won’t top labradors in field trials or game tests, in live hunt settings they will never disappoint!

American Chesapeake Club

Dogo Argentino

Dogo Argentino Skills
Dogo ArgentinoSource: DigitalBite

The Dogo Argentino is a preferred catch dog for many wild pig hunters. These dogs are massive and fierce, think a giant size pit bull terrier! They will catch and sink their teeth into their game until the hunter can come along and finish the kill. Their reputation has even caused some countries like the UK to ban them outright.

Hailing from Argentina, they are actually a very friendly and loyal dog breed to their respective owners but out on the hunt watch out! Very protective of its owner, it will protect its companion to the death if needs be. They are bred specifically to allow for socialization and do well with other dogs. Despite their scary appearance, aggressive traits were purposely bred out and rarely attack other pets or humans.

Dogo Argentino Club of America

English Pointer

English Pointer Skills
English Pointer

One of the oldest Sporting Dog Breeds on the planet in the English Pointer that has its roots from 17th century England. Often called the Cadillac of Bird Dogs, the Pointer hunts its game by scent in the air and not tracking on the ground. When spotted, this bird dog will give you its iconic ‘point’ identifying the bird’s location for you.

They’re medium bodied dogs with slender athletic frames and have a unique head shape with a hard ‘stop’ between its muzzle and head. Their large jaws make it easy for them to carry in type of fowl small or large. They are said to by a hybrid or cross-breed from a Foxhound, Greyhound, Bloodhound, & Bull Terrier. The classic profile on the Westminster Kennel Club is an English Pointer named “Sensation’.

The Pointer Club

English Setter

English Setter Skills
Blue Belton Engllsh Setter

With a long coat, English Setters as a gun dog favor more colder climates with a heavy focus on grouse, pheasant, quail, and woodcock. A natural setter, they crouch low and ‘set’ to identify hidden bird in the field. When working in the field it holds its head up high to catch any scent of bird game in the area. They are super friendly and jovial making them a wonderful family pet as well as an exceptional bird dog. Close cousins of this breed are the Gordon Setter and Irish Red and White Setters.

With a ‘gentleman’ nature, they are a very smart hunting dog and can be trained to do just about any task required but excel at pointing and retrieving. Due to their athletic prowess, they also do well on agility and rally obedience trials. As with all dogs, make sure you obtain the dog from a reputable breeder that tests for genetic diseases.

English Setter Association of America

English Springer Spaniel

English Springer Spaniel Skills
English Springer SpanielSource: Ray Morris

Thick cover upland birds lookout, the English Springer Spaniel was bred and built for these types of hunting conditions targeting quarry such as the quail, pheasant, grouse, and woodcock. Their name describes how the breed will ‘spring’ out hidden game in tall grass or thick cover. They are agile, athletic, high-energy, and smart making them excellent hunting companions as well as back home with the family. They also excel at obedience, agility, and tracking tests outside of hunting.

These dogs stay within gun range working often in a zig-zag pattern to flush out the game birds, and use its powerful scent nose in the air to track for hidden game. Working great with humans along with their top tracking ability they’ve also been used as explosive detecting dogs, drug dogs, and search and rescue dogs.

English Springer Spaniel Club

German Short Haired Pointer

German Pointer Skills
German Short Haired PointerSource: Harold Meerveld

One of the most versatile & best hunting dog breeds is the German Short Haired Pointer. Bred in the 19th century in Germany as a working dog, this pointing breed is fast, strong, playful & built with a long snout to carry heavy game. These dogs are popular upland bird dogs as well as waterfowl game used by hunters all over the world. This breed is quick to learn, begins to hunt early in their life, and have a natural instinct to hunt, point, and retrieve.

They’ve mastered the art of pointing; head down, paw lifted, with a straight gaze at their prey, and their whole body leaning into the point like an arrow. Their webbed feet and water resistant coat also make them one of the best swimmers amongst dog breeds.

These dogs have lots of energy and will need space to roam and play if not hunting. Social dogs, they love to be around people, and though not a threat to young children their playful nature may tend to knock kids down. They also tend to have great health with few hip dysplasia & joint problems many other breeds have.

German Short Haired Pointer Club of America

Golden Retriever

Golden Retriver Skills
Golden Retriever

One of the most beloved family dog breeds is the Golden Retriever that doubles secretly as a top working gun dog. These dogs are loyal, sociable, highly intelligent, and have striking good looks always scoring in the top 10 family friendly dogs. But don’t let their good looks deceive, these dogs were bred to work and retrieve containing a soft mouth able to even pickup raw eggs without breaking them!

These dogs love to run and retrieve making them excellent retrievers for bird and waterfowl. Their size, thick coats, and webbed feet make them adaptable to cold climates and water. Smart, these dogs are easy to train, just be sure to teach them early as biting can be a problem for some lines. Very loyal, they will sit hours on end in cold damp weather as long as their owner is with them and when time to retrieve they do it with the most eager to please attitude. A true bird dog through and through.

Golden Retriever Club of America

Gordon Setter

Gordon Setter SKills
Gordon Setter

The Gordon Setter is part of the Gun Dog Group, whose original purpose was to hunt gamebirds or birds that sit and hide to avoid predators rather than take to the air. One of the largest of the Setter family, this black and tan breed are excellent setters and solid retrievers.

Graceful and elegant their shiny black coats make them a beautiful site racing across the field. Their temperament is affectionate, bold, and confident and can sometimes appear stubborn with improper training. It is important to get a Gordon puppy and train them from the very start. If not you might want to consider buying a started or finished dog of this breed to hunt bird.

Gordon Setter Club of America

Irish Red and White Setter

IRWS Skills
Irish Red White Setter

Irish Red & White Setters are another breed hailing from the great country of Ireland. AS with all setters, it is classified as a working gun dog in the UK and is distinguished by its pearly white coat with deep red patches, slender well-proportioned body, and straight soft fringes along its coat. These dogs are natural pointers and have an innate hunting instinct that is easily seen when out on the field for the first time.

They make great all-around bird dogs and are good swimmers. Take note that their coats are thin and not ideal for icy waters or extreme cold weather. Happy with a go-lucky attitude, they will fit right in as a family pet and are very gentle with children. If you’re looking for a bird dog eager to please the IRWS are a great pick!

Irish Red & White Setter Association of America

Irish Water Spaniel

Irish Water Skills
Irish Water SpanielSource: HelenGreen

Native to Ireland, the Irish Water Spaniel can be found splashing in the water with an active and willful temperament. One of the oldest & largest of the Spaniels, its history traces back over 1000 years. This breed has a unique curly double coat that sheds little to no hair making them a hypoallergenic hunting dog! They are also one of the best swimming dog breeds or water dogs, and can handle the toughest water conditions for retrieving waterfowl such as ducks or geese.

It loves to work as a team and is a very intelligent breed making them easy to train and adapt on the hunting grounds. Doubling as a good family pet, they also make good watchdogs with a mighty bark yet they are not too aggressive for families with little children.

Irish Water Spaniel Club of America

Jack Russell Terrier

JRT Skills
Jack Russell TerrierSource: Mark Robinson

The Jack Russell Terrier is a feisty, energetic, and bold terrier determined to find his prey. This particular terrier was bred for fox hunts, especially when they would burrow in their small tunnels, the JRT would venture in due to its small size and flush out the game for the hunters and the hounds. It’s in their nature to hunt small game and rodents which make them excellent squirrel and rabbit dogs.

This breed is compact in size weighing in at only 14-18 pounds. But don’t be fooled by their small frame, their stamina and courage can surpass even some of the largest hunting dog breeds. You can easily say this is a big dog trapped in a small dog’s body. They are tried and true diggers and barkers so be wary if you don’t want your yard dug up to pieces or have sensitive neighbors not fond of barking. Their digging is that hunting drive kicking in. Their stubborn nature requires consistent and firm training, which after completed this breed is a true delight.

Jack Russell Terrier Club of America

Labrador Retriever

Labrador Skills
Labrador Retriever

The most popular dog breed in America is the Labrador Retriever. They originated from Newfoundland and were bred for retrieving waterfowl and fishing gear given their exceptional swimming talent and hardiness to cold weather and water. But since there was already a Newfoundland dog, the given name was Labrador Retriever since they ‘retrieved’ in the Labrador Sea in The North Atlantic off the coast. One of the most multi-talented dogs in the world, they’ve been used for seeing eye dogs, drug detection, & mobility assistance as well as the duck hunter’s companion.

Well-balanced, athletic, friendly, highly intelligent, and loyal all are trademarks of the Labrador retriever not to mention they make great family pets with kids. For the hunter, they shine with waterfowl and retrieving and can hunt for long stretches with high endurance and stamina. Due to its popular demand, there are no shortage of dog breeders. Be sure to vet the breeder and go for pups bred for competitions or have hunting stock in their blood. They come in 3 distinct colors: black, yellow, and chocolate which is the most rare.

The Labrador Club

Karelian Bear Dog

Karelian Bear Dog Skills
Karelian Bear DogSource: Wikipedia

Bred in the arctic lands of Finland, this dog breed is the country’s national treasure and hunts big game including bear, moose, and wild boar. It’s been so successful at hunting and baying bears that its name reflects that. They have only 1 standard color which is a double coat black and white which gives it ample protection to the coldest of climates. Many national parks use these dogs to control bear movements such as in Yellowstone and Yosemite.

Not your family pet, this dog requires extensive training and outdoor time, and the breed is not recommended for families with small children. They can be somewhat aggressive toward other dogs, but do hunt well in packs of similar breed. When hunting they are often silent until their prey is cornered and will only then begin to bark loudly and fast circling the quarry until the hunter can come in and finish the job. Part of a rare dog breed, it’s not that easy to find a reputable breeder in the US, so please do your due diligence.

Karelian Bear Dog – Finnish Kennel

Mountain Cur

Mountain Cur Skills
Mountain CurSource: DogWallpapers

The Mountain Cur is a member of the Hound Group that lends them their sharp noses and excellent trailing and tracking ability. They are mainly bred for treeing small game such as opossum, raccoons, and squirrel. Brought over from Europe to America in the early 1900’s, the settlers of Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee saw their value in treeing and tracking game for food and pelts.

This breed is intelligent, easy to train, classic working dog. Always ready to please their owner, give them a job to do and they make happy and obedient sidekicks! During the mid 1900’s the breed began dying out, but a few dedicated breeders persisted and there has been a recent rush in Mountain Cur interest. Hunters that want an easy to handle dog to hunt and tree small game are falling more and more in love with Mountain Curs!

Original Mountain Cur Breeders Association

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

NS Duck Tolling Retriever Skills
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
This medium sized gun dog breed is an excellent companion for waterfowl hunters by their natural ability to play, splash, and toll or lure game to the area within gun range. Not only that, they are so accomplished at luring ducks that it’s been marked in their name as Duck Tolling Retrievers! Historically, hunters would toss sticks to the Tollers near the water’s edge, and their playful nature and retrieving action would spike too much curiosity for the waterfowl to come over and check it out. Once a duck is downed, they have no problem retrieving to hand the waterfowl.

Tollers have high intelligence and a determined drive about them, 2 traits most desired in sporting dogs. They also have double coats which protect them in cold weather and they make strong swimmers. Hailing from Nova Scotia, their appearance is that of a mini Golden Retriever with white markings, often mistaken for a fox. You will want to check pedigree and bloodlines when buying a puppy.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Club

Rhodesian Ridgeback

Rhodesian Ridgeback Skills
Rhodesian RidgebackSource: Harold Meerveld

A powerful and fierce hunter, this breed was originally used in South Africa to hunt lions and is responsible for the popular phrase, “keeping a lion at bay”! This is a true runner dog and they have thick padded soles capable for all types of terrain and with endurance and stamina to last 30 miles a day! Given its size & ability they can hunt all sorts of small and big game with proper training.

The unique feature about this breed is the ‘ridge’ of hair along its back that runs in the opposite direction giving the breed its name. They are muscular and athletic and make wonderful companion dogs as well as guard dogs for the family.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of America

Smooth Fox Terrier

Smooth Fox Terrier

These dogs were cross-bred to find the perfect size with long enough legs to engage foxes on the run as well as flush them out of their hiding holes when burrowing underground. The Smooth Fox Terrier were first recognized by the English Kennel Club in 1875 and are closely related to the Wire Fox Terrier. On fox hunts, they area labeled as a fox bolting dog, the breed that runs with the hounds and then bolts after the game flushing it into the hounds & hunters sights.

Although they perform exceptionally well on fox hunts, the one setback to this breed is that they can be difficult to train as they are independent. Playful and friendly to strangers, fox terriers are highly energetic and need a daily dose of exercise.

Smooth Fox Terrier Association

Treeing Walker Coonhound

Treeing Walker Coonhound Skills
Treeing Walker CoonhoundSource: CowgirlJules

Quick on their feet and the drive to always catch their prey, the Treeing Walker Coonhound is one of the most beloved hunting dogs of all time. They can track and chase all kinds of game including coons, coyotes, cougars, and bears. Descended from the American Foxhound, the are a tad smaller and faster than their predecessor which hunters love. Their sharp noses and vocal howls are distinct and will ring in your ears as they chase the quarry ending with a nice changeover once treed.

While primarily a hunting dog, they make great family pets and companions, easy to train and always ready to work any task given. High energy, at home they can be mellow and relaxing enjoying time lounging with the family. If you need a tried and tested hunting companion you will fall in love with this dog!

Treeing Walkers Breeders Association


Vizsla Skills

Coming from royal lines, the Vizsla is a majestic pointer bred for the aristocracy in the Hungarian Empire. They excel at pointing and retrieving for most upland game as well as turkey hunts. A cross between the Weimaraner and the German Short Haired Pointer, Vizslas have a sleek, athletic, medium build with lots of energy and quick footed. They also have great sense of smell and are natural hunters.

Their temperament are very gentle, fun-loving, and sociable. In contrast to most pointers, they make wonderful family dogs and form quick and close bonds with their owners. Their training mustn’t be too rigid or firm as they can have somewhat sensitive personalities. All in all they will continue to make the list of top hunting dog breeds!

Vizsla Club of America


Weimaraner Skills

Last but not least is the Weimaraner also called the Gray Ghost due to its silver gray coat. These are all-purpose gun dogs that love to run, are highly intelligent, very sociable, and are easy to train. Coming from the Weimar Republic, now Germany, they were bred to be used by royalty in hunting large game such as wild boar, deer, and bears. They are now more popular in hunting upland birds and waterfowl and can rival the best bird dogs such as the German Short Haired Pointer.

These dogs excel at pointing, tracking, and retrieving both on land and in the water. Over the years there have been spikes of interest from the general public for this breed, so make sure your pups have hunting stock in their pedigree. They also make wonderful family dogs that are great with children and prove to be useful guard dogs. Be sure to be physically fit, because these dogs will run, run, run!

Weimaraner Club of America

We hope you enjoyed our list of best hunting dogs, if you have experience with any of the breeds above, please leave a comment to help other hunters out in selecting the right breed.

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