Best Hunting Dog Breeds

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People have been hunting with dogs for thousands of years. Working as a team makes hunting easier for everyone. There are many different types of hunting and there are even more types of dogs. Let’s go over a few of the best dogs for each hunting style. Hunting on land and tracking takes a great sense of smell and endurance. A sharp wit is also very helpful. Ground dogs are usually more about tracking than retrieving. When your bird hits the ground it’s probably not going anywhere. You can just casually walk over and pick it up. Waterfowl need to be retrieved. They could sink or get swept away by the current, but the main problem is that it’s way out in the water and it’s just easier to have the dog swim out and get it.

Land Dogs

These dogs are fast and focused. They tear through the hills and valleys flushing out game. They have seemingly boundless energy that makes them great hunters.


The bloodhound is a large tracking dog. It has a famous sense of smell that is used to hunt deer, wild boar, and raccoons. They have also commonly been used to track down people since the middle ages. Bloodhounds are gentle and affectionate. They are determined when they track a scent, and they may be a bit disobedient when on the hunt. They are normally very obedient but they can get carried away while closing in on the scent.


These scrappy little dogs have traditionally been used for fox hunting, but are more regularly used for hunting rabbits. They work well in groups and with horses. They are swift with a strong sense of smell. They are also very sturdy, solid, and durable for their size. They are easily trained and they are very obedient. They arrived in the US around the time of the Civil War and immediately gained popularity as a rabbit hunter.

Redbone Coonhound

This dog is predominantly found in the southern United States. They are a strong and durable breed that can hunt deer, boar, cougar, bear, and obviously raccoon. They are lean and muscular dogs with a well-proportioned build and a beautiful red coat. They are smart and loyal dogs that are eager to please. They are recognizable as the beloved dogs in “Where the red fern grows.”

Water Dogs

These dogs can swim, splash, and even dive sometimes. They can’t get enough water and their hunting style shows it. They won’t think twice about leaping off of the dock when going after a downed duck.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever

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These wonderful sport dogs love the water and they love hunting. Once training begins, they easily become experts. They are strong swimmers, great jumpers, and swift runners. They were used for more than hunting though. They also pulled in fishing nets and rescued fishermen. They have a thick, wavy, waterproof coat that is usually tan or brown. These dogs are affectionate, bright, and sensitive. They are also very protective without being aggressive.

Irish Water Spaniel

The Irish Water Spaniel is the largest of the spaniels. They have a thick curly coat that is usually a dark brown. They are sweet and smart dogs that are playful, hardworking, and brave. They are very smart and easily trainable. They were originally bred only as hunting dogs, but they are so versatile that they regularly compete in a wide variety of events like field trials, dock jumping, obedience trials, and agility competitions.

Golden Retriever

These beautiful dogs are great at covering a lot of ground, and they love to please. They are resilient and effective. Most people might assume that goldens are only family dogs, but they’ve always been skilled hunters. They’re great all-around dogs. They’re classics for a reason. They are consistently bright, loyal, and obedient. They can manage most terrain, even water, and snow. They get along very well with other dogs and that is very important when it comes to hunting in groups.


Rodents have been a significant problem for people for thousands of years, and in that time we’ve bred dogs to take care of that problem. Ratters are swift, small, and endlessly tenacious. Nothing makes these little guys happier than going after a pest.


Dachshunds are low, lean, and long. They’re excellent tunnelers, they have a great sense of smell, and they are fearless. They were used to clear out animal dens in Germany. They would happily tear through a rat’s nest, rabbit hole, or badger den. They have a tremendously loud bark that must be horrifying to an animal in a tunnel. They’re not just good ratters; they’re physically built for the job.


Schnauzers are sturdy and strong-willed dogs with a regal beard. They can be stern and defiant if not properly trained. They are avid ratters and have a very strong prey drive. They might not be as nimble in tight spaces as the dachshund, but they’re every bit as tenacious. They’ll happily patrol acres of farmland while hunting rodents. They are excellent family dogs as long as they have plenty of toys.

Rat Terrier

Named for its specialty the Rat Terrier is an energetic and efficient ratter. They came into popularity as farm dogs and hunting companions. They are now most often used as pets or for pest control. They are furiously curious and they need a lot of stimulation so that they don’t get bored. They are easily trainable but they need a lot of socialization from a young age.

Best in Class

Labrador Retriever

The labrador retriever is commonly thought of as the best all-around hunting dog. They don’t specialize like some breeds. They don’t quite have the nose of the bloodhound and they can’t swim as well as the water spaniel, but pound for pound they do everything that a hunting dog needs to do fairly well. They have the energy, the attitude, and the drive to be amazing hunting dogs. If they are properly trained, early enough, they have the potential to be truly great.


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