There are several types of hunting dogs developed for the many tasks hunters require that they fulfill. The major categories of hunting dog include hounds, terriers, curs type dogs, and gun dogs. Among these categories further divisions can be made based upon the skill sets that the dogs possess.
Hunters with dogs report the satisfaction that the dogs seem to exhibit. Excitement is evident as they see the hunters load shotguns, take to the field, and begin the hunt. Hunters will put a bell on the dog’s collar so that they can keep track of the dog. When the bell stops ringing that means the dog is on the point.
Traits and types of different hunting dogs
Hounds have really sensitive noses that are usually used for hunting small animals like rabbits and squirrels. Bugles work well for hunting game bird instead of small animals. Hounds breeds include the redbone, the bluetick, red tick, walker, and redbone.
Hounds are further divided into sighthounds and scent hounds depending upon the primary sense used to locate quarry. Many fur bearing animals such as jackrabbit, raccoon, coyote, and large predators are hunted with hounds.
Sighthounds – Sighthounds are especially adapted for visual acuity and speed. Their method is known as “coursing” – prey is often sighted from a distance, stalked, pursued and neatly killed within moments. Sighthounds do their work quickly and silently, and are highly independent in nature. Sighthounds are quite different from scenthounds in their methods and adaptations. The long lean head of the sighthound gives them a greater degree of binocular vision, a characteristic shared by wolves and other wild carnivores. Their great speed, agility and visual acuity are particularly adapted for coursing game on open meadows or steppes. They are highly independent in nature, and are worked either singly or in a “brace” of two or three dogs, rather than as a pack. Sighthounds do their work in silence and are quiet, placid dogs compared to other hunting breeds.
Scent hounds – Scent hounds are hounds that primarily hunt by scent rather than sight. Scenthounds are used to trail and sometimes to kill game. They are often hunted in packs leading the hunters on long chases ending in the quarry being treed (chased into a tree) or killed by the pack. They are generally regarded as having some of the most sensitive noses among canines. Most of these breeds have deep, booming voices and use them actively when running and especially when following a scent trail.
Lurchers – A Lurcher is a sighthound cross bred with a working dog breed.
Gun dogs – Gun dogs are used primarily by small game hunters using shotguns. Gun dogs come in three primary classes based upon their primary skill set. The classes are retrievers, flushing spaniels, and pointing breeds.
Retrievers – Once classified as water spaniels, a retriever’s primary role is to find and return shot game to the hunter. As water dogs, the retrievers are unsurpassed. They can spend long hours in a duck blind and, after the hunter has fired at multiple ducks or geese, they can visually spot and remember the location of downed birds. At command, they dive into the water, swim out, and retrieve the birds one by one. Retrievers are good swimmers and love to get wet, they are good hunting dogs for retrieving game shot down into the water. Retrievers skin secretes an oily substance that sheds water. Retrievers are good at retrieving birds on land or in water. They can follow hand, verbal, and whistle commands at great distance as the hunter directs them to the downed bird. They typically have large, gentle muzzles to mitigate any potential damage to the game.
Setters – Setters in particular have a long history as upland gun dogs. They have a native ability to discover and point at upland game birds. Once the hunter approaches, at his command they flush the birds to fly and for the hunter to shoot.
Spaniels (Flushers) – Spaniels have been used to hunt for hundreds of years. Selective breeding has refined the skills of the various flushing spaniel breeds to provide the upland bird and small game hunter a choice of unique capacities with all breeds also being excellent companion and family dogs. Flushing Spaniels are used to locate and flush (or spring) game for the hunter. They work close to the hunter, ensuring that the hunter will be within shotgun range when the game is flushed. Flushing spaniels combine fine hunting, flushing, and retrieving skills. English Springer Spaniels are popular gundogs for a variety of cover but are closely followed in popularity by English Cocker Spaniels. Both breeds are adept at finding and flushing game out of thick cover, then retrieving fallen game to the hunter. Clumbers, Sussex, and Field Spaniels are also increasingly popular for their slower, methodical hunting pattern. And, while all flushing spaniel breeds are good retrievers, including water work, the American Water Spaniel and the Boykin Spaniel are especially noted for their water work. When trained, Beagles are particularly adept at chasing through thick briars and brush after rabbits. However, spaniels are also excellent rabbit hunting dogs. In fact, spaniel field trials in the UK are ran on both game birds as well as rabbits as can be evidenced in Spaniel Journal. Many hound breeds are excellent at treeing raccoons during hunting season. Flushers like the springer are popular for pheasant hunting, they are trained to work within gun range. There are other breeds like the cocker, the Boykin and several types of spaniels. These type of dogs pursue game until it goes for cover.
Pointers – Pointers are dogs trained to locate and point at small game for a hunter. They freeze or point upon locating game to avoid flushing it before the hunter is in place. They accomplish the same task as spaniels but in a different manner. The difference between the two lies in the techniques employed. Pointing breeds cover much more range, pointing (or setting) the game upon discovery. This allows the hunter to approach and flush the game himself or herself.
Water dogs – Waters dogs are a subclass of retrievers. Most retrievers are descended from dogs known as water spaniels. Many of the oldest breeds of retriever have retained their traditional names.
Feists – Feists are small dogs that hunt small game, especially squirrels, in a similar manner to the way large hounds hunt raccoons and large game. Feists are often hunted in packs, and “bark up” on trees to alert the hunter. The feist was developed in the southern United States, reputedly from small Native American dogs and British fell terriers.
Terriers – Terriers are used almost exclusively to hunt mammals. Terriers usually are used to locate the den, set, or living space of the target animal and then bolt, capture, or kill the animal by means of force. A terrier described as a “working terrier” goes underground to kill or drive out the game. Many of the animals hunted with terriers are pest species. Examples of this are Jack Russel Terriers going to ground to hunt ground hogs in the United States or Fell Terriers used to hunt fox and badger (not always legally) in the United Kingdom. Hunters who work terriers are referred to as terriermen.
Curs – Curs are hunted similarly to terriers, though usually on larger game. In fact, the Staffordshire terrier is a common breed mixed in hunting cur litters. Curs often hunt boars, raccoon, cougars, and other large mammals.