Hunting Dog Breeds: All About Hunting Dogs

  From the majestic Afghan Hound to the diminutive Beagle, gun dog breeds have stolen our hearts for generations. Are you toying with the idea of ​​bringing such a dog into your home? On this page, you will find an overview of the behavior, needs, and feeding of different gun dog breeds.

Hunting Dog Breeds: All About Hunting Dogs

What are hunting dogs?

The group of hunting dogs includes breeds of dogs that were bred to help humans in hunting. Hunting was done on foot (usually with short-legged hounds) or on horseback (with longer-legged hounds). Like all working breeds, gun dogs use their natural canine behavior to perform the tasks we humans bred them to do. As such, hounds are specialists at tracking their prey with either their keen eyesight (greyhounds) or their incredible nose (sleuthhounds), then pursuing them at high speed, and subsequently capturing, killing, or detaining them.

Hunting Dog Breeds: Two large groups

Hunting dogs include many well-known breeds such as the big oneMunsterlander, the beagle, the dachshund, the labrador Retrieversor the Irish setter. Most of these hunting dog breeds can be divided into two large groups: the tracker dogs and the greyhounds.

sniffer dogs

As their name suggests, sniffer dogs love to track scents over great distances and seek things out. Their impressive endurance makes them the perfect companion for long walks. Sniffer dogs also love to look for items hidden at the end of scent trails around the house and yard, which means lots of fun and games for both of you. Beagles often have floppy ears and a smooth or wiry coat. Well-known sniffer dogs are the golden retriever, the labrador Retrieversand theEnglish Springer Spaniels.


Sighthounds are playful, fast sprinters who love to hunt and use their eyes rather than their noses. Physically, a greyhound has an athletic, slender, and streamlined build with relatively long legs. The face is usually narrow with narrow-set, forward-facing eyes. Unlike other hunting dogs, greyhounds do not retrieve fallen games from their handlers and work much more independently. In the past, they were mainly reserved for landowners and nobles.

Most breeds come from Europe (such as the whippet or the thePodenco Ibicenco), but also some from America (such as the Silken Windsprite) or from the Far East (such as the Afghan Hound or the Saluki). 

Hunting dog breeds: large and small

From the small miniature dachshund up to the huge Irish wolfhound– The hounds are of different sizes. So if you think a hunting dog is a right companion for you, there is always a size that will fit you well regardless of the space you have available in the house or outdoors.

Typical hunting dog characteristics

In order to successfully perform their tasks, hunting dog breeds need certain qualities, which are reflected in their character: 


Once a hound spots or scents its prey, it must pursue it without being distracted by anything in its surroundings. For owners who don't understand this trait, it can be infinitely frustrating that their dog often completely ignores it when they discover a new smell or see something in the distance. Responding when called is a challenge for most gun dog breeds. This isn't because they intentionally ignore their owners, but because they were bred to block out any distractions while they're at work.


A hunting dog tends to work at a distance from its owner, following its own instincts rather than obeying commands. Because of their independence, many of them are more tolerant of brief owner absences than other dog breeds, as long as they are gradually acclimated to periods when they are home alone. However, this does not mean that hunting dogs should routinely be left alone for long periods of time.

Hunting dog breeds are relatively calm

Most gun dog breeds show their affection quietly. Most gun dog breeds show their affection quietly. So expect a short and reserved greeting when you get home.

Sprinters, long-distance runners, or couch potatoes

In greyhounds, long periods of inactivity are broken up by rapid sprints in pursuit of their prey. Beagles are happier when they can walk continuously for hours.

Experts in tracking work

You can expect tracker dogs to have an excellent sense of smell and great pleasure in following a trail. The dogs need space to run free or to pursue their love of tracking. Tracking dogs can be happy with long walks in nature on a leash and nose down.

Not always clean

Some gun dog breeds have a certain "dog smell," while some like to wallow in things their owners don't find very appetizing! Others, however (often the sight dogs) are scrupulously clean.

Hunting dog breeds: the right choice as a family dog?

Some gun dog breeds are now known more as family dogs than as pure gun dogs. This applies in particular to the Dachshund, the Jack Russel Terrier, or the Labrador Retriever. But although these hounds no longer need to hunt for food, their predatory instincts have not gone away. Owners need to realize that not only do their dogs enjoy engaging in these behaviors, but they also need an outlet for these hard-wired instincts in order to stay healthy and happy. Therefore, not all hunting dog breeds are recommended as the first dog for new dog owners. Therefore, if you decide to get a hunting dog, there are a few things you should consider.

Utilize hounds

Gun dog breeds have a great need for physical activity. This does not mean that you need an estate to go hunting with your dog - but you should plan exercise in everyday life to be able to keep your hunting dog busy. 

Movement needs of tracker dogs

Sniffer dogs are all about scent tracking - so they prefer long walks with plenty of opportunities to use their noses. However, like the greyhounds, they are single-minded and have recall issues. Tracker dog breeds love the great outdoors and generally have great stamina as they were bred to follow long tracks. Unlike greyhounds, who are fast, short-distance sprinters, trackers can best be compared to marathon runners – they happily trot or run for hours at a time. Therefore, nice long walks are a must for these breeds.

Greyhounds need exercise

When you have a greyhound it is important that you give them the opportunity to express their natural instincts. Greyhounds love to run and will occasionally do very fast sprints that will outrun you! They need less exercise than you think, but all the more free space. This can be a problem for many owners, as sighthounds often neglect everything else and ignore recalls for the sheer joy of running. Learning a good recall is therefore important to avoid unexpected adventures! As an owner, you also need a large, fenced, secure area—that is, a large yard or access to a fenced field or other fenced areas that are not near dangerous roads.

Despite the hunting instinct, your greyhound should enjoy exercise and can be easily trained to heel. Make sure you hold the leash tight, however, as a surprise encounter with a cat, a passing cyclist, or a jogger can trigger the hunting instinct without warning. Your greyhound may run in enthusiasm to the point of not responding to your calls until the hunt comes to a natural end.

Hunting dog training

Gun dog breeds like to think of training as unnecessary, so owners need to be patient, consistent, and find a way to motivate and reward their dogs.

But just because gun dog training is a challenge doesn't mean you shouldn't try it as an owner. With a puppy, in particular, it pays to invest a lot of time in training it and teaching it commands. Some gun dogs take training well, and some have even competed in agility - working with scent hounds in nose work is a joy for both dog and owner where both can thrive and have a lot of fun.

Build a close bond

Hounds often come across as more aloof and independent than other breeds. That doesn't mean they become less attached to their owners, just that they show their love from a comfortable distance! However, as always, this varies within breeds and individuals.

Greyhounds, for example, form close, loving bonds with their family. They enjoy physical contact and invite their owners to pet them by leaning against them. Some of them enjoy sleeping with their heads on their master's feet or lap.

dealing with other dogs

Socializing with other dogs also varies by breed. Some are pack dogs who love living, working, and being with other dogs, while others are more solitary. Hunting dogs are often unsure of dealing with cats (especially unfamiliar cats) and small pets. In another article, we have all the information about socializing your puppysummarized.

Caring for hounds properly

Most gun dog breeds are low maintenance. Some require no more than an occasional wipe down with a cloth. Chances are your dog will enjoy being petted and brushed. Daily grooming also ensures that any dirt he picked up during his forays through the undergrowth is removed and that any coat and skin problems can be identified and treated early. In addition, the stroking and gentle brushing have a relaxing effect and strengthen the bond between you.

Keep hunting dogs busy: with fun and games

Dog owners should keep their hunting dogs busy. Regular play units that are fun and with which you strengthen the bond between you and your dog are suitable for this.

Play with your tracker dog

There are a number of ways you can play with your tracker dog:

  • Hide and Seek is one of the many great sniffer dog games you can play in yourself! It also helps develop recall training. Playing with your dog in less stimulating places and rewarding him when he finds you playing hide and seek, he can better focus on you. The more trained your dog's recall is, the more you can let him off the leash to follow scents without the risk of him disappearing and ignoring your calls. 
  • There are other games your tracker can play that use their infamous tracking skills. Scent tracking - or scent hound 'tracking' - is a sport in its own right in some countries, including the United States. In the UK, one of the activities tested at Working Trials is tracking, a dog sport that for pet owners is the equivalent of working with police dogs. At the trials, the dogs are tested on their agility, obedience, tracking, and tracking skills. If you are interested, breed clubs can recommend the nearest training course.
  • Sniffer Hounds also like to play fetch, which is a good way to reinforce the recall command. Throw a toy in the tall grass. When your dog finds it, call him over before greeting him with lots of praise and a treat.
  • If you want to try jogging your dog, tracking dogs can make good jogging companions due to their need for long-distance exercise. They trott alongside you for miles on a leash. However, always make sure they have an opportunity to rest and drink when they need it.
  • Chasing and tracking games can strengthen the bond between a hound and its owner - and indeed very few hounds are given an outlet to use their incredible noses. Check out our tips on how to employ dogs can. 

Play with your greyhound

Although greyhounds are generally quite calm and relaxed indoors, when outdoors they are always on the lookout for moving targets to chase - it's just part of the game with such an active dog! There are many ways to play with greyhounds: 

  • Find a safe, dog-friendly beach or nearby field for your dog to exercise, retrieve, and safely practice recall—all great forms of greyhound exercise. 
  • Why not buy a ball launcher to increase throw distance and give your dog a better chance of reaching top speed?
  • Greyhounds can also play cat-like games by stalking, chasing, and pouncing on their toys. Attach a toy to the end of a rope and encourage your dog to chase it. You can even tie the rope to the end of a sturdy pole, e.g. B. on a broomstick, to make a sturdier canine version of a cat's fishing toy.
  • Some breed organizations rent out greyhound tracks for race days - it's a sight to behold to see an Afghan Hound or other sighthound sprinting across a track at top speed! 

Checklist: Is a hunting dog right for me?

You may be the perfect gun dog breed owner if:

  • You don't want a dog that's traditionally obedient, but if you enjoy investing time and energy in the things they excel at.
  • You live in a rural area and you have a safe area where you can train your dog without his selective obedience posing a danger to him or others. Alternatively, you're ready for very long daily walks on a leash.
  • You can set aside a reasonable amount of time each day to give your dog enough physical and mental exercise to give him an outlet for those hardwired instincts that he needs.

The right hunting dog food

Because they are very active, gun dog breeds require adequate food. Depending on whether you have a tracker or a greyhound, you should feed them differently.

Feeding sniffer dogs

When feeding sniffer dogs you can pay attention to the following things:

  • Most sniffer dogs love their food and will often eat their meals very quickly if given the opportunity! They can also loot and steal food (which they can sniff out with their gifted noses). Because of this, you should put heavy-duty or lockable lids on your trash cans.
  • Since your tracker loves it when you feed it, instead of just giving it two meals a day, split up its food to make it more fun. For example, on dry days, spread up to 50% of the daily amount of dry food in the garden or hide it in different places in the house. Place scent trails on the hidden food outside, out of your dog's sight to encourage him to be a real tracker and "work" for his dinner!
  • Reserve up to 5% of the food as a training reward, especially when training your tracker to come, as this is particularly important in motivating a tracker. The remaining amount should be fed in two meals a day (morning and evening) so that your dog always sees you as the feeder.
  • Always follow the guidelines on the back of the dog food package!

Feeding greyhounds

When feeding your greyhound, you should pay attention to the following things:

  • Some greyhounds can be quite "picky" about their food. However, since they are motivated by fast-moving toys that they can chase and catch, you, the owner, can add interest to mealtimes by putting half of the daily kibble into "tossable" or "rollable" toys that dispense food.
  • Use another 10% as a reward when training, especially when teaching your greyhound to recall. The remaining amount can be divided into two meals and presented in a bowl.
  • If your dog is fed wet food, you can use other, more convenient treats as a training reward, but make sure these are factored into the calculation of the daily requirement.
  • Follow the daily feeding guidelines (found on the dog food packaging) and monitor your dog's weight to keep them in ideal physical condition.

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