Top 15 Hunting Dog Breeds for Waterfowl, Upland Birds, Small Game, and Bear Hunting

hunting dogs
Table of Contents
  1. English Springer Spaniel
  2. Labrador Retriever
  3. American Foxhound
  4. Golden Retriever
  5. Standard Poodle
  6. Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  7. Mountain Cur
  8. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
  9. Brittany
  10. Bluetick Hound
  11. German Shorthaired Pointer
  12. Weimaraner
  13. Vizsla
  14. Jack Russell Terrier
  15. Pointer
  16. Conclusion

Welcome to our article on the top 15 breeds of hunting dogs for hunting waterfowl, upland birds, small game, and bear. Hunting with dogs is a long-standing tradition and these breeds have been specifically bred for their hunting skills and instincts.

These dogs have a natural ability to track, retrieve, and point game while also being excellent companions. Whether you are a seasoned hunter or just starting out, choosing the right hunting dog is crucial to a successful hunt.

Let's take a closer look at the top 15 breeds of hunting dogs and their unique abilities.

English Springer Spaniel

A beloved breed among bird hunters, English Springer Spaniels boast an impressive sense of smell and a knack for flushing out prey. These compact, agile canines make the perfect companion for navigating through dense brush and tricky terrain.

Highly trainable and intelligent, these four-legged friends are an ideal choice for novice hunters looking for a faithful partner in the field.

Versatility is a hallmark of the English Springer Spaniel. These dogs are equally at home on the hunt for upland game birds such as pheasants and grouse, as they are retrieving waterfowl like ducks and geese.

Furthermore, their natural ability to sniff out birds and follow their scent makes them a great asset for any hunting party.

English Springer Spaniel hunting

Their effectiveness in both land and water makes them truly well-rounded hunting dogs.

With bags of energy and stamina, English Springer Spaniels have the ability to keep up with their owners all day long. Their high energy levels make them perfect for hunting in any environment, from open fields to thick forests.

Additionally, these dogs are excellent companions for hiking or running, and can easily be trained for other activities such as agility and obedience.

Perhaps what makes the English Springer Spaniel stand out most is their friendly and outgoing personality. These dogs are known for their affectionate nature and love of people.

They make great family pets and get along well with children. Their loyal and protective nature makes them vigilant watchdogs, and their eagerness to please their owners is simply endearing.

With their intelligence, versatility, and loving temperament, it's no wonder why English Springer Spaniels are one of the most popular hunting hounds around.

Labrador Retriever

The Labrador Retriever is an admired breed among hunters for its versatility in a variety of activities. Not only is it an impressive waterfowl retriever, but it also outshines in upland bird hunting and sniffing out small game. Its acuity and desire to please make it easy to coach, and its affable disposition makes it a great domestic pet too.

No wonder why the Labrador Retriever is one of the most sought-after breeds in the world.

Labrador Retrievers have a powerful work ethic and are renowned for their vigor and perseverance. They can bring back birds in water or on land, and their soft mouth enables them to carry the game without damaging it.

Their sense of smell is incredibly developed, making them competent at tracking and discovering games. Whether you're hunting in the uplands or wetlands, a Labrador Retriever is an ideal partner to have by your side.

Labrador Retriever hunting


Thinking of a Labrador Retriever for hunting? It's essential to remember that they necessitate plenty of exercise and cognitive stimulation. They flourish in human companionship and require lots of attention. Training should begin early on, as they can be mischievous as pups.

With suitable instruction and socialization, however, a Labrador Retriever can be a faithful and obedient hunting ally for years to come.

One of the great things about Labrador Retrievers is their malleability. They can manage a variety of terrains and weather conditions, making them suitable for hunting in many different regions.

Whether you're hunting upland birds in the Midwest or waterfowl in the Pacific Northwest, a Labrador Retriever is prepared for the task. Their versatility and dependability make them a favorite among hunters of all skill levels.

American Foxhound

American Foxhound hunting

The American Foxhound is a popular hunting dog breed that is known for its exceptional stamina, speed, and sense of smell. With their keen hunting instincts and energetic nature, American Foxhounds are well-suited for tracking down game such as foxes and hares.

These dogs are also highly intelligent and trainable, making them a great choice for hunters who want a partner that can learn and adapt quickly.

With their distinctive looks and impressive hunting abilities, American Foxhounds are a favorite among hunting enthusiasts and make a great addition to any hunting party.

Golden Retriever

Hunters and families alike love the Golden Retriever for its friendly, loyal demeanor and its intelligence. This breed is a natural-born retriever, with a soft mouth that won't damage game when it's time to carry the catch. Furthermore, Golden Retrievers are also strong swimmers, adept at retrieving waterfowl from lakes and rivers.

The versatility of the Golden Retriever makes it an ideal hunting partner for both upland and waterfowl hunting. It has the tenacity and stamina to work long hours in the field and is great at flushing and retrieving birds. Moreover, it is also a reliable tracker for wounded game.


Golden Retriever hunting

Golden Retrievers make great family pets too, thanks to their gentle and kind nature. They are great with kids and make wonderful companions for outdoor activities like camping, hiking, and more. And since these pooches need plenty of exercise, they are the perfect fit for an active family. All in all, the Golden Retriever is an excellent choice for hunting and family life, and may even be a better choice than a Springer Spaniel.

Standard Poodle

Regal in appearance, yet rugged and hardy in nature, Standard Poodles are often overlooked when it comes to hunting dogs. However, these intelligent and versatile canines make excellent hunting companions.

With a natural instinct for retrieving, an enduring athleticism, and a sharp sense of smell, these dogs are well-suited for hunting waterfowl, upland birds, and small game. Not to mention, their non-shedding coats make them ideal for those with allergies or who don't want to deal with excessive shedding.

What truly sets Standard Poodles apart from other hunting breeds is their ability to work both on land and in the water. Outfitted with webbed feet, these dogs are strong swimmers and can navigate through the water with ease, making them great for retrieving ducks and geese.

Standard Poodle hunting


In fact, Standard Poodles were originally bred in Germany as water dogs, and their name comes from the German word “pudel,” which means “to splash.”

Quick learners and eager to please, Standard Poodles are relatively easy to train for hunting purposes.

They are also highly adaptable and can be taught to work in a variety of terrains, from a marsh to a dense forest. With their endurance and strength, these pampered pooches can handle tough terrain and extreme weather conditions, outperforming the likes of labrador retrievers.

Don't let their refined facade fool you – Standard Poodles are tough and capable dogs that make great hunting companions.

With their intelligence, athleticism, and versatility, these dogs are an ideal choice for any hunter looking for a loyal and dependable four-legged friend.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a canine originating from the Chesapeake Bay region of the United States. With their oily, waterproof coat, webbed feet, and robust physique, these dogs were selectively bred to excel at hunting waterfowl in cold and harsh conditions.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever hunting

Their versatility in different hunting environments makes them an ideal choice for hunters seeking to bag not just waterfowl, but also upland birds and small game. Famed for their intelligence, loyalty, and eagerness to please, Chessies are a beloved breed among owners.


It's important to note that Chessies are known for their strong-willed and independent personalities. This dog breed requires a confident and experienced owner who can provide them with proper training and socialization. As such, they may not be suitable for those who are new to dog ownership or unfamiliar with the dog breed.

In summary, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a specialized canine that is well-suited for hunting and retrieving.

With their adaptability, intelligence, and unique characteristics, these dogs are a go-to choice for hunters looking for dependable and flexible companions.

Mountain Cur

The Mountain Cur is a versatile and athletic hunting dog breed that originated in the Appalachian Mountains. These dogs are known for their exceptional hunting skills, which include tracking, treeing, and baying game such as squirrels, raccoons, and even bears. Mountain Curs are also highly intelligent and adaptable, making them a great choice for hunters who want a dog that can perform well in a variety of hunting situations.

Mountain Cur hunting

With their muscular build and sharp senses, Mountain Curs are a formidable hunting partner that can help hunters track down game with ease.

Whether you're hunting in the mountains or in the woods, a Mountain Cur is sure to be a loyal and effective companion.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is a mid-sized canine originally from Canada. Their specialty is tolling, a hunting technique that involves playing and frolicking on the shore to entice ducks and other waterfowl into the range of the hunter.

These dogs are highly intelligent and obedient, making them a popular choice for hunting, outdoor activities, and even family life, as they get along well with children and other animals.

Are you looking for a versatile hunting dog? The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever could be the perfect breed for you. They are skilled at both retrieving and flushing game, ideal for hunting waterfowl and upland birds.

Additionally, their excellent swimming abilities make them a great choice for retrieving games from bodies of water. Aside from hunting, these dogs are also great at agility, obedience, and other canine sports.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

If you're thinking of bringing a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever into your home, keep in mind that they require ample exercise and mental stimulation.

These dogs are active and energetic, needing opportunities to run, play, and explore. Additionally, they need to be trained and socialized from a young age to ensure they become well-mannered and obedient companions.

Considering their sharp intellect, athleticism, and friendly nature, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever may be an ideal choice for both hunters and pet owners, even more than English Setters.


The Brittany is an exceptionally versatile breed of hunting dog, adept at both upland bird pursuits and small-game hunting. These canines are renowned for their robust sense of smell and their ability to work tirelessly in the field. Their agility and swiftness also make them excellent choices for hunting in rugged terrain.

Furthermore, Brittanys are highly intelligent and trainable, making them perfect for both experienced hunters and novices alike.

Brittany hunting

A unique hallmark of the Brittany hunting dog is its innate pointing capability. Instinctively, they point to birds and small game, thus greatly aiding in locating prey in the wild.

Additionally, they are adept at flushing out birds from cover, which is necessary for successful upland bird hunting. Whether you're tracking pheasant, quail, or grouse, a Brittany is a great selection for any hunter.

Moreover, Brittanys are renowned for their devoted and amicable personality. Loyal and devoted to their owners, these dogs make great family pets.

Their active nature and need for plenty of exercises make them ideal for households that enjoy hunting and spending time outdoors.

If you're searching for a hunting dog that doubles as a loving family companion, the Brittany is the ideal choice.

Bluetick Hound

The Bluetick Hound is a popular hunting dog breed that is known for its keen sense of smell and exceptional tracking abilities. These dogs are often used for hunting game such as raccoons and squirrels and are also highly skilled at trailing wounded animals.

With their distinctive blue and black coat and muscular build, Bluetick Hounds are formidable hunting companions that can cover a lot of ground quickly.

Bluetick Hound

These dogs are also highly intelligent and trainable, making them a great choice for hunters who want a dog that can learn and adapt quickly.

Whether you're hunting in the mountains or in the woods, a Bluetick Hound is sure to be a loyal and effective partner that can help you track down even the wiliest of game.

German Shorthaired Pointer

The German Shorthaired Pointer exhibits an unparalleled hunting technique. Their versatility allows them to go after a broad range of games, including waterfowl, upland birds, and small game. The breed is incredibly energetic, making them the perfect companion for lengthy days out in the wild.

Thanks to their acute olfactory sense and remarkable speed, GSPs are remarkable trackers and retrievers. In addition, their intelligence and teachability make them a sought-after selection among hunters.

German Shorthaired Pointers possess a unique hunting style that sets them apart from other breeds. They are prized for their capacity to cover vast areas quickly, which makes them ideal for open terrain hunting.

Moreover, their innate pointing instincts grant them the ability to detect birds in the field with exceptional skill.

The breed is remarkably adaptable, making them a superb choice for hunters who require a canine capable of handling different hunting environments.

Furthermore, they are appreciated for their aptitude to work closely with their handler, thus making them a great option for novice hunters needing a simple-to-train canine.


When it comes to top-hunting canines, the Weimaraner is certainly a contender. Adorned with a sleek silver coat and entrancing blue eyes, these pooches are not only aesthetically pleasing but also first-rate hunters.

Initially bred in Germany to take down large game such as bears, they are now more frequently used to pursue upland birds and small game. They are highly intelligent and have a strong craving for the hunt, making them remarkable at the tracking and pointing game.

Furthermore, they possess excellent stamina and can keep up with hunters on long excursions.

If you're looking for a hunting dog that is not only a great companion but also simple to train, the Weimaraner is a great option. These dogs are faithful and enthusiastic to please their owners, making training a breeze.

They are also very sociable and enjoy being around people, making them perfect family pets as well.

It is important to note that Weimaraners can be high-energy and require plenty of exercises and mental stimulation to remain content and healthy.

One thing that sets Weimaraners apart from other hunting breeds is their distinct hunting style. They are well-known for their quartering technique, which involves running back and forth in a zigzag pattern to search for a game.

This makes them outstanding at covering vast areas and detecting games. Weimaraners are also great retrievers, making them versatile hunting partners.

Although not as popular as other breeds like the Labrador Retriever or the Plott Hound, the Weimaraner is surely a top choice for hunting dogs.

If you are looking for a pup that is both a great hunter and a devoted companion, the Weimaraner could be the ideal breed for you.


Gaining in popularity, the Vizsla is a canine with a unique blend of strength, velocity, and intelligence. This Hungarian-bred hunting dog is a great selection for those captivated by both waterfowl and upland bird hunting.

With its tawny fur and impressive physique, the Vizsla is a stunning addition to any hunting party.

A remarkable trait of the Vizsla is its amazing staying power. This breed is able to run long distances at swift speeds, making it perfect for pursuing game across open land.

Additionally, the Vizsla has a sharp sense of smell and a natural aptitude for tracking scents, which is helpful when hunting small animals like rabbits or squirrels.

An additional asset of Vizsla is its adaptability. This breed is successful in a variety of hunting settings, from wetlands to forests to grasslands.

Whether you're chasing after waterfowl or upland birds, the Vizsla's versatility and athleticism make it an excellent pick for any hunting adventure.

Plus, their high energy level and eagerness to please make them ideal for training and obedience competitions. All told, with its numerous advantages, the Vizsla is a breed that merits being among the top 15 hunting dogs for any passionate hunter or enthusiast.

Jack Russell Terrier

The Jack Russell Terrier is a small but mighty hunting dog breed that is known for its tenacity and energy. Originally bred for fox hunting, these dogs are well-suited for a variety of small game hunting, including rabbits and squirrels.

With their sharp senses and quick reflexes, Jack Russell Terriers are adept at flushing out game and tracking it down.

These dogs are also highly trainable and intelligent, making them a great choice for hunters who want a dog that can learn and adapt quickly. Despite their small size, Jack Russell Terriers are fearless and tireless, making them excellent hunting companions for any outdoorsman.

Whether you're hunting in the woods or in the fields, a Jack Russell Terrier is sure to be a loyal and effective partner.


Versatile and athletic, Pointers are renowned for their exceptional scenting abilities and their skill in locating game birds hidden in dense covers. Working in tandem with flushing breeds, such as Spaniels, Pointers flush out the birds and then use their retrieving aptitude to bring the bird back unscathed.

Training a Pointer for upland bird hunting involves honing both flushing and retrieving techniques. To develop the Pointer's flushing skills, trainers may use live birds or training dummies.

After the dog has mastered flushing, the focus can be shifted to retrieving, an invaluable skill for bringing downed birds back to the hunter without harm.

All in all, the Pointer is an ideal breed for upland bird hunting, making them an invaluable member of any hunting party.


In conclusion, there is no doubt that hunting dogs play a crucial role in the success of any hunting expedition. The breeds listed above are just some of the top dogs that have been proven to excel in various hunting activities.

Whether you are hunting waterfowl, upland birds, small game, or bears, there is a breed that will fit your needs. Each breed brings its unique set of skills and characteristics to the table, from the English Springer Spaniel's agility to the German Shorthaired Pointer's keen sense of smell.

So, when selecting a hunting dog, it is essential to consider the type of game you will be hunting, your hunting style, and your preferences.

With the right training and care, your hunting dog can become your most valuable hunting partner.


Happy Hunting!

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