hunting dog training

Hunting Dog Training 101: A Guide To Training Your Dog To Obey And Retrieve

Do you have a new puppy and wanting to train him/her as a hunting dog? Our guide has some of the best practices and tips on how to train a new puppy to be a hunting dog companion.

Keep reading below our hunting dog training guide and help train your gundog to obey your commands and retrieve your game.

Lets get started.

Hunting dog training guide

The history of dogs is as old as that of humans. Dogs and humans have been close companions since the very early days for guarding and hunting purposes. 

In the old days, dogs were mostly wild and aggressive. Due to their aggressive nature, they were primarily used for hunting and guarding their masters. Later on, with the crossbreeding technologies, new breeds of dogs were created. Crossbreeding produced various breeds with different characteristics. This process is still ongoing. 

American Kennel Club (AKC) now has around 190 different crossbreeds of dogs. Most of these breeds are hunting dogs, while some are developed differently. These are called lap dogs, guard dogs, and herd dogs. 

Even though these dogs were bred not to be hunting dogs, the original instinct of hunting may still exist in these breeds, though in very low proportion. So, as of today, we have many hunting dog breeds, especially in the USA and other Western Countries. 

Gun Dogs Vs Hunting Dogs

Hunting dogs can be seperated into two categories, gun dogs and hunting dogs, although there isn’t much difference between them. The gun dog is a sub-breed of the hunting dog. Gun dogs are mainly used for bird hunting, whereas hunting dogs specialize in game and wildlife hunting.

Gun Dogs

Gun dogs are of various different breeds. Each breed has diverse characteristics that suit different types of hunting depending upon their specific skills. Gun dogs consist of various dog breeds. 

hunting dogs
  • Retrievers – This breed group is considered one of the best gun dogs. Their name (retriever) comes from their specialty of safely retrieving the game to the hunter without damaging it. The most famous breed in this group is the Golden retriever.
  • Pointers – As their name suggests, dogs of this group can locate the game and communicate its presence to the hunter by pointing their muzzle towards it. English pointers are quite popular among members of this group. 
  • Water Dogs – Breeds of dogs capable of swimming are generally called water dogs. A poodle is a good example of a water dog. Poodles can retrieve prey from the water. Poodles love water.
  • Spaniels – Mostly used in the hunting of birds. They are quite good at retrieving the game. English Cocker Spaniel is a good example of this group.
  • Setters – English setters and Irish setters are included in this group. They are used for bird hunting. They have the specialty of detecting the prey through their scent. 

Even today, you find that varieties of poodles such as Goldendoodles and Labradoodles are used as hunting dogs.

Hunting Dogs

Hunting dogs other than the gun dogs are hounds, curs, and terriers. Hounds include Sighthounds, Lurchers, and Scenthounds. Terriers on the other hand are mainly family dogs but are also used for hunting small prey. Curs are used to hunt large prey. Curs also can swim, hunt and retrieve prey. 

Some popular hunting dog breeds include Beagles, American Foxhounds, Labradors, and Bluetick Coonhounds.

How To Train A Hunting Dog?

Hunting dogs are helpful for hunters in many ways. They can find prey. They can track the prey. They can retrieve the prey. Every hunting dog breed can do these three basic skills. But each has its way of doing so. In any case, hunting dogs are very good and productive companions on a hunting trip. 

Keep reading below and find out the steps to take to train your hunting dog like a pro.

Although these are bred specifically for hunting, they need a lot of training to familiarize themselves with this job. A systematic training program has to be implemented from the very early age of the puppy so that he can grow into a great hunting companion. A perfect hunting training program includes various steps, which are explained here. 

Find a hunting dog breed

Though not a part of the training program, it is a crucial step. First of all, you need to make up your mind as to what type of hunting you are interested in. Since every breed has different skills, you must see which breed suits you. 

If you are interested in duck hunting, you should select one of the breeds like a labrador retriever. When locating and tracking the game, your choice shall be one of the pointers. It is very important to select a puppy considering the type of hunting you’ll be doing.

There are sites like that specialize in locating dog breeders for hunting.

Socialize The Dog

As explained earlier, dogs must be trained right from an early age. Socialization is one of the key factors in the training any type of dog. It becomes even more crucial when you train your dog for hunting. If they are not trained from a puppy, it will be harder down the road.

Socialization training must be aimed at making your dog familiar with the presence of many people and other animals around. The hunting instinct of a dog should not trigger unnecessarily. They must be trained to understand the situation around them. They should be trained to obey their owner for nearly every situation.

The dog may encounter different people, animals, and birds during hunting expeditions. They must realize which one is prey and which is not. If they don’t have this skill, they will ruin your hunting trip.

Make Your Dog Obedient And Disciplined

Your dog must be obedient, which means he must respond instantly and correctly to your commands. Simultaneously he must be disciplined, so his attention should not be distracted. 

You must enroll the young puppy in a good obedience training school for comprehensive obedience training. You may start with group sessions when he is very young. Later, he must get personalized training classes with a reputed and professional dog expert. 

These classes will make your dog understand and listen to your calls and react accordingly, which are the basic skills a good hunting dog must have. 

Once you have trained the dog for obedience and discipline, testing his skill before taking him along for a real hunting trip is necessary. Take your dog outside in an open area to test his skills. He may be allowed a real-time expedition if he responds correctly and quickly to your calls. 

Teach Your Dog Basic Commands

Hunting commands are vital when on an actual hunting spree. There’s no room for mistakes, wrong responses, or delayed action on the part of your dog. It would be best for your dog to teach the basic calls, which are commonly used by hunters. 

The most basic gundog commands are “Fetch,” “Stay,” and “Come”. This is not the ultimate list of commands. You may include other calls as well, considering your needs and preferences. 

Your dog should be skilled perfectly to retrieve the prey when required. If he’s not perfectly trained, he may not return the prey to you in an undamaged condition.

You need to practice these commands vigorously with your dog so that he understands and gets familiar with what is required from him. Practicing these things with puppies only require about 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening. They’re unable to concentrate long enough for a full training.

Familiarize Your Dog With Gunshots

Your dog should be familiar with gunshot very well. He should be trained to escape the firing range but must react immediately once the prey is down. He may get scared if not properly familiarized with the loud sound of gunfire. You should train them on gunfire early or they will be hard to break.

This needs some special training sessions with actual gun firing so that he may learn how to react to it. He must also learn to differentiate between the actual gun and similar sounds. In real expeditions, other such sounds may be around in the field, or other hunters may be around there. Hence your dog must be able to understand the situation and react accordingly. 

Reward Your Dog

Give a reward to your dog when he successfully reacts to your commands and performs accurately. The reward may include appreciation and love, and affection for your dog. This will encourage him to learn and react more efficiently. 

Does Your Dog Need Further Training?

Once your dog understands his basic training well and you think he is ready for a hunting trip, it’s time to test his abilities. Put him to the test in a controlled environment. Go hunting with a friend who understands that your dog is still in training. He must stay near or close to the hunting blind while not retrieving a bird.

Test his skills in retrieving the prey perfectly. Test his scenting skills, whether he can follow the prey with the scent. Test his skills in water as well. Now it’s up to your analysis. If you feel he is imperfect, you may need to take him to professional dog trainers for a refresher course. 


Every dog has a hidden instinct for hunting inherited from his ancestors. Although cross-breeding techniques have changed their characteristics, and they are now mostly family companions, their inherited hunting nature remains. 

If you want a dog to become a hunting dog, the only thing needed is to train him systematically. Training must be aimed at teaching him to react to your commands promptly and accurately. He must not get out of control while on real hunting trip. A well-trained dog will help make your hunting trip a joyous event. Invest in training your dog. 


  • Hey folks! I'm Trey Copeland, founder of Made To Hunt. I'm from Kentucky and love the outdoors. I've been hunting or fishing in many states including KY, MO, MS, AR, TN and FL as well as Mexico and Costa Rica. For more updates follow me on Twitter.

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