Out of all dog breeds, hunting dogs have developed more problematic behaviors. These dogs are bred and trained to hunt; when they don’t perform as desired, they can become agitated and destructive. As a result, many pet owners find themselves struggling with these animals’ behavior. So, what are some of the most common problematic behavior issues among hunting dog breeds?
Hunting dog breeds can be a handful, especially when they develop problematic behaviors. The most common issues include aggression, destructiveness, chasing animals, disobedience, pulling on the leash, dominance issues, and separation anxiety. If you’re a pet owner struggling with one of these dogs, don’t give up! There are ways to manage the behavior and improve your relationship with your pet.
This article discusses the various behavioral issues of hunting dogs, the risks they face, and their personality traits.
What Are Hunting Dogs?
Hunting dogs were first bred to aid humans in locating and retrieving animals during hunting trips. Today, they are known for their friendly nature and versatile skillset. Due to their strong instincts, these dogs excel in outdoor activities such as hiking and swimming. Most hunting dog breeds have water-resistant coats that protect them against the elements.
Types of Hunting Dogs
There are five main types of hunting dogs, each breed for a specific purpose and often used to hunt different kinds of animals.
Retrievers are dogs that have been bred to help humans in hunting waterfowl and small game. The primary role of retrievers is to retrieve birds that the hunter has killed, which they can do in a variety of environments such as marshes, rivers, and fields. There are three main breeds of retrievers: Labrador, golden retriever, and Chesapeake Bay.
Scent hounds are dogs that have been trained to track down fur-bearing game that has been wounded. They do this by following scent clues, whether there is blood or not, and they can do it day or night. The scent hound is used to locate specific animals during big game hunting season (moose, white-tailed deer, and bear) that have been hit by a projectile and runoff.
The flusher’s primary purpose is to locate and flush out the game and get the bird to start flying. This dog is for short quests only, and its main task is to stay close to the shotgun. It searches within a small area on either side and in front of its master. The flusher can adapt perfectly and efficiently to all situations, types of vegetation, and hunting methods used by its master.
Pointer dogs are mainly used for small game birds (woodcock, grouse), working alongside hunters. They walk the terrain to search and detect these birds, stopping at specific places to notify the hunter of their location. This way, the hunter can then throw a net over them and catch the bird. The collaboration between man and dog is something that pointer hunters absolutely love.
Blood Tracking Dogs
The tracker is a dog that uses its keen sense of smell to follow and track prey. Hunters mostly use this special dog breed to find mortally wounded large game. The animal being tracked usually runs off on a familiar trail in an attempt to escape when sensing the tracking dog is following it. Although these dogs never catch their prey, they simply use their noses to lead the way.
Hunting Dog Breed List
American Water Spaniel
Chesapeake Bay Retriever
English Springer Spaniel
English Cocker Spaniel
German Shorthaired Pointer
German Wirehaired Pointer
Irish Water Spaniel
Irish Red and White Setter
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
Wirehaired Pointing Griffon
Hunting Dogs Personality Traits
Hunting dogs are often bred for specific traits that make them good at their job. These traits make them good pets, but some may require a little extra training or attention. Here are some common personality traits found in hunting dogs:
Irritability & Tracking Ability
Irritability is in reference to a dog’s five senses, with the sense of smell being the most heightened. A primary function of hunting dogs revolves around their ability to scent things. The tracking ability of a hunting dog is its capacity to follow the scent of the game. This ability is important not only in finding prey but also in rescuing lost or missing persons.
Hunting dogs are typically very energetic and active. They need plenty of exercises to stay healthy and happy.
Loyal & Protective
Hunting dogs are often very loyal and protective of their owners. They are suspicious of strangers at first, but once they get to know someone, they are usually friendly.
Hunting dogs are often intelligent and quick learners. This makes it easy to train for hunting or other activities.
A dog’s companionate behaviors, such as wagging its tail or whimpering, will be immediately evident to any observer. However, these behaviors may take on different forms in a hunting dog that must share information about what it is feeling with its owner, like happiness, fear, or other emotions.
While not every dog enjoys it, most hunting dogs love to swim. This is because prey will sometimes fall into the water or need to be tracked through rivers and lakes. Consequently, the ability to retrieve prey while swimming is a nearly essential hunting dog trait.
Risks Faced by Hunting Dog
If you are a hunting dog owner, it is important to be aware of the risks your dog faces while out in the field. There are a number of different life-threatening injuries that hunting dogs can face. Here are some of the most common:
Sprains and strains: These are often caused by slips and falls or by jumping and landing awkwardly.
Broken Bones: This is usually the result of a collision with another animal or object or from being hit by a vehicle.
Eye Injuries: Hunting dogs are often injured in the eyes by thorns, branches, and other debris while they are running through the woods.
Ear Infections: These are common in hunting dogs because their ears are constantly exposed to dirt, dust, and water.
Gastrointestinal Problems: Hunting dogs often eat things they shouldn’t, which can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal issues.
Heat Exhaustion: This serious problem can occur when hunting dogs are overexposed to the sun or heat.
Hypothermia: This can happen when hunting dogs get wet and cold or are left out for too long.
Frostbite: This happens when the hunting dog’s skin tissue freezes.
Dehydration: Hunting dogs can dehydrate from running around in hot weather or losing fluid through vomiting or diarrhea.
Shock: This can occur after a hunting dog is injured or after it has been through a traumatic experience.
While most hunting dogs are able to recover from these types of injuries with proper medical care, some may require more serious treatment, such as surgery. Occasionally, a hunting dog may even be killed by an injury sustained while out on a hunt.
Hunting Dogs Welfare Related Behavioral Problems
The main argument against the welfare of hunting dogs is that they are often mistreated by their owners or family and have a bad life. Most ill behaviors of hunting dogs arise when they are not properly trained or socialized, mistreated and unable to do their natural behavior. There are several reasons why hunting dog breeds may develop problematic behaviors.
- They may be bored or frustrated if they are not given enough opportunity to hunt.
- They may be poorly socialized and become anxious and stressed in new environments or around new people.
- They may have been poorly trained, leading to confusion and frustration.
- Keeping them in small cages or kennels, where they do not have enough space to move around, and feeding them a poor-quality diet.
- Some dogs may simply have a high prey drive or be highly excitable, which can make them difficult to manage in a domestic setting.
Some of the most common behavioral issues related to hunting dogs are given below:
One of the main problems that owners of hunting dogs face is their tendency to chase other animals. This can be extremely dangerous for the dog and the animal being chased.
Mouthing and Chewing
Another common problem with hunting dogs is their tendency to mouth and chew on things. This can be destructive and dangerous for the dog and the objects they are chewing on.
Hunting dog breeds can be very protective of their territory and can become aggressive when someone or something enters their space. They may also become aggressive when they’re not given enough attention or when they’re not exercised enough.
Many hunting dogs suffer from separation anxiety, which can be a serious problem. Separation anxiety can cause a dog to become stressed and anxious when away from its owner. When left alone, these dogs can become destructive and may even start to bark or howl excessively. They may also try to escape from their kennel or home to find their owner.
Many hunting dogs also have dominance issues. Dominant dogs try to control their owners and may even become aggressive.
Pulling on the Leash
Many hunting dogs also tend to pull on their leashes. Pulling on the leash can be dangerous for both the dog and the owner, and it may even lead to the dog getting lost. If a dog becomes lost, it may face starvation, dehydration, and exposure.
While hunting dogs often exhibit various problematic behaviors, these issues can often be resolved through proper training and care. With the right instruction, most hunting dogs will be able to live healthy and happy lives. If you are having difficulty dealing with problem behavior, it is always best to consult a professional trainer or behaviorist.
Dr. Mohsin Iqbal (DVM, RVMP)
Dr. Mohsin Iqbal is a licensed veterinarian with more than 5 years of experience in veterinary medicine. After receiving his DVM degree from The Islamia University of Bahawalpur, Pakistan, he worked as a
veterinarian in both government and private sectors. He has a deep passion for animal welfare and has been working for various animal welfare organizations since he was a student. Being President of Animal Rescue Organization Pakistan (AROP), he has been actively involved in animal rescue and welfare activities. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his rescue dogs and cats.