Gun Dog Guide: How to Train Your Dog to Hunt

Dogs are always considered to be the best companions of humans. And that’s undeniable. The most common place today, for a dog, is a house where they live as a pet. But a dog is a great working animal too. Since ages, dogs have been used as an assistant in hunting big game animals and birds. Me as a hunter and many of my hunter fellows are using dogs for hunting. But any dog that you find can’t make a good hunting partner. You must know how to train your dog to hunt first.


You can train your dog yourself or by getting help from the professional trainers (already trained dogs are also available now). For those who want to train their dogs themselves for hunting, here are the basic rules and info that you all should have for making your dog a perfect gun dog.

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Hunting Dog Holding A Duck - Photo credit:

Some of the Best Breeds of Hunting Dogs in My View

Some of the basic supplies you may need are:

  • Labrador Retriever: Best hunting dogs with tender mouth, suitable for tender-bodied animals and birds.
  • Basset Hound Dogs: These friendly dogs come with the best sniffing power. That makes them top the chart of best hunting dogs. These are best for hunting small animals like hare and badger.
  • Blood Hounds: Another obedient yet vigilant breed of hunting dogs.
  • Pit Bulls: With extremely aggressive nature, these are considered to be the best choice for hunting the big game animals.
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback: These are the best watchers and make great choice for hunting large sized animals.
  • Walker Hounds: With great sense of sniffing, these are used for hunting wild boars, foxes and other small game animals.
  • Lacy Dogs: This is a breed, easiest to train and we use them mostly for hog hunting.
  • American Bull Dogs: You wanna catch wild hogs or boars, try these friendly creatures.

Steps to be Followed for Training a Dog

Following are the few basic steps that can be helpful in training your dog for hunting.

Step One: Must-have Traits for a Hunting Dog

  • Whether it’s a bird’s dog, water retriever or a big game animal hunting dog, in all cases, the dog should be quick with commendable senses, aggressive, vigilant and above all obedient. He should have strength and courage to face and terrify big game animals. You just can’t treat him in a lovey dovie way, like we often do with our pets. Treat them hard to train them for the hardest.

Step Two: Suitable Dog Selection

  • Before choosing a dog, it is inevitable to know the animal you are going to hunt. Some dog’s breeds make good bird dogs, water retriever, while some are best for big game animal. Some are great chasers (for rabbits and foxes), while others are good at sniffing locations (to find the hide outs of certain animals). So, before knowing how to train your dog to hunt, you better know what dog’s breed is most suitable for your type of hunting.

Step Three: Teach them Obedience

  • The first year of training is very critical. Whatever your pup learns depends very much on this early phase of a pup’s life. Firstly, it is important to instill an idea of obedience in its mind. The dog must accept you as his boss. It must follow whatever you say. It is highly recommended that the dog learns it in a friendly way. But there are certain breeds that are known to be quite aggressive or hyperactive and do not follow and obey easily. For such cases, using an electronic collar is a good option.
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​An Electronic Collar - Photo credit:

Step Four: Teach them the Basics

  • Ordering your dog to sit, lay, stay is the basics of obedience. The dog must accept your commands. If he is automatic on these basic commands, he will surely obey you once you are in the hunting field. So, in the first year, arrange small sessions of training for it. And don’t forget to make this training a rewarding experience for the dog.
  • Pro Tip: To teach them to sit, using food items is a great way. Command him to sit by showing the piece of food. Then keep on pressing his hind legs. As he sits, hand him over the food. Repeating the same practice would perfectly train him for your obedience.

Step Five: Give Dogs Exposure!

  • Whatever dog breed you have, it is very important to introduce it to the area or field they are going to assist you ultimately. If it’s a water retriever, expose it to water, and for big game animals, take them for walk in open fields and wild areas. Make the dog realize that sniffing and roaming around these areas can earn him some reward or many positive reinforcements.
  • Pro Tip: A game animal dog is supposed to sniff and find the dummy. As he returns with the dummy, giving him reward (food) would make him do the same, each time you come for practice.
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Dog Getting exposed to the Wild - Photo credit:

Step Six: Introduce them to Scents and Animals

  • Don’t keep the dog restricted to your backyard only. If you do that, there would be no use of learning how to train your dog to hunt. To make it the best gun dog, introduce it to new people (other than you), new scents, and other animals. It would be helpful in strengthening its senses.
  • Pro Tip: If your dog is a bird retriever, it is highly recommended to introduce it to the decoys as well.

Step Seven: Dog should not be Gun Shy!

  • Some dogs are prone to be gun shy. A gun shy dog has nothing to do in a hunting field. What I often suggest to many of the novice hunters is to take them with you to the shooting area for target practicing. His exposure to gunshots would lessen his fear or hesitation for the sounds of gun.
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A Gunshy Dog - Photo credit:

Step Eight: Positive Behavior

  • All a dog wants from its master is a pat, a hug or a tasty reward from its master. Make sure that each time he performs great, he gets rewarded with your affection and of course with his favorite dog food.
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Dog Getting Reward - Photo credit:

Step Nine: Positive Behavior

  • Try your best to keep on practicing all the above-mentioned steps regularly. That’s the only way that the years long training brings you the best possible hunting comrade.


These are very basic and most significant steps in the training of a gun dog. Remember, the criteria of how to train your dog to hunt should be kept simple. Your main focus should be the dog retrieving with the dummy (while practicing) and getting the reward. And the more attention you’ll pay to the training process, the better outcomes should be expected.

All the best with your training experience!

Joseph Gleason

With a dedicated respect to the environment, I understand the importance of being an informed hunter who learns as he goes. I truly recognize the value in how things were done before and how things are done today. Born and raised in upstate New York, I grew up exposed to skilled hunters who taught me the importance of what responsible hunting can provide both to myself, my family, and to the environment. I continue today to work towards refining my craft and finding new ways to practice the time honored traditions that were passed down to me from those who came before.

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