The Most Underrated Hunting Dog Breeds

As the owner and breeder of a rare hunting dog breed, the Deutsch Langhaar, I get many questions from fellow bird hunters who have never heard of or seen the hunting dogs I follow every fall in pursuit of grouse, Hungarian partridge, chukar, quail and other birds. I love that my dog ​​is as comfortable on a steep mountainside as in a salt marsh.

But Deutsch Langhaars is not for everyone. That’s the beauty of the hunting dog world: there’s a good dog for every need or every preference. Also keep in mind that popularity is not a good measure of a race’s ability in the field. Various historical factors have contributed to the relative success of one breed over another, and of course popularity is a double-edged sword when it comes to maintaining a breed’s form and function. But for those who are willing to be honest about their expectations and put in the effort and research, the vast world of hunting dog breeds is full of possibilities.

Whatever your motivation, opening your search to some of the most underrated dog breeds is guaranteed to broaden your horizons and deepen your appreciation of the diversity of hunting dogs around the world. —Jennifer Wapenski

Why choose an uncommon hunting dog?

Deutsch Langhaar from the author on mountain bird hunting. Jennifer Wapenski

For all the highly competent Setters, Pointers, Labradors, Cockers and Springers out there, you might be wondering why anyone would go to the effort to get something “different”. The truth is, if there was a perfect dog, we wouldn’t have the hundreds of breeds we have today. Even though our hunting styles, personalities, training approaches, and home lifestyles differ, so do our ideal hunting dogs.

People may be drawn to less common breeds to have something different from what everyone else has, or maybe there’s a specific need they’re trying to fill. Rare breeds often have tight-knit communities, and especially if it’s a breed club working hard to promote and preserve hunting skills, it may be the new social network you didn’t know you had. need.

Some of the less common breed clubs will only place dogs in hunt houses, knowing that a popular pet market can be detrimental to maintaining the breed’s natural hunting skills. You need look no further than the Weimaraner, Irish Setter, or Golden Retriever to see examples of how popularity can dilute hunting abilities in certain bloodlines.

Although ‘rare’ doesn’t automatically mean ‘best’, there are breeds with incredible hunting skill and perhaps not as much recognition as they deserve within the hunting community. If you’re looking for your next hunting dog and are interested in something a little off the beaten path but still more than capable in the field, consider broadening your horizons by exploring these underrated breeds. . —JW

The most underrated and versatile pointing dog: Kleine Münsterländer

The Kleine Münsterländer is a versatile hunting dog.
If you are looking for versatility in a hunting dog, the Kleine Münsterländer is an excellent choice. Andrew Shoemaker / Kleine Münsterländer Group of North America

The Small Münsterländer is growing in popularity among hunters and non-hunters alike, with North American All-Purpose Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA) registrations have more than doubled from ten years ago. But there is a separate branch of the breed – some consider it a breed in its own right – that flies under the radar of most bird hunters. The Kleine Munsterlander, or KlM, follows the German test and registration system, as do Drahthaars, Kurzhaars and Langhaars. And like those breeds, dogs registered in Germany use the German name to differentiate themselves from their American counterparts.

The KlM is a very versatile pointer in a slightly smaller package than other breeds in this category. Dogs undergo JGHV hunting tests alongside Drahthaars and other more familiar German breeds and, more importantly, must pass these tests before breeding. What this system produces are very consistent, performance-oriented dogs with only proven hunting dogs in each pedigree.

For hunters interested in all the versatility of small game hunting, KlMs are excellent on rabbits in addition to upland birds and waterfowl. They can also track blood, making them useful in retrieving wounded big game where legal. Although not specialists in any particular subject, KlMs are well-rounded and capable of taking on just about any hunting task.

If you’ve had your eye on a small Münsterländer but weren’t sure you were choosing a quality kennel with proven hunting bloodlines, or you like the proven versatility of a German registered dog without the intensity of a Drahthaar, then it’s worth checking out the Kleine Münsterländer before choosing your next hunting buddy. —JW

The Most Underrated Hunting Dog: The Field Spaniel

Field spaniels can hunt alone or in groups.
Field spaniels are a great addition to round out your pointers. Field Spaniels Society

Field-bred English Cockers are all the rage right now. Highland hunters across North America add the energetic little hunters to their kennels, either as an addition to a pointing dog team or as stand-alone hunting dogs. The cocker spaniel’s antics and boundless energy are hallmarks of the breed.

But there’s a world of spaniels beyond the Cocker and Springer, and while many breeds have found their status as pets to overwhelm their historic hunting instincts, there can still be quality hunting dogs. in the ranks of many spaniel breeds.

The field spaniel is an excellent example of a breed that did not split into separate terrain and show lines. But they are rare and it can be difficult to get one. They are known to be excellent bird seekers with a strong desire to please their master. At home, owners report that they are generally easy-going and adaptable.

For those who want to participate in research, meet dogs firsthand, interview several potential breeders, and probably travel a fair distance to find the right dog, a Field Spaniel could be a great fit as your next hunting dog.—JW

The Most Underrated Retriever: The Standard Poodle

Poodles are accomplished duck dogs.
They may not look like a retriever, but Poodles are capable duck dogs. American Kennel Club

In a field dominated by British and American laboratories, the standard poodle doesn’t get much recognition as a hardcore duck dog. For those who live and hunt with them, however, the Poodle’s effectiveness in blind duck hunting is no secret.

Although found in the non-sporting group of the AKC, the Standard Poodle traces its origins to waterfowl hunting dogs in France and Germany. The tight, curly coat is as utilitarian as it is beautiful. The poodle’s famous intelligence – the same trait that led to its popularity as a circus dog – may well carry over to hunting and training. Their independent nature often requires a different approach, but for the hunter willing to work cooperatively with their individual dog, the rewards are many.

Most hunting poodles are built to retrieve waterfowl, but the utility of the poodle in the field extends beyond the blind duck. Their independence translates well to flushing upland birds such as pheasants and quail. They have an excellent nose combined with a great working power which, when channeled into bird hunting, can be a very effective combination.

As with other breeds that have enjoyed popularity as pets, a hunter looking for a Hunting Poodle should plan to do plenty of homework. Whether or not there is a true “hunting line” is a subject open to heated debate within the Poodle community, but finding one with the right kind of motivation and desire to work will go a long way towards a career as a poodle. successful hunter. —JW

Read more : The Best Hunting Dog Breeds for Every Game

Most Underrated Arboreal Dog: West Siberian Laika

Laika can hunt all kinds of game.
Incredibly intelligent, the laika is capable of hunting almost any type of game you wish to pursue. Joe Genzel

Squirrel and raccoon hunters have long favored feists and coonhounds for tree game. Both breeds are well suited for this task, but the West Siberian Laika is more versatile. This is a breed that is always on the hunt, from stalking songbirds in your backyard to gray squirrels and foxes. Laikas were used in ancient Russian civilizations to bark boars and bears – which they are still capable of – and for protection in order to keep predators away from the camp. They can sniff out dead game and will learn to hunt just about any creature you want too. Even better, you don’t train the laika to hunt; it’s already in their blood. Just do some basic obedience training, then take them hunting – they figure out the rest on their own.

Laikas need a lot of ownership to move around or they need exercise (I typically run my laika 30 miles a week in the offseason). Laikas are not city dogs. They need to be off-leash to hunt as much as possible, even when you don’t have a gun in your hands. Laikas are primitive den animals – some owners don’t even feed their dogs, allowing them to hunt for food – who are also incredibly loyal. Many will only obey commands and hunt for one owner.

Finding a purebred laika can be a challenge. Make sure it is UKC registered. Vladimir Beregovoy, the man who brought the breed from Russia to the United States, still sells litters in Virginia, and Darren Petty is another great resource for locating puppies. There are many laika groups on Facebook, and it’s one of the best places to start. —Joe Genzel

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