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How to Find the Right Canine Companion for Hunting

Sep 13, 2014 09:13PM ● By Erin Frisch

Dogs make excellent hunting companions. They can point, flush, track, run and retrieve game, serving as a valuable helper. If you plan to join the 13.7 million hunters in the U.S., according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and want a dog by your side, follow these tips to find the right one.

1. Pick the breed based on the game you want to hunt

What you hunt determines the breed of dog you need, as they each have traits better suited for certain game than others. Here are some great breeds for specific game:

Ducks and Geese: The intelligent Labrador Retriever knows where a bird fell and goes get it for you, bringing the game back with a soft mouth. The breed has a water-resistant double coat and webbed feet, enabling the dogs repeatedly to enter cold water and not mind the temperature one bit. Labs come in yellow, black and chocolate, and their stable temperament makes them excellent family dogs as well, the American Kennel Club points out. Another option: Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

Deer: The American Foxhound has great stamina, an incredible nose and booming voice. The breed runs a deer down, letting you know where it is the entire time. These dogs also fit into a family well, but require everyone to agree on obedience training, as the stubborn and independent nature that makes them good deer hounds does not go away once the hunt ends. They come in a wide variety of coat colors and markings. Fun fact: According to the AKC, George Washington created this breed.

Rabbit: A smaller scent hound, the Beagle loves to chase bunnies and does so until you line up a shot. The breed's trademark baying and barking lets you keep track of your hunting helper as well. These dogs have red, white and lemon coats and their friendly personality makes them makes them a wonderful family pet, according to the AKC. Another option: Basset Hound.

2. Invest in breeding

These breeds have physical and personality traits that make them better hunting companions than others, but not all within these groups are suited for the activity. Hunters typically purchase puppies from well-respected breeders who specialize in a certain type of game dog.

These breeders allow their clients to meet the breeding pair and see them at work, and they also let them spend as much time with available puppies as necessary to test temperament. Active pups, neither too dominant nor too submissive, end up being the easiest to train. Breeders should also have all veterinary records on hand and be happy to provide references, both from other hunters and their vet.

3. Invest in training

Future hunting companions need to learn basic obedience and become socialized, just like all other puppies. Add to their school supplies a training kit that helps you teach hunting skills. Remington and other gun companies make these kits, which include a canvas dummy, scent, long lead, whistle and training book.

Soon after bringing home a puppy, though, find a trainer in your area that specializes in hunting companions. They teach ongoing courses and multi-day schools during which you work with your dog under the guidance of an experience professional. This is probably also a good time to brush up on your own skills with your own training course.

4. Treat the dog as part of your family

Successful training creates a bond between human and canine. Strengthen that relationship by including your dog in non-hunting activities as well. You will not only have a hunting companion for life, but also a loyal friend.

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