Hunting With Dogs: Etiquette and Safety - NSSF Let's Go Hunting

Hunting With Dogs: Etiquette and Safety

Hunting dogs make hunting better. They find more game, they get you better shots, and they recover downed birds that would otherwise be lost. And, it’s just fun to watch dogs work. You may own a dog of your own someday, but you’ll probably hunt over other people’s dogs first. If you’re invited on a hunt with dogs, there are adjustments you’ll have to make. The dog’s safety is everyone’s concern. A dog isn’t of any use if it stays behind the firing line, so you’ll have to learn some new gun handling habits. There’s etiquette to learn, too, and expectations to adjust. Not every hunt with dogs is a joy. Some are terribly frustrating. Learn to take it in stride. It may be your dog running wild someday. Basically there are four types of hunting dogs you may encounter.

Pointing dogs (English setters, German shorthaired pointers, Brittanys and may others) freeze when they get close to upland birds. Commercial lodges like pointing dogs because they create a controlled situation, allowing hunters to get into position before the bird flushes. Most pointing dogs retrieve, too.

Retrievers (Labs, Chesapeake Bay retrievers, etc) are used primarily for waterfowl hunting. They wait in the blind with the hunters until birds fall, then fetch them.

Flushers (spaniels, mostly, as well as retriever breeds like Labs and golden retrievers) roust upland birds out of cover instead of stopping to point them.

Hounds (beagles are the most popular) chase four-footed game big and small, usually baying as they go. You may hunt deer, hogs, mountain lions or raccoons with hounds, although it’s most likely you’ll hunt rabbits with beagles.

Here’s what you need to know to have a safe, successful, enjoyable hunt with dogs.

See safety and etiquette rules at

In this video, Professional dog trainer Bev Millheim offers some sage advice for dog owners that are getting their young dog ready for its first hunting season. Tough the tips are focused on retrievers the substance can be applied to any breed. If Fido will see it on opening day he should see it first in training. Good luck on your first hunt!

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