A Beginner's Guide To Gun Dogs

by admin on 01-21-2015 in General Hunting Dogs


Gun dogs have a reputation for assisting hunters in finding, catching, and retrieving small game. Breeders choose three types of canine for this purpose, including retrievers, flushing, pointer, and setter dogs. The majority of kennel clubs place gun dogs in their own category, while some may include them in the sporting group. Most hunters choose one of three types of gun dogs, including the Spaniel, Golden Retriever, and Labrador; however, there are nearly fifty identifiable gun dog breeds. Gun dog owners typically train their dogs in accordance to their classification that may be useful in various hunting situations.


Pointer dogs freeze and then point or crouch upon detecting the game in front of them. If other gun dogs are present, then they may also freeze and honor the first dog's point. The pointer remains motionless until the hunters locate a position. Handlers typically train the pointers with a one word command to remain still: “woah.” Next, the pointer may remain motionless while the hunter flushes the game, or the gun dog may flush the game itself with the command: “get it!” Pointer dogs specialize in locating certain types of covey birds, such as the bobwhite, quail, and grouse. This allows the hunter to approach and get into the necessary position to land the perfect shot. Once the hunter has downed a bird, then he or she may instruct the gun dog to search and retrieve it with the two-word command: “dead bird,” or one-word command: “dead.”

Flushing Dogs

Hunters train flushing dogs, such as spaniels and retrievers, to seek out upland game. Flushing dogs work closely with the hunter, unlike with the pointer and setters. Unlike pointers and setters, flushers must remain within shotgun distance; therefore, limiting the range that the flusher can cover. Hunters typically use flushing dogs to capture birds that run away from the hunter, such as pheasant and other related fowl. Flushers may need to rush the targeted bird to induce the bird to spread their wings. Flushing dogs give little time for birds to escape on the ground. The flushing dogs will sit or “hup” and then watch the bird before marking fallen birds for retrieval. The hallmark of all flushing dogs is steadiness to wing, a specialty easily accomplished by the Spaniel. The flushing dog should mark where the bird fell after its initial shot and then wait until given the retrieval command. The flusher should race up to the kill, retrieve it, and then bring it back to the handler.


Handlers typically use retrievers when hunting for waterfowl; however, retrievers may also hunt upland birds. Retrievers quietly wait until the handler sends them to retrieve the kill, mainly because the majority of hunters use small boats during winter conditions. A well-trained retriever patiently watches the handler's gun and then moves into range after the handler watches and shoots the targeted game. This instilled training technique is called “marking off the gun.” The handler refers to the downed birds as “marks.” After the successfully downing the targeted bird, the handler commands the dog to retrieve each downed bird. The handler may direct the retriever toward the downed bird using hand and whistle signals, also known as a “blind” retrieval. This technique may be useful during an active day where a retrieving dog has multiple downed birds to retrieve. Handlers train retrievers to concentrate on bringing back one downed bird at a time before moving onto the next target. In cases where handlers use multiple dogs, each retriever remains calm and quiet until the other dog completes its tasks.


For more information on gun dogs, please refer to the following resources:

Basic Information



Health and Safety

Associations and Organizations


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