Dogs are intelligent, easy to train and thrive when given clear and direct commands, or when they are allowed to establish mutually beneficial relationships with their fellow humans.
But there is always some confusion among prospective dog owners when it comes to hunting dogs and pets. You may not understand the differences between these two categories, and it is very common for some myths to circulate about hunting dogs.
If you are interested in a white English Labrador as a pet, you may also be wondering if it can pass for a hunting dog. In this article, we will explore its capabilities in both cases.
What is a hunting dog?
Simply put, hunting dogs are dogs bred and trained to develop and use their instincts to find prey. They are dedicated, loyal, extremely obedient and enjoy exercise. Because of these high-end characteristics, hunting dogs tend to be healthy and lean.
Depending on their breed characteristics, hounds are used to locate or retrieve prey by tracking, burrow penetration and hole finding.
Regardless of their technique, all hounds are very easy to train and respond to commands and tricks. It is no coincidence that their loyalty, dedication and tendency to need a social pack to get around are the very characteristics that make them excellent family dogs.
If you own any of the following categories of dogs, you are part of a growing group of pet owners in the United States:
Pointers and setters
Snowy Pines white Labradors belong to the retrievers category, specifically Labrador retrievers. They are bred primarily as pets, but retain many of the characteristics of hunting dogs. They are energetic, eager to please and have the intelligence to track prey. The main difference is that they need less exercise and have a much calmer temperament.
Why do hunting dogs make good pets?
Many hunting dogs enjoy the life of a professional, functional hunter. These dogs sleep indoors, interact with children, socialize with other pets and then easily return to their work.
Their natural strengths make them reliable and intelligent hunting and field work companions, but their natural attributes are only part of the equation.
Here are other traits to look for if you’re thinking about buying a hunting dog:
#1: Loyal to its owner.
Hounds exhibit a high level of devotion and loyalty to their family and human companions. Not just about commands and tricks, hounds establish a reciprocal relationship of trust and protection with their masters.
2: They are receptive to training and commands.
Each breed has its own way of communicating its strengths in the field, but all hounds are receptive to puppy training and advanced commands.
That’s precisely why families love hounds. They can learn very specific commands, demonstrate obedience and develop the ability to make decisions if a family member is in danger.
Trait 3: They are sociable with other dogs and people.
Their hunting and tracking instinct is a trait inherited from their wolf ancestors. Because of this, hunting dogs are often observed to interact easily and automatically with other animals in the family. They see their human and animal companions as a natural part of their pack.
The curiosity and natural instincts of hunting dogs can be a lot of fun, especially if your family enjoys outdoor activities.
Setters like to crouch, terriers like to dig and retrievers like to swim. If you have a hunting dog, you can be sure he will play and interact with his environment. It will not go crazy.
Character Trait 4: They like to interact with their environment.
The natural curiosity and instinct of hounds can be a lot of fun, especially if your family enjoys outdoor activities.
Setters like to crouch, terriers like to dig, and retrievers like to swim. If you have a hunting dog, you can be sure they will play and interact with their environment. They will not go crazy, as they obey commands very well.
Character trait #5: They like to fetch
If you make a hound a member of your family, you have to get used to receiving random treats, such as small field mice or birds. They need to exercise their instincts, one way or another they can take it upon themselves to hunt and forage for what they are best at catching.
Are English White Labradors hunting dogs or pets?
All dogs have some form of canine hunting instinct that is still alive today. In hunting dogs, this instinct is more pronounced, and their physical form and abilities align with this instinct. This is one of the few differences.
Speed, strength, athleticism and fitness are other differences between hunting dogs trained for work and pets.
But where do our Labradors fit on this spectrum?
Like a retriever bred as a hunting dog, they are highly trainable, obedient, loyal, gentle, affectionate and competent. Snowy Pines English Labradors focus on characteristics that give them the best of both worlds. They are perfect as family and hunting dogs. However, due to their calmer temperament and larger body size, they may not perform as well as their American cousins in field trials.
Also, just because they are larger than the American Labrador does not mean that our white Labradors do not need exercise. We exercise and train our puppies and adult dogs every day on our 120-acre property in the Ozark Mountains. Always try to arrange opportunities to hone their skills and training through simulated exercises such as field trials, lure coursing, sheepdog shows and dog competitions.
The distinction between hunting dogs and companion animals is partly professional and partly behavioral. It depends largely on the breed.
Perhaps the biggest distinction between a dog built for the family and a dog built for work is that the latter relies much more on its instinctive strengths and training than a family pet. But many hunting dogs are considered pets by their owners, so it’s up to you.
Most dogs chosen as puppies adapt to the needs of their families and respond well to training. You need to give them a significant amount of reinforcement and training while they are young so that they feel stimulated and secure.
If you want a dog that can be both a hunting dog and a pet, make sure you know the breeder before you buy. Reputable, knowledgeable, ethical and caring breeders know the difference between these two types of dogs and can point you in the right direction.