Breed Type: Pointers/Gun Dogs

Best suited as: Pet, hunting, or show dog with an active owner or family.


Gun dogs, called bird dogs in some places, are a type of sporting dog. They include flushing dogs, pointers, setters, retrievers, and water dogs. Some gun dogs usually perform multiple roles, such as retrieving and tracking.

How They Work

Flushing Dogs
Flushing dogs – retrievers and spaniels work together with a hunter to use on birds that run from the hunter. Flushing dogs force the birds to wing so that the hunter may take a shot. Most flushing dogs will sit to watch and then mark the location of the fallen bird so that it may be retrieved. A dog that does this well is called “steady to wing and shot.” Once a bird is shot, the dog should mark it, and wait for a command to retrieve. The dog should then run to where the bird fell, pick it up, and return the bird to the hunter.

Pointers and Setters
When a hunter and his dog reach a field, the hunter will direct the dog to search in a wide circle, looking for birds. The dog will do a large loop of the field, then will run in a back-and-forth pattern, starting closest to the hunter and getting farther away each time, travelling along as the hunter walks. When the dog sees a bird, it will “freeze” by crouching or pointing. What happens next depends upon the dog’s training and the hunter’s preference. Sometimes the hunter flushes the game, and sometimes the dog flushes the bird on command. Once the bird is downed, the dog will hunt for and retrieve it on command.

This type of dog is used mostly when hunting waterfowl. They are trained and expected to sit quietly and calmly until given the order to retrieve. A good retriever will “mark off the gun” – that is, remember where each bird went down. Once shooting has stopped, the dog will retrieve each of the birds it marked. Sometimes the dog will miss seeing a bird fall and the hunter will direct the dog to the downed location using whistles and hand signals. Sometimes the hunter will shoot at more birds while the dog is retrieving – a good dog will ignore these distractions and continue to work until all the birds are retrieved.

Gun Dog Breeds

According to the Australian National Kennel Council, the following is a list of Gundog breeds:

  • American Cocker Spaniel
  • Brittany Spaniel
  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • Clumber Spaniel
  • Curly Coated Retriever
  • English Cocker Spaniel
  • English Setter
  • English Springer Spaniel
  • Field Spaniel
  • Flat-Coated Retriever
  • German Wirehaired Pointer
  • Goldern Retriever
  • Gordon Setter
  • Hungarian Vizsla
  • Irish Red and White Setter
  • Irish Setter
  • Irish Water Spaniel
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Lagotto Romagnolo
  • Large Münsterländer
  • Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever
  • Pointer
  • Spanish Water Dog
  • Spinone Italiano
  • Sussex Spaniel
  • Weimaraner
  • Weimeraner Long Hair
  • Welsh Springer Spaniel

There are several breeds that may be used as gun dogs but are not officially recognized by the ANKC under the gundog breed.