Spaniels, Golden Retrievers, Pointers and Setters – what do they all have in common? Yes they are all Gun Dogs. Gun Dogs are a type of dog that are specially bred to assist hunters in finding and retrieving game. Usually gun dogs are used for game bird shoots. The hunter shoots them out of the sky and the dog goes to find them and brings them back.

Gun Dogs are usually divided into Beaters and Pickers Up. The Beaters have a lot more freedom to move about and aren’t usually as well trained as the picking up dogs but they do have to respond to a whistle.


These dog get the precision job of picking up – they are required to stay faithfully at the shooters side until they are called upon to pick up the shot game. The retriever has to have a great deal of discipline and must be very well trained. They have the most stressful job of all of the dogs on a shoot. The most popular retriever in the UK is the Labrador retriever although the golden retriever and the flat coat retriever are also popular choices.


The spaniel is the hunter dog. The hunter dog has to be extremely efficient and stay within close range of the handler flushing game until it is shot when it may be called upon to retrieve it. Because spaniels are such lively dogs it can be hard to train them and to get them to be as obedient as they need to be on a shoot – especially the Springer. The English Cocker is a popular choice for hunting game.

Setters and Pointers

Called pointers because they are required to point out the game so that the hunter can move in close before the flush. These are larger dogs and are only worth having as a gun dog if you are going to be doing lots of hunting in larger spaces. They are big dogs that cover a lot of ground and not recommended if they are going to be more of a pet than a working dog.

The overriding factors that influence your decision to buy your gun dog should be the amount of work that they are required to do. If you simply want a pet that can occasionally pick up your game then your requirements are different to those serious hunters that run shooting game clubs. All too often gun dogs can end up in rescue centres because they weren’t chosen wisely.

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