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Can A German Shepherd Be A Hunting Dog?

Can A German Shepherd Be A Hunting Dog?

I bet one of the questions about German Shepherds that you didn’t ask before is, Can a German Shepherd be a hunting dog?

Well, it’s time to have that riddle solved, too! PupVine has done quite a share of articles on German Shepherds because they’re the goodest bois of them all.

Why don’t we check whether they make fine hunters besides being protectors and watchdogs?

A German Shepherd’s intelligence and work ethics are impeccable. Surely, they can be good hunters, right? Right.

Well, we’ll see…

Can A German Shepherd Be A Hunting Dog?

two german shepherd dogs running in forest

The solution to the puzzle of a German Shepherd being a hunting dog is not an easy one. Yes or no answers don’t work here.

Whether a German Shepherd can be a hunting dog depends on each dog. Some pups are born hunters, while some show zero interest in hunting actions.

This is absolutely normal because we have different lines of German Shepherd dogs. Of course, all German Shepherds are working dogs. However, show and pet lines are the lines that stand out the most.

Every litter usually has one or two puppies that would do great in professional shows. The rest of the puppies will be declared as pet-quality dogs and companions.

Show-quality dogs are easy to spot because they have an impressive appearance. Their coat is simply more luscious, while their build is sturdier and their temperament is calmer. Experienced breeders will easily figure out which dog is meant to compete in dog shows.

Working German Shepherds are dogs shaped and polished to have a job on a daily basis. This includes police and military dogs, as well as those meant for protection. These dogs boast stamina, endurance, and intelligence.

So, to come back to the burning question… A working line or a show-line German Shepherd could make a good hunting dog if you train him to do so. Pet-quality GSDs aren’t meant for hunting purposes, but we’ll allow them a try. You never know when you’ll end up surprised.

What Makes A Good Hunting Dog?

german shepherd dog hunting

There are several factors that must align for a dog to be a great hunting companion. Not every pup can wake up one day and decide he’s interested in hunting down wild animals and fetching prey.

Hunting dogs are usually dogs from show lines. Rarely does any pet-quality GSD work as a hunting dog. Show-line GSDs are the same quality dogs as the ones Max Von Stephanitz used to breed. They have sharper instincts and better athletic skills – pawfect for obtaining different work tasks.

So, coming from show lines of exceptional quality is the number one requirement for a hunting dog.

Another major box to check is the sense of smell. A dog’s nose is probably the most important thing for a hunting companion. The nose is used to track down a scent, and eventually the animal carrying it.

However, our GSD buddies tend to use their sight instead of their nose. Other dogs like pointers are more likely to use their sense of smell.

Besides the nose, the mouth is a huge factor, too. Dogs with a soft mouth are a better choice for hunting dogs. Luckily, German Shepherds are known for having a soft mouth, and they are not prone to biting or damaging the prey.

You can easily send a German Shepherd after prey and he won’t pierce it, despite his strong prey drive.

Lastly, we can’t forget about the obedience factor. A dog that’s not obedient can’t be a hunting dog. Well, German Shepherds will listen to you like no other dog. They’re descendants of herding and hunting dogs. It’s in their DNA to follow commands and wait for a human’s approval.

Types Of Hunting Dogs

hunter with his dog labrador retriever

If you’re not familiar with hunting or hunting dogs, let me clear up some things for you. After this section, I’m pawsitive you’ll understand different types of hunting dogs, and what it takes for each one to be a hunting buddy.

Hunting is considered a sport, but there’s nothing really sporty about hunting down helpless animals. I’d call it the ultimate necessity. At least, that’s why people began hunting in the first place. 

Throughout the centuries, hunting became a nobleman’s sport, and thus, many hunting dog types established themselves.

For those of you who didn’t know, we have three different types of hunting or gun dogs:

  • pointers
  • hunters
  • and retrievers


You’ll always have a good laugh with pointers because these dogs freeze in place when they sense prey, and point right at it. They look like they’re dropped out of a cartoon.

But, there’s nothing funny about their work ethics. Pointers are hardworking dogs with an extra sharp sense of smell. A pointer will use its nose, paw, tail, or entire body to point into the direction where the prey lies.

That’s not all these dogs do. Pointers will also work as hunters and retrievers to bring back the prey. They’re super obedient and a delight to work with.

The most popular pointer dogs include breeds like the Weimaraner, German Shorthaired Pointer, English Pointer, Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, Old Danish Pointer, etc.


Hunters are often called flushers because they flush out prey from where it’s hiding.

Hunter dogs can sometimes work as retrievers and pointers, but mostly their role is in bringing back the prey the hunter has shot down. Ideally, they work along with hunters, but individual work is not foreign to them.

Hunter or flusher dogs are focused mainly on flushing out birds. Hence, the other moniker, bird dogs. 

Some bird dogs you might be interested in are Boykin Spaniels, Cocker Spaniels, American Water Spaniels, Springer Spaniels, etc.


Retriever dogs are probably the most popular type of hunting dogs. We all know Labrador Retrievers, but they’re not the only retrieving dogs worthy of your attention. Of course, there’s the Golden Retrievers, as well as the Irish Water Spaniels, Curly-Coated Retrievers, Flat-Coated Retrievers, etc.

What retriever dogs do is they go after the prey the hunter has shot down, and they don’t mind going through water or bushes to retrieve it. These dogs are strictly focused on getting that prey. 

The best part about retriever dogs is that they can be trained to work alone, as well as along with their humans.

Training A German Shepherd To Hunt

german shepherd running on a meadow

Before we point out some general hunt training guidelines, I must remind you that every good type of training needs time and devotion. Ideally, hunting training should start in early puppyhood. A puppy will be shaped into becoming a hunter, a show dog, or a police k-9.

Every German Shepherd must learn how to be obedient in the first place. The training must be strict and ensure that your dog understands what you’re doing. A prey must be introduced from the start to help your dog realize what he’s chasing after.

The sooner you begin with practicing and training, the better for you and your dog. Older puppies are hard to teach because they already have some preferences, and would rather play and snooze in the house instead of hunting down ducks and rabbits.

Training a German Shepherd to be your hunting companion means you won’t have to go on hunting trips alone.

Training Tips

The most important part of any training is getting your pup used to different sounds and smells, also known as desensitization. For example, you should take your dog along on a hunting trip so he doesn’t get scared by gunshots or run away once he senses the smell of gunpowder.

Your dog should quickly realize such surroundings are okay, and there’s nothing to worry about. When going on hunting trips together, you should have treats ready for your dog, and possibly a clicker that will signal him he’s doing a good job.

The praise and rewards system is extremely helpful when training a German Shepherd.

Remember, your dog learns from your example. So, grab his leash and walk together. Walk slowly and quietly, so your dog catches on the same behavior. Once you see the target, run towards it so you realize that’s what you guys are after.

Repetition is the key to success. Of course, rewards are in order for every task well done.

In case you want to sharpen your GSD’s nose, you can have him start scent training.

Basically, you will be playing with a scented toy every day. Once you see your dog is ready, you can start marking a train with that scented toy. Of course, don’t use a smell your dog hates. Yes, this means to wipe the toy on the ground and drag it as you mark the trail.

Have your dog on the leash and point him to the ground so he catches the scent. Walk along with him as he follows the scent to reveal the toy hidden at the end of the trail. Every time your dog loses focus, tug him back on the path and practice.

Oh, and don’t forget to reward him at the end!

To Sum Up

So, can a German Shepherd be a hunting dog?

Of course, he can, but that will depend on the dog you have. 

Not every GSD is cut out to be a good hunting dog, but they surely have great predispositions. Coming from show lines means one thing: those dogs are of spectacular quality, and are more likely to serve humans in their hunting adventures.

German Shepherds are stellar students and great workers. There’s no dog in the canine world that could match their abilities. When you give a GSD a task to complete, you can rest assured he will complete it with utmost success.

And, that’s the most important thing to ask from a hunting dog, isn’t it?