An Introduction To Gundogs

Different types of dogs tend to live rather different lifestyles and have different needs, depending on their past or present working roles and the way that the breeds in question has evolved. Dogs that have common needs, traits and behaviour patterns are grouped into types, both for the purpose of classification and judging and also to summarise their broad care and wellness needs.

Gundogs are one of these types, and this designation is used to describe dogs that were historically bred and developed to work alongside of hunters with guns, both by flushing out game such as birds, and by bringing the bodies of downed birds back to their handlers.

What is a gundog?

There are several different variants of gun dogs, including retrieving dogs, flushing dogs, water dogs and pointers, although all gundogs share broadly similar skill sets and are often competent in more than one working role. Gundogs have soft mouths, lively, open and friendly personalities, and are generally alert, engaged and ready to go!

An example of some pedigree gundog breeds are:

...And many more!

How to tell if your dog is of the gundog type

Even if you do not own a pedigree dog that you know is of the gundog type, many mixed breed and crossbreed dogs have some gundog ancestry, and given the large number of breeds that make up the gundog type, the chances of a dog of unknown parentage having at least some gundog breeding is fairly high. If your dog is totally committed to ball games and retrieving for fun, always looking for someone to throw something for him and at his happiest when sniffing around outside, you may own a gundog type of dog. Gundogs can commonly be seen carrying things around in their mouths, and will often proudly present your guests with their offerings for their inspection! They also like to hunt out hidden toys and treats, are very food-motivated and have something of a reputation for being willing to eat pretty much anything!

Exercise requirements of gundogs

Gundogs are used to spending lots of time outdoors and in all weathers, helping their handlers hunt for game. This means that gundogs are energetic, lively dogs with plenty of stamina and get up and go! They do not take well to being confined to the house for hours on end, and generally live perfectly happily as outdoor dogs. They need plenty of long walks and runs, and as much time spent outdoors and able to run freely as possible.

They enjoy lots of trotting around and scenting, but will tend to return to their handler regularly to check where you are and what you are doing! Gundogs usually have excellent recall, and good manners when being handled and walked. While gundogs can entertain themselves when out and about, they very much enjoy retrieving games, and will bring a ball or toy back to you to throw again and again until you have had enough!

Feeding gundogs

Gundogs, particularly Labradors (the noted garbage disposal units of the canine world!) are renowned for their love of food, and tendency to eat literally anything that they are offered! They are not overly picky or difficult to feed, and do not tend to be prone to allergies and intolerances.  Keeping your dog’s weight under control is important for gundogs, so measure their food out carefully and ensure that they are not being fed too much. Do not offer too many treats, or allow your dog to beg for or scavenge table scraps. If you find that your dog’s scavenging when out walking is unmanageable, consider keeping your dog muzzled to stop him from picking up snacks!

Split your dog’s daily food rations into at least two and preferably three meals, given to him at staggered intervals throughout the day. Gundogs approach mealtimes like they do everything else that they enjoy: very enthusiastically! So if you find that your dog is bolting down his food or eating too quickly, place an obstacle such as a hard ball in his bowl to slow him down.

Bonding and communication with gundogs

Gundogs have open, honest personalities and are among the easiest of dogs to “read” in terms of their mood and body language. They are generally fairly sunny, cheerful dogs, which very much enjoy the company of people. Dogs from the gundog group as a whole have the largest percentage of dogs used in modern working roles, from sniffer dog duties to working as assistance dogs for people with disabilities. This is due to the unique combination of intelligence and willingness to please that these dogs possess, and what makes them such excellent pets.

Gundogs generally very much enjoy the company of children, and make an excellent addition to families. They are kind natured, very tolerant and always up for a game! They bond strongly with their families, are very affectionate, loving and loyal, and will generally spare a smile and a wag for anyone who has a kind word for them!

Gundogs are also usually exceedingly social with other dogs, and are not prone to aggression or irritability. While they will stick up for themselves if challenged, they are highly unlikely to be the instigator of any rows, nor likely to be vicious to other dogs.


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