Gun dogs are a group of dogs from various different breeds that were all historically used to assist hunters and shooters to find, flush out, or retrieve prey – or perform a variety of associated roles depending on their particular skills and talents.
Shooting parties with gun dogs can still be found across many rural areas of the UK even today, and there are many popular gun dog breeds that are still widely used in working roles all over the country – however, most dogs with gun dog origins today are kept as domestic pets and companions.
Many gun dog breeds are very versatile and adaptive, which helps them to make the transition to life as pets, and gun dogs of different breeds can be found in a range of different sizes and with different core traits, which offers a lot of variety for prospective puppy buyers.
However, not everyone knows which dog breeds and types are counted as gun dogs and that may have had working origins, and there are in fact a total of 31 different gun dog breeds listed on Pets4Homes at any one time, which is many more than a lot of people expect!
Certain gun dog breeds are of course much more popular in the UK than others, and this tends to be the breeds that have been established the longest here and that most dog owners recognise immediately. That said, over the course of the last couple of decades, a lot of gun dog breeds that were virtually unheard of in the UK previously have begun to gain traction and popularity, as word of them spreads and interest in the breeds in question increases.
If you are trying to choose a gun dog breed or wish to learn more about gun dogs as a whole with a view to finding the perfect pet for you, knowing what type of gun dogs are particularly popular and why can be very helpful.
As Pets4Homes is the biggest and busiest pet classifieds website in the UK, hosting more adverts for dogs for sale than any other portal, we are in the unique position of being able to identify and share the most popular gun dog breeds in the UK, and tell you why they have such enduring appeal with dog lovers of all types.
In this article, we will announce the ten most popular gun dog breeds in the UK in reverse order, along with some general information on the breeds in question, the reasons for their appeal, and how much they cost to buy.
Read on to learn more about the most popular gun dog breeds in the UK today.
A gun dog is a breed of dog that was historically bred and used for a specific type of working role, to assist shooters taking part in hunting and gun sport pursuing live prey.
Different gun dog breeds each have slightly different skill sets, which might involve flushing out game birds, “pointing” to alert handlers of the location of prey, or retrieving downed prey over land and/or water.
Each individual gun dog breed has its own unique skillset, which within a domestic home, still manifests as specific personality and behaviour traits that indicate the breed’s working history.
Many gun dogs have a real affinity for water and love to swim, and gun dogs as a whole tend to be outgoing, energetic, clever and tenacious, and keen to have a job to do and a role to fulfil.
The term “gun dog” is also the name of one of the Kennel Club’s larger grouping that encompass a collection of different individual dog breeds sharing a similar origin or trait, in this case, that of working with shooting hunters.
Whilst some of the breeds that are classed as gun dogs today are only rarely used now for working roles, all of them have a strong working history – and some can still be found working with hunters right up until the present day.
Even amongst the dog breeds that are most widely used in modern times for working gun dog roles, the majority of those dogs owned in the UK are kept solely or largely as pets, and many of them are hugely popular across the board, as well as high up in the most popular gun dog rankings.
Before we get to our list of the ten most popular gun dog breeds in the UK, first of all we’ll explain how we determined the rankings.
Our figures for the UK’s most popular gun dog breeds are based on advertisement statistics for dogs offered for sale here on Pets4Homes throughout the whole of 2018, the most recent year that we have a complete set of data for.
This doesn’t of course include any information on gun dog breeds offered for sale on other portals, but as the biggest and busiest pets classifieds website in the UK, the information that Pets4Homes collates on advertisement data reflects an accurate, up-to-date snapshot of the market that is reflected across the UK as a whole.
We have calculated the most popular gun dog breed rankings based on the number of advertisements for individual dogs and litters of gun dogs offered for sale in 2018 on Pets4Homes.
As many dog breeders list whole litters for sale within one advert rather than listing each puppy individually, the listing numbers provided is based on the total number of adverts here rather than the exact number of dogs, and so the exact population figure for each breed is likely to be a little higher than the number of adverts.
The information we will provide on the top ten gun dog breeds in the UK includes their popularity in the rankings of all gun dog breeds advertised on Pets4Homes, as well as their latest prices and some insights into the reasons behind their popularity here in the UK.
So without further ado, here are the ten most popular gun dog breeds in the UK based on 2018 advertisement data collated by Pets4Homes, and listed in reverse order.
Most of us in the UK could recognise a cocker spaniel on sight, and most dog lovers know that cockers are a type of gun dog. However, the (English) cocker spaniel that most of us are very familiar with isn’t the only cocker spaniel breed out there, and a close relative of our English cocker spaniel is their stateside cousin; the American cocker spaniel. You can read more about the differences between English and American cocker spaniels here.
As you can see, more non-pedigree American cocker spaniels were offered for sale in 2018 than pedigrees, and there is only a difference of £20 between the average price charged for pedigree dogs of the breed versus non-pedigrees.
This may indicate that the dog’s pedigree status is not overly important for buyers of dogs of the breed, but equally, it may simply reflect the possibility that the level of demand for American cockers spaniels in the UK is higher than the available supply, meaning that not everyone who would wish to buy a pedigree dog of the breed out of choice is able to find one for sale at the right time, and this could serve to keep the prices of non-pedigree American cockers comparatively high.
The American cocker spaniel is a medium-sized dog breed from the Kennel Club’s gun dog group, and which is recognised as a separate breed in its own right from the English cocker.
American cockers have a lot to recommend them to people seeking a gun dog breed as a pet, but like many dog breeds with working origins, they do require their owners to take the breed’s working traits and personality into account and provide an appropriate lifestyle to meet the dog’s needs.
American cocker spaniels are very energetic dogs that are also really smart, and they need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation each day to keep them happy and fulfilled.
They’re really good with children as a general rule and so make for excellent pets for active families, and as long as all of their needs are met and they get plenty of exercise, are generally happy being left at home alone for a few hours at a time without becoming bored or destructive.
However, the coat of the American cocker spaniel is long and thick, and requires a lot of brushing and grooming to keep it in good condition, which means that the breed is not a good fit for everyone. They also tend to shed quite a lot of fur too, which can make keeping on top of this within the home a challenge.
American cocker spaniels have an average lifespan of around 12-15 years which reflects their robust natures and tendency to good health, although there are a few hereditary health conditions that can be found within the breed too, and which can affect the quality of life and longevity of individual dogs of the breed.
The German wirehaired pointer is of course a pointing dog breed, which means one that has been bred and developed to “point” for prey, seeking it out and using a distinctive “pointing” body stance and potentially, vocalisations to let hunters know where their target is.
Pointer breeds tend to share a fairly similar body shape and build that is very well-balanced and nice looking, and the German wirehaired pointer is no exception.
Even though the German wirehaired pointer is the 9th most popular gun dog breed in the UK at the moment, like the American cocker spaniel, the total number of dogs of the breed offered for sale in 2018 is still comparatively low. Almost as many non-pedigree dogs of the breed were offered for sale as pedigrees during this time, although there is more of a price disparity between pedigrees and non-pedigrees than there is within the previous dog breed listed, the American cocker spaniel.
German wirehaired pointers are large, rangy and very outgoing dogs, which retain a strong incentive to work and need to have a task to concentrate on. They’re highly energetic as well as very intelligent, and they need a lot of exercise, mental stimulation, and things to do to keep them happy and fulfilled, and prevent them from becoming destructive within the home.
Again, German wirehaired pointers are reputed to be very good with children, and they are low-maintenance in the grooming stakes, and don’t shed very much fur either.
This means that there’s a lot to recommend the German wirehaired pointer to families and many other types of dog owners too, but as a large dog that needs a lot of exercise as well as space, they don’t usually thrive within a sedentary or very small home.
Whilst dogs of the breed love to work and actively enjoy training, their high intelligence can make them somewhat challenging to train, because the dog thinks so quickly and may learn a lot through observation, sometimes even seeming to predict what you will do next before you even know it yourself!
German wirehaired pointers have an average lifespan of between around 9-12 twelve years of age. The higher end of the age spectrum reflects a good average for dog breeds of a similar size, but is rather lower than the norm at the lower end, reflecting a number of hereditary health issues that can be found in some German wirehaired pointer breed lines.
Additionally, the German wirehaired pointer is one dog breed for which the Kennel Club mandates pre-breeding health screening for Von Willebrand’s disease in parent dogs in order for their litters to be eligible for pedigree registration. The necessity for this test may go some way towards explaining why there are almost as many non-pedigree German wirehaired pointers offered for sale as pedigrees, as even if a dog has a full proven pedigree ancestry, if their parents were not screened for Von Willebrand’s disease they may inherit it themselves and so, be ineligible for registration.
By no means all or even most non-pedigree German wirehaired pointers are bred to circumvent the need for testing, and just because a dog or their parents is untested does not mean that they will have inherited the condition.
However, if you are considering buying an unregistered or non-pedigree German wirehaired pointer, bear this in mind and find out about the health and status of the pup’s parents and other relatives, and ensure that you understand the additional risks involved in choosing a puppy from untested stock.
The pointer is of course another pointing dog breed, and perhaps the best-known of them all. Like the German wirehaired pointer, this is a breed that has a long working history working alongside of shooters hunting game birds and other types of prey.
The pointer is sometimes also known as the English pointer, particularly outside of the UK, and they are lean, handsome dogs with a very typical pointer conformation.
Again, given the pointer’s 8th place ranking out of 31 different gun dog breeds advertised here in total, 168 dogs of the breed offered for sale over the course of the last year is still not a very large number.
However, the split between the number of pedigrees and non-pedigrees is greater than for either of the other two breeds we’ve covered so far, which is more in line with the norms for other pedigree dog breeds. This also reflects the fact that the pointer is a very well established and well known dog breed in the UK, and one within which finding a pedigree dog of the breed for sale is relatively straightforward.
The price disparity between the advertised cost of pedigree versus non-pedigree pointers too reflects a preference for pedigrees amongst most puppy buyers, with over £200 difference in average prices, resulting in a clear split in the price bands within the breed.
Pointers are medium-sized dogs that once more, have the same high intelligence and high energy levels of the other breeds we’ve mentioned, and that are again notable for being a good choice of dog for families with children.
They don’t need a lot of grooming and don’t shed fur very heavily which makes them low maintenance on the coat care front, but they are lively, excitable and outgoing dogs than need almost continual entertainment or something to do, and they are very intolerant of being left on their own for very long at a time.
They form strong bonds with their families and often with children in particular, but they also have a reputation for being a little gung-ho and not overly careful about their movements, which means that pointers can be rather clumsy or careless about knocking things – and smaller family members – over!
Even though the pointer is a British dog breed and home-grown gun dog favourite, they’re not the most popular pointing gun dog breed overall here, and this is not the last pointer that you will find within our list.
However, the pointer is medium sized rather than large like many other gun dog breeds, which does mean that they don’t need a huge home in order to be comfortable, assuming that it is large enough for the dog to be able to move around freely and they get to spend plenty of time outside.
Pointers have an average lifespan of around 12-14 years of age, which is within the normal to good range for a dog of this size. There is, however, quite a long list of hereditary health issues that can be found within some dogs of the pointer breed, although most dogs of the breed tend to be healthy and robust. Whilst there are no mandated health testing schemes in place for dogs of the pointer breed, breeders are advised to undertake hip scoring and eye testing for progressive retinal atrophy in breeding stock, as well as DNA testing for hereditary epilepsy.
A close relative of the 10th placed dog (the German wirehaired pointer), the 7th most popular gun dog breed in the UK at the time of writing is the German shorthaired pointer. This is also the third German gun dog breed to make it into the top ten popularity rankings, and the fourth pointer breed.
German shorthaired pointers are medium-sized pointing gun dogs, which makes them a good size for many homes, including those that may not have the room to accommodate a larger gun dog breed.
There’s a big jump in advert numbers between the 8th placed pointer and the 7th placed German shorthaired pointer, and a much larger population of German shorthaired pointers in the UK in total. This is a breed that has long been established in the UK, and one that is in significant demand amongst people seeking to buy a dog of a pointing gun dog breed.
German shorthaired pointers are very similar to their wirehaired relatives, with the coat type being the most distinctive difference, in this case being short, smooth, and very low maintenance to care for. However, German shorthaired pointers are very heavy shedders, and so cause a lot of hoovering when kept within the home!
What makes the German shorthaired pointer so popular in the UK? Let’s look at their good and bad points.
When it comes to walks and exercise, German shorthaired pointers are very active and outdoors-y dogs that need several hours of exercise each day. This means that they’re not a good fit for all owners, but a great choice for active families that like to spend a lot of time outdoors.
Again, they are really smart dogs that can often work things out for themselves through observation, and they are very receptive to training and love to learn new skills and commands. However, they retain a very puppy-like personality through to around their second birthdays, and so achieving a full range of commands and particularly, higher level commands requires time and an experienced trainer.
This is also a breed that needs company for the main part of the day, and they are very intolerant of being left alone without something to do, and may suffer from separation anxiety or become destructive within the home if ignored for too long.
Dogs of the breed are loyal but generally very personable, and get on well with both other dogs and people. They are very social and like to make new friends, and can usually be found in the thick of any pack playing together in the dog park.
In terms of the breed’s health, the average lifespan of a German shorthaired pointer is around 12-14 years, which is a good average longevity for a pedigree dog breed of this sort of size.
As is the case for most pedigree gun dog breeds (and most dog breeds in general) there are a range of German shorthaired pointer hereditary health problems that can be found within some bloodlines and breed populations, most notably hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia respectively. German shorthaired pointer breeders are encouraged to have their parent stock hip and elbow scored prior to breeding, and to remove any dogs from the breeding scheme whose scores don’t reflect an improvement over that of the breed’s averages.
If you are considering buying a German shorthaired pointer, talk to the breeder about the health testing protocols they have in place for their parent stock, and find out the hip and elbow scores achieved by the litter’s parents before committing to a purchase.
The Weimaraner is yet another pointing dog breed to make it into the list of the UK’s favourite 10 gun dog breeds, which goes to show the level of popularity that pointers as a whole enjoy here. Originating from Germany, the Weimaraner has been a popular dog breed in the UK for many years now, and they have a well-established presence in the UK.
Weimaraners are undeniably handsome and distinctive-looking large dogs thanks in large part to their beautiful glossy steely or silvery grey coats, noble conformation and good looks.
Over twice as many pedigree dogs of the breed were showcased for sale here in 2018 than non-pedigrees, and the price gap between pedigrees and non-pedigrees is within the usual sort of range one might expect. Weimaraners are quite expensive to buy, particularly for pedigree examples, but even non-pedigrees commonly change hands for around the same kind of money or even more in some cases as other pedigree dog breeds of a similar size.
So, what makes the Weimaraner so popular? First of all, the breed’s distinctive good looks have a large part to play in catching the attention of prospective buyers, and the glowing grey coat is perhaps these dogs’ most distinctive feature. A nice, balanced and lean conformation helps too.
It is the Weimaraner personality itself that helps to win over fans, perhaps even more so than their good looks – Weimaraners tend to be very loving and loyal, keen to please, and always look to their handlers and the people they trust for direction. They form strong bonds with their families and are even better with children than most other gun dog breeds, most of which tend to be great family pets.
As a large dog breed, not everyone who might aspire to owning a Weimaraner has the room to accommodate one, and this is another breed that doesn’t thrive if left alone at home for long periods of time; they really need plenty of company and can suffer from separation anxiety if left for too long.
Weimaraners are very challenging to provide with enough exercise too, and these large, rangy dogs love to run, and have bundles of energy. They’re also really smart, and so need exercise that engages their brains as well as letting them blow off steam.
Because Weimaraners are so smart, they can be very rewarding to train and can learn and exhibit a wide range of different commands with the right instruction. However, they are often considered to be a poor choice of pet for the first-time dog owner or people who have not trained a dog before, as they will often be one step ahead and teaching themselves new things even when you’re not actively training them.
The average lifespan of Weimaraners is 11-14 years, which is around the average for a dog breed of this size. However, there is a large and diverse list of hereditary health problems that can be found within the breed as a whole in the UK, and breeders are strongly encouraged to have parent stock health tested for conditions on the list where such a test is available – particularly for hip dysplasia, undertaken by hip scoring parent dogs.
In fifth place is yet another pointing dog breed – the Hungarian vizsla, the fifth pointing breed to make it into the UK’s top ten gun dogs list, and the last one too.
Up until around a decade ago, the Hungarian vizsla dog breed was not one that was widely seen or known of within the UK, but they have achieved a significant following and high level of popularity in the last decade or so, making these gun dogs much in demand as pets amongst UK pet buyers.
Hungarian vizslas are large dogs of the pointing type, which are still widely used for gun sport in their native Hungary, as well as being used within roles of this type to some extent within the UK too as their popularity has increased. However, the vizsla really took off in the UK as a pet rather than a working dog, and now they are in great demand among puppy buyers.
The Hungarian vizsla is a very nice looking dog with a lean, balanced pointer conformation and long muzzle, and a beautiful short chestnut-coloured coat that really makes them stand out and is very handsome and unusual.
Like many gun dog breeds, Hungarian vizslas need a lot of company and entertainment, and compared to most breeds as a whole, don’t tolerate being left alone for long and need company with them most of the day. However, they are not as intolerant of their own company as some other gun dog breeds, and when properly trained and managed, can usually be left on their own for a few hours in between walks.
In terms of the breed’s energy levels, they are once again very high, and dogs of the breed need a significant amount of exercise every day. Hungarian vizslas also need plenty of mental stimulation too, and they like games, having a job to do, and play and entertainment that makes them think and work things out.
This is a breed that is very loyal and loving, and they are highly affectionate with their families. They also tend to be friendly, social dogs that get on well with other dogs and people, and that generally display nice manners.
Training a Hungarian vizsla can be easy and intuitive when undertaken by someone who is experienced with the breed or similar smart working dog breeds, but again, they can be a bit of a handful for inexperienced trainers as dogs of the breed are so smart.
One downside of the Hungarian vizsla breed is the overall health of the breed in the UK – it is rather below the norm on average, and there are a large number of hereditary health conditions that can be found within the UK breed population. Hungarian vizsla breeders are strongly encouraged to test their dogs for their hip scores, and also undertake testing for idiopathic epilepsy and cerebellar ataxia.
The cost of undertaking the relevant health tests helps to contribute to the rather high purchase prices commanded by pedigree dogs of the breed, and if you are considering buying either a pedigree or a non-pedigree Hungarian vizsla, you should do plenty of research into the breed’s overall health first, and ask the breeders you visit about health tests that they have undertaken on their parent stock.
The golden retriever is a large dog breed that is hugely popular and well known, and that really needs no introduction. Golden retrievers are one of the most versatile dog breeds around, and they have long been used for a huge variety of different working roles.
Today, the breed’s best-known and potentially most widely used working role is as assistance dogs for the blind and deaf,