The German Shepherd is an amazing dog with plenty of noble traits. They are revered for their intelligence, loyalty and high trainability. This makes them extremely popular in several different fields including law enforcement, military, search and rescue, and sniffing out bombs. However, a lot of potential owners want to know: Are German Shepherds good hunting dogs? In this article, we will take a look at the pros and cons when it comes to this breed as a hunting dog.
Typically, the German Shepherd is not considered a good hunting dog breed. This is because they were bred for herding and not for hunting. However, it is possible to train them to hunt. It just may take longer than a lot of other breeds since it is not in their nature. The best option for the breed is tracking smaller prey since they do have extremely good smell.
German Shepherd Hunting 5 Pros And Cons
While German Shepherds don’t make the best hunting dogs, their supreme intelligence and ability to adapt and learn can translate into a decent hunting prowess. Let’s take a look at 5 pros and cons when it comes to this breed.
|Excellent at tracking||Tend to be mouthy|
|Highly trainable||Get hot and tire quickly|
|Very obedient||Bred to herd|
|Super Alert||Prone to hip dysplasia|
|Confident||Not the best retrievers|
Can German Shepherds Be Trained As Hunting Dogs?
German Shepherds can be trained to track small animals and even deer using their extreme sense of smell. Their olfactory bulb is almost twice as big as a human’s and allows them to smell around 100,000 times better.
However, it will take some work since they aren’t natural hunters. The best fit for this would be a working line German Shepherd. They love to stay busy and learning how to hunt will keep them busy and their mind sharp.
For the best results, you should start training at a young age. Begin with basic obedience and then transition to advanced commands followed by hunting techniques.
You will want to teach them to alert you when they track or locate an animal in a field or in the woods. You can accomplish this by teaching them the advanced “speak” command.
3 Different Types Of Hunting Dogs
To get a better idea of whether or not a German Shepherd will make a good hunting dog, you must first decide what type of gun dog you are looking for.
There are 3 main types or subcategories that gun dogs fall into. Here is a quick look at each one and their specialty.
Flushing dogs are used to “flush” prey out from wherever it is hiding. For example, they will stay within shotgun range of the hunter and get the birds to fly into the air for a shot. These are a popular choice for pheasants. They can also bring the prey back to the owner.
Often called “bird dogs,” Pointers are used to find game. They will alert their owner by stopping in their tracks and pointing their muzzle in the direction of the animal. Pointers normally excel in the areas of pointing and backing.
Labrador Retrievers are most often thought of as cute, laid-back family pets. But they are also excellent hunting partners. As their name highlights, they are very good at retrieving downed prey whether it be thick undergrowth or small lake or pond. They excel at bringing back the prey unharmed.
Can You Train A German Shepherd To Duck Hunt?
You can train a German Shepherd to duck hunt but it won’t be easy and most experienced GSD breeders will tell you to pick the appropriate breed for the job.
However, if you plan on taking the plunge and going against their natural instinct to herd, make sure you start when they are young to get them used to the prey you will be focusing on when they grow up.
Tips For Training:
- Bring them on boat rides starting at an early age – Get your German Shepherd used to being on a boat in the water. Teach him/her to jump into the water or return to the boat on command. You can use a ball or toy to get them used to retrieving in the water.
- Expose them to guns from an early age – This should be a slow process. Start by introducing them to loud noises over time. Also get them used to seeing and being around guns. They more they get comfortable, the more you can let them see and hear the guns. Eventually you can let them be around when you fire the guns.
- Get them used to the water early on as a puppy – You want them to be comfortable in water retrieving ducks so make sure you introduce them to it from a young age. You can start with a kiddie pool at the house and work your way up to small ponds and lakes.
- Teach them basic obedience from an early age – Make sure they know basic commands and maybe even some advanced commands to prepare them for the outdoors. They should at least be able to come, sit, stay, heel and speak.
- Use scented training decoy ducks – You can use a dummy decoy duck sprayed with a scent to emulate the real thing. Get them used to the look and smell. Teach them to retrieve the decoy and then reward them for a job well done.
How To Train Your German Shepherd To Track Deer?
A lot of times hunters will shoot a deer but only wound it. As a result, the deer will often make its way off into the woods and may be hard to find.
A good hunting dog will track the scent or blood trail to locate the wounded deer for their owner. A German Shepherd can prove to be extremely useful in this scenario making it easier to find the hurt deer.
There are different methods you can use to train your GSD for tracking deer. One of the most popular methods is to teach them to follow a scent trail in the woods.
Tips For Training:
- Create a scent trail for your GSD to follow – Find a large open field or some woods around your house. Using a bag of lean dog treats, create a scent trail that your dog can practice following. You can grind them up with your shoe and then walk to create the trail.
- Get your dog to locate the trail and follow it – Take your GSD close to the trail and let him/her locate the scent. Get them to walk and follow the scent. Praise them when they follow the scent.
- Now add a deer scent to the mix and a drag item – Do the same thing but this time replace the treats with a deer scent. Also add a deer hide to the end of the trail. Get your dog to follow the scent along the trail. If he/she isn’t excited about the scent, continue using a mixture of both deer scent and treats.
- Reward with praise and treats for tracking – Once your dog can use his/her nose to smell the trail and track the scent all the way to the end where the deer hide is located, reward them with some praise and a dog treat.
- Train your GSD to give you a verbal signal when he/she locates the drag item – Teach your dog to bark when it follows the scent all the way to the drag item. Do this by giving them the “speak” command when they get to the end and find the deer hide. Slowly start removing the “speak” command until they can bark to signal you on their own. Reward them with praise and a treat.
German Shepherds aren’t the best hunting dogs and you would be much better off buying a breed that is suited for your specific hunting needs. There are plenty of breeds that were created with certain instincts that make them superior gun dogs compared to the German Shepherd.
That being said, if your mind is set on training a GSD to hunt, it can be done. But it will take due diligence and a lot of patience to make it happen. You will be going against their natural instincts to herd and instead of protecting animals, you will be teaching them to hunt animals.
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Have you ever owned or trained a German Shepherd hunting dog? Let us know! We would love to hear about your personal experience!