are Golden Retrievers good hunting dogs

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Golden Retrievers are popular family dogs known for their gentle demeanor and friendly nature. It might be hard to picture a modern Goldie chasing birds and small animals in the forests.

So if you’re wondering if Golden Retrievers are good hunting dogs. Well, yes, they are!

These double-coated canines were originally bred to assist their masters in retrieving waterbirds and upland game from the marshlands in Scotland.

They, therefore, have the instinct to follow hunters across vast terrains.

Keep reading this post and discover some of the inherent characteristics that make Goldens one of the best hunting dogs.

Watch out for our practical tips on how you can train your Goldie to take up hunting challenges and excel in the field.

Why Do Golden Retrievers Hunt?

Golden Retrievers were originally bred to be hunting dogs by Dudley Coutts Majoribanks in the late 19th century.

They, therefore, have impressive hunting skills written in their DNA; which stems from their ancestral breeds.

Golden Retriever fetching a ball
Image Credit: Katrin B from Pixabay

Golden Retrievers were used by hunters and sportsmen across the UK in retrieving waterbirds from the highlands of Scotland which was littered with rivers and swamps.

Goldies have a muscular body build with an impressive sense of smell and running abilities which makes them ideal gun dogs.

These dogs excelled in their hunting skills and they consequently became a popular choice among bird hunters.

Why Are Golden Retrievers Good Hunting Dogs?

There are several inborn characteristics that make Golden Retrievers a hunters’ favorite some of which include:

1. Breeding history

Golden Retrievers have the natural ability to retrieve both game and birds for the benefit of hunters in the field.

This impressive characteristic was brought up as a result of crossing different dog breeds that had the desired qualities for a gun dog.

The natural desire to perform well in fieldwork is what makes the Golden Retriever one of the best hunting dogs today.

2. Sense of smell

The ability to perceive a distinctive smell and follow a unique scent trail is one of the major traits that distinguish hunting dogs from the other canine categories.

Golden Retrievers have an incredible sense of smell which makes them a favorite breed to smell and track game in the woods.

These gun dogs can sniff out a wounded game from a distance and run after them on command.

3. Trainability

Golden Retrievers are easy to train despite their natural affiliation to work for the bird hunter.

These dogs are smart and eager to please their masters hence they can devotedly take up the required training to make them better hunters.

4. Intelligence

Golden Retrievers are highly intelligent dogs who can easily pick up commands and come up with solutions in the field.

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Their impressive mental prowess allows them to capture the different terrain in the hunting environment and adapt to their working ground.

The smart nature of Goldies is also useful in helping them to recollect marked scents in the field, which helps in tracking game.

A Well-trained Golden is also very clever in how they retrieve birds from the hunting grounds. They know exactly where and how hard to grab the bird without exerting too much pressure.

5. Energy

Golden Retrievers are high-energy dogs who have lots of stamina in their muscular bodies. This physical trait makes them ideal to run over long distances and swim in rivers without getting easily exhausted.

This makes them a preferred breed to accompany hunters into the wild while passing through different terrains and settings.

6. Loyalty

Golden Retrievers are loyal to their owners and this trait makes them favorable hunting companions and fairly decent guard dogs.

They have an inner feeling to stay close to their masters and make them happy by following commands and doing the work.

How To Choose a Golden Retriever for Hunting

Despite having several traits that make them good for hunting, you need to be careful when choosing the best Golden Retriever for hunting.

There are several types of Golden Retriever and each one of them has a distinctive feature they excel in.

We strongly recommend that you choose the Field Bred Golden Retriever if you are looking to own the best hunting assistant.

are Golden Retrievers good hunting dogs.
Image Credit: Daniel Goyes from Pixabay

While at it, you also need to find a good breeder who specializes in keeping purebred Golden Retrievers. You’ll want to get a pup with the inherent characteristics that made this dog excel in the hunting fields.

Ask the breeder to furnish you with the lineage history of your desired puppy and their health conditions before adoption.

After adopting your Golden Retriever puppy, you need to start exercising them when they hit 3 months to build on their health and fitness journey.

Remember that hunting requires intense physical activities. You need to keep tabs on the dog’s health status and make sure they are in the best condition to take part in outdoor activities.

How To Train a Golden Retriever for Hunting

Items you will need for the training

You will need to have the following items when training your Golden Retriever to be a good hunter.

  • Leash
  • Decoy toys
  • Dummy launcher
  • Scent sprays
  • Whistle
  • First aid kit
  • Lots of treats

The Training Procedure

1. Basic training

You can start by training your Golden Retriever on the basic command sets such as sit & stay, heel, and recall training.

Awareness of these commands will form the foundation of having a well-skilled and obedient hunting dog.

This basic training also helps your dog to appreciate you as the leader in the pack and they will be more loyal to you.

2. Play fetch with your Golden

Once your Goldie is responsive to the basic commands, you can start engaging with them in games of fetch. You can start the engagement in the house with plush toys and indoor ball launchers.

Once your dog knows the strategy in fetching, you can take them to an open field and use a dummy launcher to make tougher challenges.

A game of fetch will help to build the dog’s natural instincts to run after prey and retrieve the catch back to you.

3. Introduce odor sensitivity

Once your Golden is performing well in fetching, you can then introduce some scented toys in the training.

Start by hiding a scented toy in certain corners of your house and encourage your dog to sniff it out and bring them back to you.

Make sure to reward the dog every time they figure out where the fragrant toy is. You can progress the training by hiding the toy in much more difficult areas and spraying lesser scents on the toy.

These will train the dog to be agile in figuring out minimal scent trails from difficult places.

4. Play with a decoy duck

After your dog masters the knack of hide-and-seek games, you can introduce them to a decoy toy for training.

Spray the decoy duck with a pleasing scent and let your dog play with it for a few minutes every day. By doing this, your Goldie will create an attachment with the toy and they will be willing to find them out.

5. Recovery training

This is where you introduce your Golden Retriever to the hunting world. Once they get attached to the decoy toy, you can hide it out in the yard and encourage your dog to find it by whistling.

You can leave some scent trail towards the point where the toy is lying and guide your hunting canine to follow the trail.

If your dog is easily distracted when sniffing out the decoy, you can use a leash to guide them through the right path to follow.

6. Reward your dog

Once your future hunting partner sniffs out the decoy duck from its hiding place, you should reward them with high-value treats like shredded chicken or cooked salmon.

Take up the duck from the dog’s mouth and show how much you value the decoy while praising them for a job well done.

7. Make the challenge harder

Once your Golden Retriever is showing repeated success in retrieving the decoy from a spot, you need to make the progressive challenges harder for them.

Redoing similar training for a long period might be boring for the dog and it will make them slower in problem-solving skills.

You can use less scent and introduce distractions along the path until your Golden Retriever sniffs out the decoy duck on their own.

Golden Retriever running
Image credit: Rodnae production from Pexels

Remember to take your Golden Retriever to a shallow pond to introduce them to the real water hunting ground.

Throw the decoy toy at a safe distance in the pond and command your dog to retrieve it for you. You will need to guide them during the first few strides in retrieving the decoy duck.

Make sure to reward your dog each time they make a catch and show them the value of the decoy to you.

Things To Consider When Training a Golden Retriever for Hunting

1. Patience and consistency

Remember to be patient with your dog and be consistent in providing the training. You can set aside at least one hour every day for this training but don’t overburden your Goldie with too many lessons.

Feel free to increase the training time if your dog makes noticeable progress and when they can manage the increase.

Don’t forget to include regular breaks within the training period to give your Golden some time to rest and take in the new skills.

2. Avoid Punishment

Never scold or punish your Golden Retriever for failing to make a catch during the training. Instead, you can re-do the easier steps and make sure that the dog is making progress before making the training harder.

3. Enroll your dog in obedience training

If you are finding it hard to teach your Goldie how to focus during the training, you can enroll them in an obedience class moderated by qualified canine trainers.

This training will set a very solid foundation for your future hunting companion by instilling an obedient nature with a sense of responsibility.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are Golden Retrievers still used for hunting?

Yes, Golden Retrievers are still a favorable choice for hunters. Although these elegant dogs are commonly found in homes as family pets, they still have the inherent drive to swim and run after wild animals.

Field-based Golden Retrievers are most commonly preferred for hunting than the other types because of their upbringing and physical attributes.

2. Do Golden Retrievers hunt rabbits?

Golden Retrievers kept at home as family dogs will not hunt down nearby rabbits. However, a well-trained Golden can chase down a rabbit and other small game in the wild.

3. Are Golden Retrievers or Labs better hunting dogs?

Goldens and Labs are both considered to be incredible hunting dogs. Choosing between the two cousins will boil down to what the hunter prefers and the type of game they need to catch.

Golden Retrievers will do well in hunting waterbirds in lakes while the Labradors will perform better in chasing upland birds and small animals.


Golden Retrievers are considered good hunting dogs. They make one of the best hunters’ companions due to their innate abilities to chase after wounded game.

Goldens have a strong sense of smell and their impressive trainability makes them a good candidate for becoming the hunters’ favorite.

If you are looking for a good Golden Retriever for your hunting needs, we recommend scouting for the field-bred Goldens over the others.

Written By

Laura is the founder of Furs'n'Paws. She is a also a pet writer and expert with more than 20 years of experience of working with dogs and cats. She developed a very strong love for animals at a young age. Her passion led her to establish a thriving pet sitting and dog walking business in Dubai. As an expert in pet training, behavior, and nutrition, Laura is committed to helping pet owners and pet lovers by offering high-quality information on a wide range of topics.

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