The Best Hunting Dogs for Upland Game: Pointers, Setters, and Spaniels

The Best Hunting Dogs for Upland Game: Pointers, Setters, and Spaniels

If you are an avid upland game hunter, having the right hunting dog by your side can make all the difference in your success. Pointers, setters, and spaniels are among the most popular breeds for upland game hunting due to their exceptional skills and instincts. In this article, we will explore the qualities that make these breeds the best hunting dogs for upland game, discussing their training needs, temperament, and hunting abilities. Whether you are a seasoned hunter or a beginner looking to get into the sport, this guide will help you choose the perfect hunting companion for your upland game adventures.


Pointers are a popular breed of hunting dogs known for their exceptional skills in upland game hunting. They possess a unique ability to locate and point at game birds, making them an invaluable asset for any hunter. In this section, we will explore the breed characteristics of pointers, training tips, and the best breeds for upland game hunting.

Breed Characteristics

Pointers are medium to large-sized dogs with a well-muscled and athletic build. They have a distinctive appearance with a sleek, short coat that comes in a variety of colors, including liver, lemon, black, and orange. Their most notable characteristic is their keen sense of smell, which allows them to detect the scent of game birds from a considerable distance.

One of the key features of pointers is their pointing instinct. When they detect the scent of game, they freeze in a pointing position, directing the hunter to the location of the bird. This natural ability makes them highly sought after for upland game hunting.

Training Tips

Training pointers for upland game hunting requires a combination of patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement. Here are some essential training tips to consider:

  1. Start early: Begin training your pointer as a puppy to establish a strong foundation. Introduce them to the sights, sounds, and smells of hunting environments to build their confidence and familiarity.

  2. Socialization: Expose your pointer to various people, animals, and environments to ensure they are well-socialized. This will help them remain calm and focused during hunting trips.

  3. Basic obedience: Teach your pointer basic obedience commands such as sit, stay, come, and heel. These commands are crucial for maintaining control and ensuring their safety in the field.

  4. Introduction to birds: Introduce your pointer to the scent of birds early on. Use bird wings or scent-drenched dummies to simulate the experience of finding game birds. Gradually progress to working with live birds under controlled conditions.

  5. Reinforce pointing behavior: Reward your pointer whenever they exhibit the pointing behavior naturally. This positive reinforcement will strengthen their instinct and encourage them to consistently point at game birds.

Best Breeds for Upland Game Hunting

While pointers excel in upland game hunting, some specific breeds within the pointer category are particularly well-suited for this type of hunting. The following breeds are highly regarded for their skills, abilities, and compatibility with upland game hunting:

  1. English Pointer: Known for their elegance and grace, English Pointers are exceptional hunters with excellent stamina and a strong pointing instinct.

  2. German Shorthaired Pointer: These versatile dogs are not only skilled pointers but also excel in tracking, retrieving, and swimming. They are highly energetic and make great companions for active hunters.

  3. Brittany Spaniel: Although technically a spaniel, Brittanys possess pointing qualities that make them superb upland game hunting dogs. They are energetic, agile, and have a keen sense of smell.

  4. Irish Setter: While Irish Setters are primarily known for their beauty, they also have a natural hunting instinct. They are quick, agile, and have a great nose, making them suitable for upland game hunting.

By understanding the breed characteristics, implementing effective training techniques, and choosing the right breed, you can maximize your hunting success with pointers in upland game hunting. Happy hunting!


Breed Characteristics

Setters are a popular choice among upland game hunters due to their natural abilities and instincts. These dogs are known for their excellent scenting and tracking skills, making them invaluable companions in the field. Here are some key characteristics of setters that make them stand out:

  1. Superb Sense of Smell: Setters have an exceptional sense of smell, which enables them to locate game birds quickly and efficiently. Their keen noses allow them to detect even the faintest scents, making them ideal for upland game hunting.

  2. Gentle and Affectionate: Setters are known for their friendly and affectionate nature. They form strong bonds with their owners and are great family pets. Their gentle disposition makes them easy to handle and train.

  3. Natural Pointing Instinct: Setters have a natural instinct to point and mark game birds. When they sense the presence of birds, they freeze in a pointing position, indicating their location to the hunter. This instinctive behavior greatly aids in successful hunting.

  4. High Stamina: Setters are energetic dogs with high stamina levels. They can cover large areas of land without tiring quickly, allowing hunters to explore a wide range of terrain. Their endurance and agility make them excellent companions for long hunts.

Training Tips

Training a setter for upland game hunting requires patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement. Here are some tips to help you train your setter effectively:

  1. Socialization: Start socializing your setter from a young age. Introduce them to different environments, people, and animals to ensure they are comfortable and well-behaved in various situations.

  2. Basic Obedience: Teach your setter basic commands such as "sit," "stay," "come," and "heel." Building a strong foundation of obedience is essential for effective hunting later on.

  3. Bird Exposure: Introduce your setter to birds early on. Use wings or scent training aids to familiarize them with the scent of game birds. Gradually progress to live bird exposure to reinforce their natural pointing instincts.

  4. Field Training: Take your setter to different hunting grounds and expose them to various terrains and cover types. Practice retrieving, quartering, and steady pointing to hone their hunting skills.

Best Breeds for Upland Game Hunting

While all setters have hunting abilities, certain breeds are particularly well-suited for upland game hunting. Here are some of the best setter breeds for this type of hunting:

  1. English Setter: Known for their excellent scenting abilities and graceful appearance, English Setters are highly regarded in the upland game hunting community. They are versatile hunters and excel at both pointing and retrieving.

  2. Irish Setter: Irish Setters are energetic and enthusiastic hunters. They possess a strong pointing instinct and are known for their speed and agility. Their beautiful red coat makes them easily distinguishable in the field.

  3. Gordon Setter: Gordon Setters are known for their exceptional tracking skills and determination. They have a strong prey drive and are excellent at locating and pointing game birds. Their distinctive black and tan coat sets them apart from other setter breeds.

These breeds have a long history of being trusted companions for upland game hunters and are renowned for their skills in the field. Remember, when selecting a setter for hunting, consider their individual temperament, health, and the specific hunting conditions you’ll be encountering.


Spaniels are a popular choice among hunters for upland game hunting. These versatile dogs are known for their excellent nose, agility, and determination. Whether you are hunting pheasants, quails, or grouse, spaniels can be a valuable asset in the field. Here are some important aspects to consider when it comes to spaniels for upland game hunting:

Breed Characteristics

Spaniels come in various breeds, each with its own unique set of characteristics. Here are some common traits found in spaniel breeds:

  • Size: Spaniels are typically medium-sized dogs, weighing between 25 to 50 pounds, making them agile and maneuverable in dense cover.
  • Coat: Spaniels have a dense, water-repellent coat that protects them from harsh weather conditions. Their coats can be wavy or curly, providing insulation and camouflage.
  • Energy Level: Spaniels are known for their high energy levels and enthusiasm. They are always eager to please their owners and excel in activities that require endurance and stamina.
  • Intelligence: Spaniels are intelligent dogs that are quick to learn and respond well to training. Their ability to think independently and make decisions in the field is crucial for successful upland game hunting.

Training Tips

Training is essential to ensure that your spaniel is well-prepared for upland game hunting. Here are some training tips to consider:

  1. Socialization: Start socializing your spaniel from a young age, exposing them to different environments, people, and other animals. This will help them become well-rounded and confident in various hunting situations.
  2. Obedience Training: Teach your spaniel basic obedience commands such as sit, stay, and come. This will ensure they are responsive and under control during hunting trips.
  3. Retrieve Training: Spaniels have a natural instinct to retrieve, making them excellent at retrieving downed game. Incorporate retrieve training into your spaniel’s routine to enhance their skills and ensure they bring back game reliably.
  4. Scent Training: Spaniels have a keen sense of smell, which is vital for locating upland game. Introduce scent training early on by using scent-based toys or training dummies to help them develop their tracking abilities.

Best Breeds for Upland Game Hunting

When it comes to choosing a spaniel breed for upland game hunting, several options stand out. Here are some of the best breeds known for their hunting abilities:

  1. English Springer Spaniel: This breed is renowned for its versatility and adaptability in various hunting terrains. English Springer Spaniels are known for their endurance, intelligence, and excellent scenting abilities.
  2. Cocker Spaniel: Cocker Spaniels are highly trainable and excel at flushing out upland game. Their compact size and agility make them ideal for maneuvering through dense cover.
  3. Brittany Spaniel: Brittany Spaniels are energetic and enthusiastic hunting companions. They have a natural instinct for locating and pointing game, making them excellent for upland hunting.

In conclusion, spaniels are a valuable asset when it comes to upland game hunting. Their breed characteristics, combined with proper training, can make them exceptional hunting partners. Consider the different spaniel breeds and their specific traits to find the perfect hunting companion for your upland game adventures.

In conclusion, when it comes to upland game hunting, pointers, setters, and spaniels prove to be the best hunting dog breeds. Each breed brings its unique set of skills and characteristics that make them highly effective in locating and flushing out game birds. Pointers excel in their ability to point out the exact location of the game, while setters showcase their exceptional scenting and tracking abilities. Spaniels, on the other hand, display their expertise in flushing out the birds from dense cover. Whether one prefers the elegance of pointers, the determination of setters, or the agility of spaniels, these three breeds have consistently proven themselves as reliable and efficient partners for upland game hunting. So, for hunters seeking a trustworthy and capable hunting companion, choosing a pointer, setter, or spaniel will undoubtedly enhance their hunting experience.