12 Best Types of Sporting Dog Breeds

Written by Em Casalena
Published: April 8, 2023
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Sporting dogs were bred and reared to carry out various hunting duties for their human owners. However, not all sporting canines were created to carry out the same duties. Some were bred to collect prey after it has been killed, while some indicate the location of the prey so hunters know exactly where to concentrate their efforts. Just as well, several more breeds are great at hitting the water to kill and retrieve various kinds of water foul.

Because they are all noted for being alert and energetic by nature, sporting dog breeds are pleasant and all-around great pets. These canines were originally created to assist hunters in locating and retrieving quarry, and they are still employed for hunting and sporting events today. Even if you don’t engage in hunting or sports activities, these breeds are great to have around as pets.

Let’s take a look at a few of the best types of sporting dog breeds, so you can make a more informed decision when it comes time to adopt your very own sporting dog.

Infographic of 12 Best Types of Sporting Dog Breeds
Labrador Retrievers, Irish Setters, and Weimaraners are among the top sporting breeds.

1. Labrador Retrievers

One of the greatest family dogs in the world, labrador retrievers are the most popular breed of dog in the United States. The lab is incredibly dependable around kids since it is kind, devoted, smart, and gentle. These large-sized retrievers are not apartment dogs, but if given enough activity, they may adjust to city life. If they do not go out hunting much, they will need a lot of time each day to play and exercise. The labrador is amiable and ready to learn, and it is petty easy to train them for everything from field competitions and competitive obedience to working as a seeing-eye dog for the blind.

The athletic, well-balanced labrador retriever is an excellent household pet and hunting companion alike. When fully mature, they can reach between 55 and 80 pounds. They can have black, yellow, or chocolate-colored coats. These dogs excel in activities like fetch because they have a natural instinct to recover objects. They really are gregarious, friendly, and loyal pups. 

Yellow Labrador Retriever

The labrador retriever is a beloved pet as well as a great retrieving breed for hunting.


2. Brittany Spaniels

The Brittany Spaniel is a medium-sized, lively dog that is smart, obedient, and easy to train. It is an excellent family companion or hunting dog, needs very little grooming maintenance, and gets along well with children of all ages. This beloved sporting breed is quite active and makes a decent watchdog as well.

These adorable dogs are incredibly quick and nimble because of their long legs and light bodies. Although some are born without tails, all can move rapidly when needed, which helps explain why they have remained as one of the most widely used hunting breeds. The Brittany Spaniel can sometimes be a bit difficult to manage because of their constant curiosity, playfulness, and rambunctiousness. Nonetheless, they get along well with families and, with training and regular exercise, may make fantastic family pets.

Brittany Spaniel puppy

Brittany Spaniels are adorable dogs, but they also are very good for a range of sporting activities.

©iStock.com/Tatjana Vujnović

3. Golden Retrievers

The golden retriever is one of the best sporting dog breeds out there. This retriever breed makes an excellent family dog, seeing-eye dog, and obedience and agility sporting dog. The wildly popular golden retriever is an even-tempered, self-assured, and devoted dog that is happy, reliable, and trainable. This breed is great for families and gets along with everyone, including small children and other animals. While this large-sized retriever does get along well with kids, small children should always be under adult supervision because young, untrained dogs might be very extroverted and a little too rambunctious.

Golden retrievers are silly dogs that are delightful pets, but they are also fantastic retrieving breeds for various hunting activities.

©Kseniya Resphoto/Shutterstock.com

4. German Shorthaired Pointers

At some point in the 1800s, this breed was created as hunting companions in Germany. They will not think twice to dive into a lake, river, or ocean for a swim because they are natural hunters on both land and sea. It’s difficult not to fall in love with the German Shorthaired Pointer due to its lengthy body, attentive gaze, and long floppy ears. These dogs do shed a lot, though, and therefore weekly brushing is necessary to prevent your home from being covered in fur.

German Shorthaired Pointers are extremely athletic gun dogs that have no place in urban areas or small homes. This large-sized dog can be trained for field, agility, and obedience sports. It is devoted, clever, and ready to learn. While this breed is very easy to love, it requires constant mental and physical challenges to keep them occupied and not destructive. Although the breed makes a nice family dog, babies and younger kids might find it to be too boisterous.

Brown German Shorthaired Pointer

German Shorthaired Points are incredible gun dogs that are very easy to train for sporting activities.


5. American Cocker Spaniels

These all-American hunting dogs are well-known for being devoted household companions. They can, however, be a bit stubborn and hard-headed. They can be very destructive if they do not receive enough exercise as well. Training and a strong yet caring hand are required while they are still puppies since American Cocker Spaniels have a tendency to test their boundaries to see what they can get away with. They make excellent playmates for kids, but they should be supervised to prevent excessive roughhousing.

Compared to its English cousin breed, the English Cocker Spaniel, the American Cocker Spaniel is a bit smaller. This stunning spaniel has trousered legs and a plush, thick, silky coat. This medium-sized gun dog is appreciated as a pet as well as a competition dog, but it can also be used for hunting and retrieving. If they are exercised twice daily, Cocker Spaniels can adapt to apartment or small home living. They get along quite well with kids and strangers.

Red and white American Cocker Spaniel puppy

The American Cocker Spaniel is a dignified breed that does very well in sports as well as competitions.


6. German Wirehaired Pointers

This adaptable dog breed is excellent for hunting and also makes a wonderful household pet. The German Wirehaired Pointer is an active, vivacious, and fun-loving dog. They are renowned for dominating the agility course and possessing naturally excellent tracking abilities. This breed requires strenuous daily activity. Daily strolls are a good start, but visits to the dog park and the chance to play and run while catching objects like balls or frisbees are also essential.

German wire-haired pointers wiry coats repel water

German Wirehaired Pointers are one of the most agile sporting breeds around today.

©iStock.com/Credit:Photographer and Illustrator

7. Irish Setters

Now this is one of the best sporting dog breeds in terms of speed alone! In the realm of sports, this breed is regarded as one of the swiftest canines. Their lush coats are either chestnut or mahogany, and they have an elegant yet powerful frame. They make great gun dogs because of their strong legs. Just as well, they also have a kind and loving side, which makes them good family companions. Irish Setters are very clever and respond well to training for any activity, including hunting and agility competitions.

The well-known Irish Setter is a boisterous, humorous, loving, endearing, and perceptive canine. This breed is friendly to everyone and lacks hostility. While bright and eager to learn, these Setters can be a bit independent and easily sidetracked. It’s important to train them when they are young. Setters adapt well to older children if they get early obedience training. However, when this breed is young, it might knock children over since it is so vivacious and loves to play.

Irish Setters are popular show dogs that also work very well as family and hunting dogs.

©Canden Scales/Shutterstock.com

8. Weimaraners

Weimaraners are one of the best large-sized hunting dog breeds. These worker canines were first bred to aid in game hunting. They can focus closely on what is going on around them thanks to their side-set eyes. The Weimaraner is a happy dog that enjoys playing with kids, but who also takes agricultural work seriously. They pick things up quickly. However, they also grow bored easily, so it’s important to mix up their training and everyday activities to keep them interested.

This energetic dog requires an active household that can meet its strict exercise demands. The Weimaraner requires an experienced owner who is capable of controlling and managing this independent breed, as well as providing early socialization and ongoing obedience training. Weimaraners must be kept as indoor dogs and be around their families, as they are very social. Weimaraners that have been properly trained are wonderful companions, but badly trained dogs from this breed can be destructive, boisterous, and have a high prey drive. As always, training is key for this breed!

Types of Pointer Dogs

The Weimaraner is a powerful swimming breed that is also excellent at hunting and agricultural work.


9. American Water Spaniels

The lake countryside is the natural habitat of the American Water Spaniel. This breed is an active outdoorsman that likes to hunt and swim. These dogs are renowned for their vivacious and endearing personalities. However, they can be uneasy around strangers. The stubbornness of this breed is also well-known. The muscular, medium-sized American Water Spaniel is easily identified by its brown coat, which is either wavy or tightly coiled. It has a thick, waterproof coat, heavily cushioned feet, and toes that are slightly webbed. This breed enjoys working in the frigid waters or marshy Great Lakes shoreline.

The American Water Spaniel has a physique that is sufficiently compact to allow the dog to enter and exit the water without disturbing the boat. The American Water Spaniel blends the functional characteristics of retrievers and spaniels with top-notch hunting abilities. This dog breed is clever, joyful, and adaptable. These qualities make it suitable for a wide variety of canine activities by admirers and aficionados of the breed. Physical and mental exercise, particularly with their beloved human, is essential to this breed’s health. These canines can easily get noisy and destructive if left unattended, so crate training might be necessary.

Types of water dogs - American Water Spaniel

American Water Spaniels are excellent swimmers that would be perfect for families living along the coast of a large lake.

©Steve Bruckmann/Shutterstock.com

10. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever was first employed as a water dog in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay for retrieving waterfowl and hunting. This breed was ideal for the frigid chop because of its strong constitution, endurance, dense coat, and strength. They are still regarded as reliable hunting dogs. This breed makes adorable pets for energetic, seasoned owners who are ready to provide exercise and structure.

These canines have strong swimming abilities due to their love of the water. This breed can steer by using either its straight or slightly curled tail. For rookie dog owners and apartment dwellers, they could be too much to handle. These dogs, sometimes known as Chessies, can perform a variety of tasks and perform well with obedience training. With exceptional noses and independent dispositions, this breed is one of the most sought-after hunting dog breeds.

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is sociable and submissive, but they do occasionally act stubbornly. They can quickly overwhelm a novice owner who has never owned this type of dog before. With practice, these dogs can easily develop into obedient, dependable friends. Long walks or opportunities to swim are necessary for these dogs’ daily activity, which satisfies their intensive need to hunt. The Chessie requires early socialization and exposure to a wide range of environments, individuals, pets, and sights. This breed won’t ever get extremely sociable with people, which makes them more suitable for guarding and hunting than for engaging in social activities.

Three Chesapeake Bay retrievers in a grassy setting

Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are very social sporting dogs that do well in families with other dogs.

©Kerrie T/Shutterstock.com

11. Vizslas

The short-haired Vizsla is a lovable medium-sized to large-sized hunting dog breed. It has an elegant demeanor and a robust, muscular look. These adaptable canines were developed for hunting, but they are capable of much more. They are skilled hunters that can locate tiny prey such as birds and small rabbits. They also perform well in the show ring and on the agility course. Their expressive faces make them easy to understand and communicate with. The Vizsla has a strong sense of devotion to its human family members and is eager to please them.

The Vizsla is vivacious, friendly, charming, and a little sensitive. This nimble, athletic breed requires a lot of exercise as well as constant human company. To foster confidence and stop neurotic behavior before it can start, Vizslas need to be socialized and trained from a young age. This dog needs to be with a very active family and does not do well in apartments or properties with small yards.

regal Vizsla outside in grass

The Vizsla dog originated in Hungary and is a popular sporting dog around the globe.

©iStock.com/Anna Pozzi

12. Curly-Coated Retrievers

This breed of retrievers, which is among the oldest in existence, originated in England. It possesses a dense and curly coat of fur. Since the early 1800s, these dogs have been mentioned in writing and have developed a reputation for being skilled retrievers. They require little maintenance to keep clean, healthy, and good-looking despite having dense, thick fur. The curly-coated retriever enjoys swimming and will be content to spend the entire day doing so before joining the family for a family movie night. They are also quite easy to train, both for households and for competitive sports.

Curly coated retriever on a seaside

The curly-coated retriever is a very old breed of retriever that is still popular today for hunting and retrieving.


Summary of 12 Best Types of Sporting Dog Breeds

Here’s a recap of the 12 types of sporting dog breeds that we took a close look at:

NumberSporting Dog Breed
1Labrador Retrievers
2Brittany Spaniels
3Golden Retrievers
4German Shorthaired Pointers
5American Cocker Spaniels
6German Wirehaired Pointers
7Irish Setters
9American Water Spaniels
10Chesapeake Bay Retrievers
12Curly-Coated Retrievers

Sporting dog breeds really are incredible. They make excellent hunting and retrieving dogs. And even if you’re not much of a hunter, these breeds make absolutely fantastic pets for people with families.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Anna Goroshnikova/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Em Casalena is a writer at A-Z Animals where their primary focus is on plants, gardening, and sustainability. Em has been writing and researching about plants for nearly a decade and is a proud Southwest Institute of Healing Arts graduate and certified Urban Farming instructor. Em is a resident of Arizona and enjoys learning about eco-conscious living, thrifting at local shops, and caring for their Siamese cat Vladimir.

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