Hunting remains a way of life for some – a passion, a sport, a source of prestige, even an art no less – that more than a million dogs participate in. These dogs need to be in excellent physical condition and possess the right character traits – strength of character, tenacity, concentration – to be able to keep going for long stretches, not to mention that exceptional canine sense of smell.

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Different practices

The Hunting Act 2004 in England and Wales and the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002 officially outlawed the hunting of mammals using dogs, although land managers are still allowed to hunt vermin. The ban does not extend to Northern Ireland.

In countries where it is still allowed, hunting is a highly regulated activity in which the concept of “unnecessary cruelty” plays an important role. Hunting is against the law out of season to ensure that animals can reproduce in peace so that numbers do not drop to dangerously low levels, although, again, this does not apply to fast-breeding pests.

- In New Zealand and Australia, where there is a great tradition of hunting, deer, boar, feral goats, rabbits and chamois are all hunted to control numbers in a country that has no natural predators.

- Hunting is a major industry in the United States, which is home to a wide variety of game. This has traditionally attracted hunters who want to bag themselves a trophy.

Natural aptitudes and training


All hunting dogs share the main natural aptitudes, which have been honed by centuries of human selection by specialised breeders. Intelligence is the most important trait any hunting dog can have. Though essential, a good nose is not enough: the dog has to know how to use it too.
Hunting dogs fall into a number of different categories, each with their own particular dispositions:

- Terriers: used to bolt and kill foxes

- Dachshunds: versatile dogs that were originally bred to hunt badgers

- Scenthounds

- Bloodhounds

- Pointers: dogs that indicate the position of game for the hunter and retrieve it once the hunter has shot it

- Retrievers: dogs that retrieve the game from the ground or water once the hunter has shot it

- Flushing dogs: there are a range of different breeds with different aptitudes

- Sighthounds, most of them of the Greyhound type, still much used in such countries as Spain (Galgo) and the United Arab Emirates (Sloughi)

Training depends on what the dog is expected to do and how receptive it is. It will certainly need a strong, fearless character. If a specialist trainer is employed it may be possible to bring it up to speed in two to three months, but generally six months of daily training will be needed to produce a good hunting dog.

The dog needs to learn obedience first and foremost. Basic commands such as “down” are fundamental in all forms of hunting. Only when these have been properly assimilated can the dog begin to learn to use its nose. By the end of training, the dog must be able to identify scents in the air so well that it never makes a mistake. Pointers have to learn to search a given area and mark the presence of game while remaining completely still, so as not to scare it away. And once the hunter has shot the game, pointers and retrievers have to be able to bring it back in their mouth without damaging it, which in many respects goes against their nature. The dog has to be taught all of this in as playful a way as possible, as force will often be counterproductive.

By their very nature, hunting dogs are not suited to living in flats or to life as a companion dog. If an owner tries to suppress hunting instincts this may come back to bite them, albeit not always literally. If the dog is not used specifically for hunting, it will at least need plenty of opportunities daily to expend its energy, so keeping such a dog in the city is often highly inadvisable.

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