Are Golden Retrievers Good Hunting Dogs (And How To Pick The Best One)

Golden Retrievers are often celebrated for their friendly nature and loyalty, but did you know they also make excellent hunting dogs? 

Bred in Scotland in the 19th century, they were developed specifically for retrieving waterfowl. Their unique combination of physical attributes, intelligence, and temperament make them outstanding companions in the field. 

This article will delve into why Goldens are great hunting dogs, provide tips on training them, and guide you in selecting the best puppy for hunting.


Characteristics That Make Golden Retrievers Good Hunting Dogs


Golden Retrievers are incredibly versatile, excelling in various types of hunting, from waterfowl to upland birds and small game. 

Their adaptability stems from their breeding, which focused on creating a dog capable of retrieving game both on land and in water.


One of the most endearing traits of Goldens is their friendly and eager-to-please nature. This temperament makes them not only great family pets but also reliable hunting partners. 

They are social creatures that bond closely with their owners, ensuring a strong working relationship.


Goldens are among the most intelligent breeds, which makes them highly trainable. 

Their problem-solving skills and quick learning abilities are crucial for hunting, where they must follow commands and adapt to different scenarios.

Physical Attributes

Physically, these dogs are built for the rigors of hunting. They possess a strong, muscular build, excellent swimming capabilities, and a double-coated fur that provides insulation in cold water. 

Their “soft mouth” allows them to retrieve game without damaging it, a vital trait for retriever dogs.

Sense of Smell

Goldens have an exceptional sense of smell, which is essential for tracking game. Their ability to detect scents over long distances and through various terrains makes them invaluable in the field.

Benefits of Owning a Golden Retriever as a Hunting Dog

Ease of Training

Training a Golden is often a straightforward process due to their intelligence and eagerness to please. Positive reinforcement methods work exceptionally well with this breed, making them quick learners. 

They can master commands with fewer repetitions compared to many other breeds.

Loyalty and Companionship

Goldens are famous for their loyalty and strong bond with their owners. This relationship translates into a reliable partnership in the field, as they are motivated to work hard and please their handlers. 

Loyalty also makes them great for families, providing companionship both during and outside of hunting seasons.

Dual Purpose

One of the significant advantages of Golden Retrievers is their ability to serve dual purposes. While they are excellent hunting dogs, their gentle and friendly nature also makes them perfect family pets. 

This versatility means you don’t have to choose between a working dog and a family companion – you can have both in one dog.

Training Golden Retrievers for Hunting

The key to training a Golden as a hunting dog is to start early. Puppies as young as 8-10 weeks can begin learning basic obedience commands such as sit, stay, come, and down. 

These foundational commands are essential for establishing control and communication with your companion.

As your puppy grows, gradually introduce them to hunting concepts. Start with simple tasks like carrying a dummy in their mouth and retrieving objects from water. 

Ensure that they become comfortable with gunfire, as this is a crucial aspect of hunting training. 

Consistency and patience are vital; regular, short training sessions are more effective than sporadic, lengthy ones.

Training a Golden Retriever requires consistency and patience. These dogs are known for their trainability, but they still need time to learn and perfect their skills. 

Set realistic goals and celebrate small achievements to keep both you and your dog motivated.

Essential Supplies for Hunting

To ensure a successful field experience with your Golden, you’ll need the right equipment. This includes a shotgun, a hunting vest for both you and your dog, a dog bed, bowls, and a first-aid kit. 

A vest for your canine is particularly important as it provides protection from cold and wet weather and has a built-in harness for attaching a leash.

In addition to the essential supplies, you’ll need a good supply of dog treats. Positive reinforcement is a powerful training tool for this breed, and treats are an excellent way to reward good behavior. 

Maintaining a positive attitude is also crucial, as your dog will respond best to encouraging and rewarding training methods.

golden retriever swimming

How to Pick the Best Golden Retriever for Hunting

Breeder Selection

Choosing the right breeder is crucial when selecting a canine hunting companion. Look for breeders who have a reputation for producing healthy, well-tempered pups. 

Ask for health clearances to ensure the puppy comes from parents free of genetic conditions.

Health Checks

Ensure that the puppy has undergone proper health checks, including screenings for common genetic disorders. 

A healthy pup is more likely to grow into a strong, capable field companion dog. Regular veterinary check-ups are essential throughout the dog’s life to maintain their health and fitness.

Temperament Assessment

When selecting a puppy, observe their temperament. Look for traits such as eagerness to please, confidence, and curiosity. 

These characteristics are indicative of a dog that will be easy to train and eager to work. A confident, curious pup is likely to be a successful hunting companion.

When and Where to Train Your Golden Retriever

Regular training is crucial for developing and maintaining your dog’s skills. Aim to train your dog every day for at least 15 minutes. 

Frequent, short training sessions are more effective than infrequent, longer ones. 

This consistent practice helps reinforce commands and skills, ensuring your dog remains sharp and responsive.

Ideally, you should train your dog in environments that simulate actual hunting conditions. This could be in fields, near bodies of water, or other outdoor areas where you plan to go. 

If you don’t have access to such locations, local parks or fields can be good alternatives. 

The key is to provide enough space for your dog to practice running, retrieving, and responding to commands in a variety of settings.

Practical Advice for Training Golden Retrievers for Hunting

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Basic Obedience: Start with basic commands like sit, stay, come, and down. Use treats and positive reinforcement to reward your dog for following commands.
  2. Retrieving Skills: Introduce retrieving exercises using dummies. Begin with short distances and gradually increase the distance as your dog becomes more confident.
  3. Water Training: If you plan to hunt waterfowl, expose your dog to water early. Use shallow ponds or lakes and encourage your golden to swim and retrieve objects from the water.
  4. Gunfire Acclimation: Gradually acclimate your dog to the sound of gunfire. Start with distant, soft noises and progressively move closer as your dog becomes more comfortable.
  5. Field Exercises: Simulate hunting scenarios in the field. Practice commands, retrieving, and tracking in environments similar to where you will hunt.

Highlighting Natural Instincts

Goldens have natural instincts that make them excellent hunting companions. Their desire to retrieve, combined with their strong sense of smell, makes them adept at finding and bringing back game. 

Utilize these instincts in your training by creating exercises that mimic real situations. Encourage their natural behaviors while providing structure and guidance to refine their skills.


Goldens are exceptional hunting dogs, thanks to their versatility, intelligence, and trainability. Their friendly nature and loyalty make them not only great field partners but also wonderful family dogs. 

By starting training early, being consistent, and using positive reinforcement, you can develop a Goldie puppy into a skilled hunting dog. 

Remember to choose a reputable breeder, ensure the puppy is healthy, and look for traits that indicate a strong hunting potential.

Goldens are truly a remarkable breed, capable of excelling in the field and at home. Their natural instincts and eagerness to please make them a joy to train and a pleasure to hunt with. 

So, gear up, get out there, and enjoy the incredible partnership that comes with hunting alongside these amazing animals.

Frequently Asked Questions About Golden Retrievers as Hunting Dogs

Are Golden Retrievers prey dogs?

This breed is not classified as prey dogs; rather, they are sporting dogs bred specifically for retrieving game. 

Their primary role is to assist hunters by retrieving shot waterfowl and upland game birds without damaging the catch due to their “soft mouth.” 

While they possess strong prey drive instincts, they use these instincts to retrieve rather than to chase or kill.

How do retrievers hunt?

Retrievers hunt by working closely with their handlers. They are trained to stay by the hunter’s side until they are given a command. Once a bird is shot, retrievers use their excellent sense of smell to locate and gently bring the bird back to the hunter. 

Their role in hunting involves retrieving game from both land and water, making them versatile hunting companions.

Are Golden Retrievers good sniffer dogs?

Yes, they are excellent sniffer dogs. They have a highly developed sense of smell, which makes them adept at tracking and detecting scents over long distances. 

This capability is utilized in various roles beyond hunting, including search and rescue operations, detection of drugs and explosives, and even medical alert tasks. 

Their intelligence, trainability, and strong scenting abilities make them highly effective in these roles.

Galen has been connecting quality Golden Retriever breeders with loving families since 2012 and is the founder of My Golden Retriever Puppies. He and his wife have four children and love spending time together, traveling (lived oversees for 4 years), enjoying the outdoors and connecting Golden families.