Ever think of getting a shelter dog for hunting? While the preferred method for getting a good hunting dog is to buy a specific breed from a reputable breeder – then raise and train the dog – there is a chance that you just may find a good hunting dog at your local shelter. There are around 13,000 community shelters around the country and about 4 million dogs are placed in shelters each year. Hunting dogs such as Labrador Retrievers and Beagles are in the top ten dog breeds currently in shelters. Of course, the vast majority of shelter dogs are mutts – and a good mix of the right breeds can make an excellent hunting dog with time and patience.

Jeffreyw Flickr

In addition to the local shelters there are national and regional rescue organizations for almost every breed of sporting dog. For example, more than 12,000 golden retrievers are rescued each year. A quick scan of the internet with provide you with a list of breed specific rescue organizations. Some of the rescue organizations do preliminary evaluations as far as hunting readiness. But, keep in mind – some of these breed specific rescue centers will not allow you to adopt a dog if you are going to use it to hunt (they have their reasons and you’re probably not going to change their mind) – so you’d better ask up front.


With a shelter dog, as with any dog, you’ll want to check health and determine temperament as best you can. Some mutts may have strong hunting breed characteristics – and if the dog already has a strong hunting instinct the it’s as much about honing that instinct as it is about training. I have a mutt that I think is part Lab and part Polish hunting dog and I have to say I have never had a dog with a better nose – the training’s been a little bit of a challenge but he’s coming around.


So, get a shelter dog for hunting? It is kind of a risk. Best case you luck into a dog that, with a little extra work, develops into a fine hunting dog. Worst case you’ve saved a dog (remember those 4 million dogs in the shelter – only about a million make it out) and you’ll have a great companion dog. Either way seems like a win-win to me.

Jonathan Meem