According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), in 2013, the five most popular dog breeds in the USA were Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Beagles and Bulldogs. The 2014 list has not been released yet, but it’s clear that hunting dogs were among the most popular breed last year, and they have been for many years.
Although I can’t support this supposition with data, I’d bet a majority of those hunting dogs are not used for hunting. Having shared my life with two retrievers in the past, it’s easy to understand why this breed ranks so high (usually number one or two) in popularity. They are wonderful family dogs; friendly, attractive and charming. In fact, one of the reasons hunting dogs make such good family pets is that they are genetically disposed to enjoy doing things with their people. They love any and all activities that involve human-canine bonding time. Even so, the fact remains that retrievers, hound dogs, spaniels and other dogs that belong to the sporting group are hard-wired to hunt.
The question is: can hunting dogs be happy with a life that does not involve hunting?
Of course I think the answer is yes. My retrievers were happy and healthy and lived long, comfortable lives. Dog behaviorists and experts say the same thing, that sporting dogs can absolutely be happy and fulfilled in a life that doesn’t involve actual hunting. Here’s how.