Are Labradoodles hunting dogs? They can be, yes!
But, just because a dog has hunting ancestry doesn’t mean that it’s certain to be an excellent hunting or retrieving dog.
In fact, the Labradoodle itself was first created as a service dog, rather than a hunting breed.
So can a Labradoodle still be a good hunting dog with the right training?
This article is all about Labradoodles as hunting dogs, and how to find a puppy with the most potential.
Are Labradoodles Hunting Dogs?
As the Labradoodle’s reputation for being a great pet has increased, so has interest in them as hunting dogs.
After all, many people looking for a hunting breed may already have the Labrador Retriever and the Standard Poodle on their shortlist.
So does it stand to reason that a Labradoodle should at least be considered too?
Choosing A Hunting Dog
‘Hunting dog’ is actually a pretty broad term. It can be applied to any dog whose purpose is to help their owner with hunting. But, not all hunting dogs help out by performing the same tasks.
Here are some of the best known types of hunting dog, and the roles they carry out:
Flushing breeds like spaniels and setters were bred to locate game birds and “flush them out” on command. That is, make them fly up into the air at the right moment, so that the huntsman can shoot them.
Pointers are trained literally to point out quarry to their owner, by stopping with their muzzle directed towards it.
The role of retrieving breeds is to remember where they saw a shot game bird fall, and collect it when their handler decides it is safe for them to go and do so (that is, when the the shooting has finished).
Where do Labradoodles fit in?
Labradors and Poodles are both traditional and highly respected retrieving breeds.
Poodles were first developed in Germany to retrieve fallen ducks from water. They are powerful swimmers, and their iconic haircut with the shaved sides and bouffant pompons was originally intended to give them maximum range of movement in the water, whilst also keeping their joints and vital organs warm.
Labradors meanwhile were bred to retrieve dead game birds from both water and land. They became so accomplished at it that they are the retrieving dog of choice for a huge number of game hunters.
So, could answer the question “are Labradoodles hunting dogs?” be “yes, because they are a hybrid of two retrieving breeds”?
Are Labradoodles Good Hunting Dogs?
Just because Labs and Poodles started out as gun dogs, doesn’t mean that they all still have keen hunting instincts to pass on to their puppies.
These days both dogs are often bred as companions or service dogs, rather than working retrievers.
Most Labradoodles are not bred as hunting dogs either, but as pets or service dogs for their human families.
So Labradoodle breeders prioritise using sires and dams (dad and mom dogs) with innate qualities and instincts that make them successful in those roles.
And hunting instincts can get lost along the way – whether by accident or design.
What Traits Do Good Hunting Dogs Need?
So what traits should you look for if you want to know if your Labradoodle dog has hunting dog potential?
Some of the most important include:
- The right coat type
- Speed and stamina
- Prey drive
Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail.
While any dog that participates in hunting live prey will need to be fit and athletic.
The best hunting dogs have a little bit extra – a trait professional hunting dog scouts like to call “super coordinated.”
Just like some people athletes seem especially gifted at their particular sport, the best hunting dogs will have a special type of in-the-moment physical and mental coordination when challenges arise.
The Right Coat Type
A hunting dog is going to get dirty for sure.
But there will also be near-constant exposure to pests, underbrush, skin irritants, cold, wet, hot, sunlight.
A whole host of dangers that could sideline your canine.
You don’t want to send a thin-coated dog out into the bramble to find your downed quarry.
A great hunting dog will come already equipped with the right wardrobe: a thick coat with water-repellant and insulating properties.
Speed and Stamina
While some prey animals make a hunting dog’s access to speed and stamina more important, the best hunting dogs will always have inbuilt access to both.
Any hunter who has ever ventured off-grid with a canine companion who thinks the whole excursion is just one big game of “chase the butterflies” knows how essential prey drive can be.
The truth is, some dogs have lots of it, some dogs have a little bit of it and some dogs just don’t have it.
Sometimes called the “hunting drive” or the “chase instinct,” prey drive is that part of your dog that wants to get the prey as badly as you do.
Your dog needs to have enough intelligence to understand and follow complex commands, amidst lots of distractions.
In addition, the best hunting dogs can think on their feet to overcome tough challenges even when you are separated in the field.
On a day hunt, you may never have to deal with having to share a blind (or a tent) with your pup.
But even so, you can count on long periods of waiting together until the magic opportunity shows itself.
Here, you need a dog that is well-balanced in temperament, versatile to adapt to the changing needs of the hunt.
And well able to be a compatible companion no matter where the two of you need to go together.
Predicting Labradoodle Hunting Ability
Labradoodles can inherit any mix of traits from either of their parents breeds.
Luckily, as both parent breeds have several traits in common, it’s possible to predict some Labradoodle qualities with reasonable confidence.
Both Labs and Poodles are intelligent, eager to please, energetic, and adaptable.
Both parent breeds also have water resistant fur.
So, whether you get the Poodle’s curls or the Lab’s thick double coat, your puppy will usually be right for the job.
Finding Labradoodle puppies with good hunting instincts
Even though training is undoubtedly important, lots of people think that successful hunting dogs are born, not made.
Which is why male field trial champions can become sought after stud dogs and command higher stud fees.
A logical way to find a Labradoodle puppy with innate hunting ability is to find a litter with working gundog parents on both sides of their family tree.
For example, Labrador ancestors who were field trial champions (look for the letters FC or Ftch next to their name on their pedigree) and Poodle ancestors who have completed retriever hunting tests (Poodles don’t qualify to enter field trial championships).
Unfortunately however, whilst recognizing the signs that a Labradoodle has great hunting genes is straightforward, actually finding one might not be.
Labradoodles have been bred first as service dogs, and later as pets. They are an unusual choice of hunting companion, so most breeders prioritise breeding pups with great pet temperaments rather then gundog potential.
Tell them you want a hunting dog, and you may be met with blank looks.
Next, by definition not every dog can be a field trial champion. And the owners of Labs that are may not support the creation of designer crossbreeds.
So, you may need to be patient, to find a Labradoodle puppy with promise as a hunting dog.
Are Labradoodles Hunting Dogs? Summary
Labradoodles are descended from two esteemed hunting breeds.
But Labradoodles are rarely bred with hunting potential in mind.
So the bottom line is, some Labradoodles will make great hunting dogs while others will not.
Are you training a Labradoodle as a hunting companion? Let us know in the comments!
References and Resources
- Lewis, L. ‘History of the Labradoodle’, The Australian Labradoodle Association of America (ALAA) (2021)
- Peterson, T. J. ‘Why the Labrador is the World’s Most Popular Bird Dog’, Gun Dog Magazine (2021)
- Burke, M. ‘Curl Power: Poodles Return to the Field’, Garden & Gun (2017)
- Davis, T. ‘What Makes a Good Dog Great?’, Ducks Unlimited (2021)