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Hunting Dogs Or Family Pets – Which Is Better?

Dogs are smart, trainable, and thrive when they receive clear, direct commands, or allowed to build mutually beneficial relationships with their human counterparts. 

But there is always some confusion that potential dog owners have when it comes to hunting dogs and family pets. You may not understand the differences between these two distinctions, and it’s all too common to have a few myths about hunting dogs floating around. 

While the AKC recognizes three main categories of hunting dogs, there’s no reason why any of these breed types can’t be your family pet. You can train a family pet in the same disciplined way. 

If you’re interested in a white English lab as a family pet, you may also wonder whether they can pass as a hunting dog. In this article, we’ll explore their ability as both. 


What Are Hunting Dogs?

Hunting dogs are simply dogs bred and trained to develop and use their instincts to find prey. They’re devoted, loyal, extremely obedient, and enjoy physical exercise. Because of these high-end traits, hunting dogs tend to be healthy and lean. 

Based on their breeds’ inherent strengths, hunting dogs are used for flushing or retrieving prey by spotting them, tracking them, crawling down into burrows, and seeking out holes. 

Regardless of their technique, all hunting dogs are highly trainable and responsive to commands and tricks. It’s no coincidence that their loyalty, devotion, and tendency to require a social pack to roam in are the very traits that make them excellent family dogs. 

If you have one of the following categories of dog breed, you’re part of a fast-growing group of pet owners in America:

  • Retrievers
  • Pointers and Setters
  • Terriers
  • Hounds

Snowy Pines’ white labs fall into the retrievers category, specifically as labrador retrievers. They are bred primarily as family pets, but still retain many of their hunting dog traits. They’re energetic, eager to please, and have the intelligence needed to track prey. The main difference is that they require less overall exercise and have a much calmer temperament. 


What Makes Hunting Dogs a Good Pet?

Plenty of hunting dogs enjoy life as a functional, occupational hunter. These canines will sleep indoors, interact with children, socialize with other pets, and then easily return to their work. 

Their natural strengths make them reliable and smart hunting and fieldwork companions, but their natural attributes are just part of the equation. 

Here’s what else to look for if you’re considering a hunting dog:


Trait #1: They’re Faithful to owners

Hunting dogs display a high level of devotion and loyalty to their family and their human companions. It’s not only about commands and tricks hunting dogs build a reciprocal relationship of trust and protection with their humans. 


Trait #2: They’re Responsive to Training and Commands

Each breed has its own way of communicating their strengths in the field, but all hunting dogs are responsive to puppy training and advanced commands. 

This is precisely why families love hunting dogs. They can learn very precise commands, display obedience, and develop decision-making skills in case a member of the family is in danger.  


Trait #3: They’re Sociable with Other Dogs and Humans

Their instinct to hunt and track is a feature leftover from their wolfish ancestors. That’s why you’ll often find that hunting dogs interact easily and automatically with other pets and animals in the family. They think of their human and animal companions as a natural part of their pack.


Trait #4: They Love to Interact with Their Environment

The natural curiosity and instinct of hunting dogs can be a lot of fun especially if your family loves the outdoors. 

Setters love to crouch, terriers love to burrow, and retrievers love to swim. If you have a hunting dog, you can be sure they’re going to play and interact with their environment. They won’t run rampant because they can take commands very well. 


Trait #5: They Like to Bring Back Gifts

You should get used to random gifts of small field mice or birds if you make a hunting dog a part of your family. They need to exercise their instincts somehow they may take it upon themselves to chase and forage up what they’re best at catching. 


Are White English Labs Hunting Dogs or Family Pets?

All dogs have some form of their canine hunting instinct alive today. In hunting dogs, this is more pronounced, and their physical fitness and skills align with this instinct. That’s one of the few differences. 

Speed, strength, athleticism, and physical fitness are some of the other differences between hunting dogs trained for work and family pets. 

But where do our labs fall in this spectrum?

Like a retriever bred as a hunting dog, they’re highly trainable, obedient, loyal, friendly, loving, and skilled. Snowy Pines English Labradors focus on traits that make them the best of both worlds. They are great as family and hunting dogs. However, due to their calmer temperaments and bigger bodies they may not perform as well as their American cousins in the field trials.

Additionally, just because they are bigger than the American Lab that doesn’t mean our white labs don’t require exercise! We exercise and train our puppies and adult dogs every day on our 120 acre Ozark Mountain Home. You should always try to set up opportunities to hone their skills and training through mock exercises like field trials, lure coursing, herding exhibitions, and doggy competitions. 



The distinctions between hunting dogs and family pets is partly occupational and partly behavioral. Much of this depends on the breed. 

Perhaps the greatest distinction between a dog built for a family and a dog built for working is that the latter depends on its instinctive strengths and training much more than a family pet. But plenty of hunting dogs are considered family pets by their owners, so it all depends on you.

Most dogs picked as a puppy will adjust to their family’s needs and respond well to their training. You want to give them a significant amount of reinforcement and training while young so they can feel challenged and safe. 

If you want a dog that can be both a hunting dog and family pet, make sure you get to know the breeder before you buy. Reputable, knowledgeable, ethical, and caring breeders are what make the difference between these two types of dogs, and can help steer you in the right direction.

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About the Author


Tom Massey

Tom Massey has owned and operated Snowy Pines Labradors for over a decade. They have become the leaders in English Labradors in the US. He and his team serve customers all over the US and Europe. They house their "dog family" in a state of the art facility on a large farm in the Ozark Mountains. With an obsession for genetics and temperament they raise and train dogs known across the globe for health and personality. Tom serves the pet industry in many forms campaigning for ethical breeding, training, and pet ownership.


Calm Tempered, AKC Purebred, and Certified Genetics.