German Shepherds are one of the most popular dog breeds worldwide, and for a good reason. These highly intelligent dogs have served beside a man in so many areas and do so with utmost loyalty.
This brave breed has served in wars, police force, security, personal assistance, guide dogs, and the list goes on.
But what about hunting?
Can you teach a German Shepherd to hunt?
As we’ve mentioned above, German Shepherds have managed to find themselves in various roles due to their intelligence and loyalty.
We can take from this that they learn things pretty fast. So it would be fair to say that they can learn the basics of hunting.
However, it takes more than the ability to learn to be a successful hunting dog.
Ask any pro trainer out there, and they will tell you that most of a hunting dog’s work comes down to instinct.
This is why hunters spend thousands of dollars for certain breed lines.
My GSP came all the way from Poland from a special breed line I sought out, while my Chessie came from Canada.
This gives you an idea of the importance of breed lines.
What does that mean for the German Shepherd?
German Shepherds come from a different class of working families. They were bred for herding and not hunting.
Though they managed to get themselves into many different careers, you would be hard-pressed to find a German Shepherd hunting breed line. I have never heard of any.
Hunters will choose certain class and breed lines depending on what they are looking for their dog to do.
In the past, I have run various classes of dogs, retrievers, pointers, flushers. I have hunted over them all, but I have never hunted over a herding dog.
For instance, take the pointer; they were bred to have an exceptional nose and notify the hunter when they find a bird by freezing up.
I have seen instinct at work with my own GSP when she was four months old and was already making solid points on pheasants while just out for a walk.
I would be inclined to think the Shepherd’s instinct would be to herd the pheasants back to you.
Can a German Shepherd be a bird dog?
Generally, there are three types of bird dogs, flushers, pointers, and retrievers. They mostly all do the same thing, find birds and bring them back when you shoot them.
They all have different styles of hunting and saying that a Shepherd couldn’t do it in his own style would be ignorant of me.
However, bird dogs have been bred over hundreds of years to have these special traits that hunters desire. Shepherds have been bred for other tasks.
A good bird dog needs to have an extremely soft mouth. German Shepherds tend to be very mouthy.
A good bird dog needs to be able to beat thick bush, and this might be too much to ask of a large German Shepherd.
They need to be able to work in close range while keeping the focus on the bird. A German Shepherd may be inclined to focus more on the hunter.
If you are determined to train a German Shepherd to be a bird dog, be prepared for a lot of work.
- Find a good breed line
- Find a good gundog trainer that will accept a German Shepherd
- Start young
- Focus on creating a soft mouth
Can a German Shepherd hunt rabbits?
Normally you would expect to see some breed of hound hunting rabbits. It may be untoward to see a German Shepherd hunting rabbits.
The idea of using dogs to rabbit hunt is not to let the dog catch the rabbit but to get it back to the hunter so he can take a shot.
Rabbits run in circles, so when a dog sets after the rabbit it’s only a matter of time before it’s back in front of the hunter.
The baying of the hounds is a good indicator for the hunter to know where the rabbit is.
A German Shepherd may be able to perform moderately here.
It would need to be from a working line as it would need a few choice traits to keep up with and outsmart the rabbit.
You would need an agile German Shepherd with a good nose and quick reaction time.
One other thing you would need is for your dog to alert you when it spots a rabbit. This may be easy (instinct) or almost impossible.
My GSP will roar like a hound when she spots a furry creature but is silent when she spots a feathered one.
My Chessie is silent all around.
Can a German Shepherd track animals?
This is one area of hunting where the German Shepherd might perform well. We know that they are used for sniffing out explosives and contraband around the world.
Using a German Shepherd to leash track wounded deer is certainly a plausible idea. It’s important to remember to keep your German Shepard on the leash, otherwise it may cause damage to wildlife.
Can a German Shepherd be a gundog?
So can a German Shepherd be your next great gundog?
They would easily ace the discipline a hunting dog needs, and they would have no problem with gun shyness given their credentials.
They would have a good nose. They most likely would be an awful retriever due to their mouthiness; this is another thing that comes with breed lines.
While it is possible to train a German Shepherd to hunt, it’s just not practical.
There are many other breeds out there that are already halfway there just from their instinct, and it would be a much better option.
So I do not think a German Shepherd is a good hunting dog due to not having the desired breed lines required for hunting dogs.