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When it comes to the sport of hunting – the gundog is definitely a hunter’s best friend. Gundogs have been used to assist man since the days when survival crucially depended on hunting skills, not only for food to eat, but for clothing and shelter provided by the hides of the hunted animals and to this day bird dogs still play an important role in hunting for sport.

Originally bred with the intention of assisting game bird hunting, the characteristics of gundogs have, over the years, been strengthened by further breeding with animals already displaying the necessary traits for hunting. Gundogs (also known as hunting dogs or bird dogs) are intelligent, active and alert breeds, easily trained for a variety of sporting uses such as hunting game birds and waterfowl, showing the hunter where the game birds are
located, startling the birds into the open for the hunter and retrieving the shot or injured birds and taking them back to the hunter. These hunting dogs love being around humans, and they require a great deal of attention and strenuous exercise. Some hunting dogs are used specifically to work in water, some only on land, whilst others are capable of working in both of these environments.

Gundogs can be divided into three categories, the retriever, the pointer and setter, and the flusher dog and listed below are the roles played by each of these types of dog.

The Retriever Dog

Ideally equipped with their water-repellant coat and webbed feet, the Retriever, as its name would suggest, will find the bird and take it back to the hunter. The Retriever is particularly suited to work in water. Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and Irish Water Spaniels are popular breeds for the Retriever category.

The Pointer and Setter Dogs

These two types of dogs are used where game is distributed over a wide area, for example on moors. They operate quite a distance away from their handlers and upon locating the game birds will wait for the hunter to get close enough to shoot. In order to let the hunter know they have located the game, and without actually causing any disturbance which may alert the game, the dog will remain still and rigid, in effect pointing in the direction of the game. When the hunter arrives on the scene, he will command the dog to flush the game, thus presenting his sporting target. Once shot, the dog will be expected to retrieve the game and deliver it to the hunter. English and Irish setters and English Pointers are the main breeds in this category.

The Flusher Dog

The flusher will not actually capture his prey but will creep around the undergrowth to hunt and then when he has found his quarry he will crouch in front, in a guarding manner, so there is little or no chance of escape, allowing the hunter to take his quarry. Examples of dog breeds in this category are Springer Spaniels, Cocker Spaniels and Field Spaniels.

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