The last thing you want to do is ruin a hunting dog. New hunting dog owners will hear many hunters and dog trainers say keeping a hunting dog inside is a sure-fire way to ruin them.
So, if you’ve got a hunting dog you’re considering bringing inside, or are planning on raising a new puppy to be a future hunting dog: how can you be sure whether or not keeping your dog inside will affect its ability to hunt properly or not? Can You Keep Your Hunting Dog Inside?
It is safe to say that keeping your hunting dog inside (or outside) makes little to no difference in their ability or desire to hunt. However, dogs that live inside with their owners generally develop a deeper bond. The depth of the relationship between hunting dogs and the hunter is an essential one and makes a huge difference out in the field.
For the average hunter, spending time with a dog is the best way to develop its hunting traits and abilities as well as to develop and fuel its desire to hunt. In other words, keeping your hunting dog inside may have the edge over leaving them outside in a kennel because of all the extra time you’ll spend with them.
Even more, if you have a pup (or plan to get one any time soon), keeping them inside allows you to keep a closer eye on them and gives you better control over the development of their behavior. And, you’ll be able to protect your puppy better if it’s kept inside as well.
That said, there is nothing wrong with keeping a pup outside while you’re away from home. And for that matter, there’s nothing wrong with keeping a hunting dog outside in general.
But, aren’t hunting breeds supposed to be outside dogs?
Whether tracking, treeing, or retrieving game, hunting breeds are geared to work outdoors. That does not mean, however, that they need to live outside just because their skills happen to be best suited for outside use.
Do hunters live outside permanently, or lose their knowledge and ability to hunt well if they don’t live outdoors? No, of course, they don’t! And, hunting dogs don’t necessarily need to either. Ultimately, it is up to you whether you believe your hunting buddy is better as an inside or outside dog.
At any rate, many hunting dog owners are under the misconception that keeping a dog outside until the hunting season begins is a successful technique necessary for making a superior hunting dog. That, however, while indeed being a standard method practiced by many hunters, is not the case at all.
Keeping a dog outside until you’re ready to hunt with them does not make them better hunting dogs. Keeping them inside won’t necessarily automatically make them better hunting dogs either. A good hunting dog takes an excellent trainer, a lot of time, and even more patience. There is no shortcut to attaining a well-trained dog.
Where did the “hunting dogs must be outside dogs” myth start?
Here is my theory: Professional dog trainers usually have too many dogs to keep them all inside. These pros show up to hunting dog competitions or as guides to hunts with some great hunting dogs. Onlookers may think, boy, to have a dog like these pros are running, you would need to keep them outside. In reality, it is more likely the consistency of the trainer, the practice of washing out dogs that don’t make the cut, the exposure to hunting situations and the time in the field that is the pro’s keys to success. The fact the dog doesn’t get to nap under the kitchen table has little to do with it.
Important Point from the Outside Dog Argument
To this point, I have been rosy on the notion of keeping your hunting dog inside. I believe keeping your dog inside is the best option for the average hunter. The hunter who hunts and trains a limited amount of the year, as life is divided between work, family, friends, hobbies, and the dog. I do acknowledge there is a counter-argument for keeping a hunting dog outside. An inside dog is more likely to be exposed to inconsistency in training. Maybe your kids or dare I say even you slip the dog a reward without making it work for it or fail to enforce a known command. An inside dog will often be in a scenario where you can’t ensure the consistency in training as you can when the dog is only out in controlled environments. The outside dog will be less likely to earn bad behaviors only by the fact that it won’t be exposed to them. For example, your son or daughter won’t likely play tug of war with your outside puppy, accidentally ripping out some puppy teeth and souring the dog to retrieving. You won’t cave to your incessant retriever’s demands to always play fetch if the dog is an outside dog, and you won’t lower your standards for steadiness and spend 1000’s of throws reinforcing bad behaviors. Outside dogs come out of the run to do work, that work usually is planned, it is consistent and from a training perspective yields better results than the repeated inconsistent exposures mixed in with a few structured exposers an inside dog that is always underfoot is likely to receive. All that said, there is great joy in sharing your home with your hunting companion, and you can enforce consistency with an indoor dog and develop an indoor dog into a great companion and hunting partner, you will just have to work a bit harder at it, but it is definitely worth it.
Will keeping my hunting dog inside ruin its nose?
“If you keep your hunting dog inside, you will ruin its nose,” is a myth I have heard as a reason to keep you hunting dog outside. However, there is no scientific evidence I can find to back up this claim. Likely it is a false correlation that developed this myth. You see a professional trainer with some great bird finding dogs. The trainer keeps the dogs outside, and one might think that this is the key difference between the pro’s dog’s ability to find birds when your coach sleeping pup missed them. This conclusion also might be easier on your pride then realizing the pro may be a better trainer, his dogs likely get more bird exposure and his dogs have more experience giving them time to put two and two together to figure out how to put the wind in their favor to catch scents easier.
Best Hunting Dogs for Keeping inside (and for family pets)
While practically any type of hunting dog is safe to keep inside, some breeds are more suitable for such an environment. Likewise, some breeds of hunting dogs make better family pets as well. And, everyone knows that “family pets” translates to “inside pets.”
There are a ton of dog breeds to choose from when it comes to the best-hunting dogs to keep inside:
Some hunting breeds were developed and breed for endurance and to be high energy hunters. This usually doesn’t translate well into being an inside dog as these dogs require lots of exercise and can develop behavior problems or become destructive if not exercised properly.
I will say there is often considerable variability inside each breed. For example, German Shorthaired Pointers are often stereotyped as being a high energy dog that can be challenging as an inside dog pet. It is true some German Shorthaired Pointers will make grooves in your hardwood floors running laps around your coffee table, there are also examples of the breed that gladly sleep all day long. The reverse is also true in stereotypically lower energy breeds: you might look for a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, knowing them to be lower-key dogs and end up getting a high energy example of the breed.
Hunting dogs are bred to work and are happiest and easiest to live with when exercised regularly. You may want to pick a lower energy breed if you are a lower activity household and are worried about having a working dog as an inside dog, but again these are WORKING dogs.
Stereotypically lower energy breeds:
- Labrador Retrievers
- Wirehaired Pointing Griffon
- Bracco Italiano
- Golden Retriever
- American Water Spaniel
Stereotypically high energy breeds:
- German Shorthaired Pointer
- English Pointer
- Cocker Spaniels
- Springer Spaniels
- English Setter (Field bred)
A Final Word About Keeping Hunting Dogs Inside
With the information above, selecting a breed of hunting dog, as well as making the decision whether to keep them inside or not should now be much easier.
Don’t forget to take into consideration which hunting dog breeds are more suitable as family (indoor) pets.
Also, if you’re bringing an older hunting dog inside, after living outdoors, remember to be patient and take the time to learn to transition your dog from living outdoors to indoors.
There are a ton of dog breeds to choose from