A gun dog, also known as a bird dog, is a type of working dog used by hunters. Their job is to assist the hunter by finding and retrieving game, usually some type of fowl. There are three types of gun dog: pointing dogs, flushing dogs and retriever dogs. Each is trained to assist the hunter in a different way. There are even a number of dog breeds developed specifically for pointing or retrieving. The Golden Retriever and English Pointer are common examples.
The difference between a pointing dog, flushing dog and retriever dog makes them appropriate for hunting different types of game, in different settings. However, personal preference of the hunter is also a factor in which should be used. Pointers, and also setters, are named after the pointing action they take upon discovering game. When game is found, the dog is trained to freeze in place, and remain perfectly still while indicating the location of the game by pointing towards it with its muzzle. The hunter is then able to flush out the game and take a shot. Flushing dogs are best used on game that is likely to run from the hunter on ground. Instead of freezing in place to point, the dog is trained to aggressively flush out the game, causing it to take flight. This allows the hunter a clear shot. Both of these types of gun dogs are trained to retrieve the downed game upon command, usually soon after the shot. Retrievers are most often used when hunting waterfowl, and are trained to sit calmly and quietly while the hunter takes shots on birds that come into range. The dog must watch the gun and mark each downed bird. After the shooting, the dog is then instructed to retrieve each mark. Retrievers are also able to take commands from the hunter in order to find birds which the dog did not see fall.
While each type of gun dog is trained for a different purpose, there are similarities between them and the way they have been trained. First and foremost, is their ability to ignore gunfire. Gun dogs are trained to sit still and calm in the presence of gun fire, and some pointers are even trained to freeze in place upon hearing it. The sound of a gunshot is loud and unnatural. Even most humans can be unnerved by it. To get a dog to ignore gunfire takes training and obedience. Obedience is another key factor in the training of gun dogs. The dog must be able to sit still, calm and quiet for extended periods of time. This is especially true of retrievers. Finally, communication is an important part of any working dog’s training. Gun dogs are not just able to understand verbal commands, but are also able to understand the situation. This is especially important when multiple pointers are used as they are often trained to honor the point of another dog by pointing alongside of it.
There is no question that the work of gun dogs and the work of protection dogs are worlds apart. A breed developed for use as a gun dog could never perform true protection work the way that a German Shepherd, Dutch Shepherd or Belgian Malinois can. However, there is one key area of training where these two worlds overlap. Training for the event of gunfire. A good protection dog needs to be able to remain calm and steady, and know how to react in the event of gunfire.