A GSP stands in a field.
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3 of the Best Upland Hunting Breeds for New Dog Owners

Finding your first bird dog can be nerve-racking, but it doesn’t have to be. Check out the shortlist below to see what may fit your needs

Sit down with any dog-owning upland hunter and you’ll surely hear an earful of why their chosen breed is  the best. From pointers to American Labradors to German Longhairs, it’s no surprise that many dog breeds can be successful in the uplands. 

That said, here are three of the best options for a hunter looking for their first dog. 

The English Setter

English Setters top this list for their strict adherence to upland pursuits. With many different lines, there’s something for everyone. 

Setters are pointing dogs, and. if trained well, will hold on a grouse or American woodcock until released. Some can be high drive in and out of the field, but for the most part are moderately tempered dogs. Setters are a great option for new hunters focusing only on upland hunting, as they make wonderful companions and family dogs. Most lines have excellent hunting genes, too, making training a breeze. 

English Setters are also part of upland lore, making them an endemic breed in the community. 

The German Shorthaired Pointer

German Shorthaired Pointers are second on the list for new upland hunters for many reasons, but their best characteristic being a snap-attention attitude to birds. 

GSPs are highly-intuitive dogs that, like English Setters, can make excellent partners and family pets. That said, GSPs are an athletic breed and require plenty of time devoted to training and general exercise. They are also a highly-touted versatile breed, worked by many waterfowl hunters for their retrieving skills. 

The American Labrador

Typically, one doesn’t think of the American Labrador as a viable upland hunting dog. And while they aren’t pointers, their flushing skills put them at No. 3 on this short list. 


Flushing dogs are excellent for hunters used to fast shooting—more so a holdover from waterfowl hunting where Labradors truly shine. Still, if trained to stay within shotgun range, an American Labrador will put many birds in a hunter’s game vest. 

Many dove hunters appreciate the retrieving work of Labs due to the fast-paced action that comes along it. And, as noted, they are excellent retrieving machines for ducks or geese regardless of on land or in the water. They are also second-to-none when it comes to quickly adapting into a family unit, as they make excellent pets for families of all ages and sizes. Just have plenty of balls and a sturdy launcher ready for the hours of fetch you’ll play over their lifetime. 

Concluding thoughts

While three common breeds have been listed above, there are plenty of breeds available for new hunters to buy from breeders. If you are drawn to a certain breed, be sure to call a well-known and recommended breeder for more information but also don’t be afraid to branch out and check out another breed.  

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