The Sporting Group
Dogs in the Sporting group were all bred to assist in the hunting and retrieving of game. As early as the 6th century B.C. there were records of certain types of dogs which instead of pursuing game, sniffed the scent with a raised head and then stood completely still. Although originally considered a rather unsatisfactory characteristic in a hunting dog, it was later realized that the behavior could, in fact, be very useful in the right circumstances. This was particularly the case when hunters wanted to net partridge or quail, for example. The dogs were trained to crouch sit or lie down when they had spotted game so the hunters could draw a net over the birds before they were able to fly away.
This is the origin of the name “bird dog”, although most gundogs today are employed to help hunt furry as well as feathered quarry. After the invention of the gun and perhaps in recognition of the wider role the dogs played, the name of “bird dog” was changed to the more appropriate Gun Dog. A gundog works in several ways. First, it must search around to locate the quarry by scent. Then it indicates the location of the game by standing in full view and pointing. In other words they take up a static stance in the direction of the game. Next the gundog must move forward to put the game up. This means causing the bird or other quarry to move from cover so the hunter can shoot it. Lastly the gundog must retrieve the prey without damaging it further.
Among the features exhibited by many gundogs are weatherproof coats that enable them to work in often cold, wet conditions, including freezing water. In order to respond consistently and obediently to commands, gundogs must usually by loyal, willing to please, and friendly by nature, features that make this group the most popular of all in terms of human companions and family pets. The stealthy nature of their work also means that they are less given to vocalization than hounds, again a considerable attribute to a house dog.
Field trials are held regularly in which the qualities of the various types of gundogs are tested. Certain characteristics necessary for field work such as speed and stamina are bred on. Sometimes the features are less important in show dogs, where appearance may be more highly prized. This explains the divergence that often occurs between the working dog and the show dog of the same breed.
Among dogs in the sporting group, different breeds are used for the various tasks in the field. The gun dogs that exemplify pointing behavior include the various breeds of pointer , such as the Pointer or the English Setter. Dogs such as the Springer Spaniel are prized for their ability to flush game from cover, some will also be expected to retrieve as well. Among the best known of the retrieving breeds are the Golden Retriever and the Flat Coated Retriever.
Some dogs are breed to help in all aspects of hunting. This is particularly the case in mainland Europe, where such breeds are called hunt, point and retrieve breeds. These dogs include the Weimaraner from Germany, the large Munsterlander also from Germany, and the Italian Spinone.
Here’s a short list of some of the dogs in this group. They are the American and English Cocker Spaniels, Brittany, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, English Setter, English Springer Spaniel, Flat Coated Retriever, German Pointer, Golden Retrievers, Hungarian Viszla, Irish Water Spaniel, Labrador Retrievers, Portuguese Setter and the Gordon Setter.