You want a dog with a keen sense of smell that excels at tracking. Their ability to differentiate between and follow scents should be unmatched. You know that not every dog breed is ideal for these purposes, so which ones should you focus on for tracking?
The best dog breeds for tracking are:
- Basset Hound
- Labrador Retriever
- German Shepherd
- Belgian Malinois
- American Foxhound
- English Springer Spaniel
- German Shorthaired Pointer
- Majestic Tree Hound
Curious to learn more about these fascinating dog breeds, including their tracking capabilities? Then keep reading, as we’ll take a deep dive into each of these 11 great dogs. You won’t want to miss it.
11 Best Dogs for Tracking
With their sweet faces and loose, floppy skin, the Bloodhound may not look like it can do much serious work, but just watch it sniff around. As a scent hound, the dog has been around since the Middle Ages, when it was relied on for seeking out and hunting down wild boar and deer.
One of the most impressive parts of a Bloodhound’s scent skills is how even if an odor has been around for several days and across a pretty decent distance, the dog can pick up on it. Known for its enthusiastic and extremely accurate tracking, many law enforcement agencies rely strongly on Bloodhounds for cracking cases of all kinds. A Bloodhound is one of the best tracking dogs you can find.
The Basset Hound is another of those breeds you shouldn’t sleep on just because it’s small, stumpy, and a little wrinkly. It is a hound, after all, and although it doesn’t look super intimidating, the basset hound can hunt hare. That’s just one reason of many that it’s considered one of the best tracking dogs around.
This dog is especially adept at what’s known as ground scenting, or picking up scents from the ground and running with them. Given that Basset Hounds are so close to the ground themselves with their teeny-tiny legs, their ground scenting game is pretty much top-notch.
Whether you call them the Coon Dog or the Coonhound, as yet another hound family member, this breed is a solid pick for a tracking dog. In fact, the Coonhound is a scent hound or those dogs that use their noses to get them places instead of just their eyes. Their refined nose sensitivity means they can pick up on a range of scents no matter where they go.
With six Coonhound breeds to choose from, you really can’t go wrong. Each is adept at hunting raccoons and other games. Besides their tracking, Coonhounds can also do what’s referred to as treeing. With this, the dog’s threatening presence causes its prey to escape into the depths of a tree. Hunters can then shoot the prey down.
As a common pet, you may not have known the Beagle is technically a hound. If you’ve seen a foxhound before, Beagles have a closer resemblance to that breed. Their scent-sniffing abilities will impress and, should you hunt, the Beagle also comes quite in handy. As a matter of fact, the term for using scent to hunt rabbits and hares is known as beagling.
Besides being a domesticated pet, the Beagle also has professional uses, such as sniffing down foodstuffs and imports for quarantining. They’re some of the best sniffers around, on par with the Basset Hound and the Bloodhound.
Sweet, unassuming, and a very common dog breed for families in many parts of the world, the Labrador Retriever is hiding some pretty amazing tracking skills. Used in both hunting and sporting, most Labs aren’t very aggressive, but their super sniffer still makes them useful for finding wild game.
Labrador Retrievers also serve other major roles. People with autism or blindness rely on this large dog to guide them through their daily lives. Some Labs work with the police, doing detection and screening. Others are used as therapy dogs because of their sweetness and loyalty.
German Shepherds go way back to 1899. For a while, they were called the Alsatian in the United Kingdom in post-World War I times. By the late 1970s, the name was switched back to German Shepherd and it thankfully has not changed again.
As a member of the herding group, German Shepherds can track down and bring sheep back to a stable, even large groups of animals. The Shepherds are also favored for acting (yes, they’re movie stars), aiding the military and police, doing search and rescue missions, and assisting those with disabilities.
Looking like a very close cousin of the German Shepherd, the Belgian Malinois is another dog you should certainly consider because of its tracking abilities. The nose of this dog is so renowned that law enforcement and other experts have trusted it for search and rescues, finding suspects, sniffing out narcotics and accelerants, and even tracking down explosives.
It’s no wonder that there’s only one breed of dog used at the White House by the U.S. Secret Service. Yes, that’s right, it’s the Malinois. The breed’s agility is incredible, enough so that the Malinois regularly participates in tracking, showmanship, obedience, herding, flyball, and dock diving events and agility trials.
Related to the English Foxhound (they’re cousins), American Foxhounds are a type of scent hound, thus definitely making them a good pick for inclusion on this list. Per their namesake, they can find foxes and hunt them using their well-trained noses alone. That said, sometimes the American Foxhound gets so distracted by what it smells that it tunes out its owner and doesn’t listen. Be careful!
A cute-looking dog with lots of kindness and energy, the American Foxhound will try to sniff down any other creatures around, even if it can’t hunt them.
English Springer Spaniel
When hunting birds, the English Springer Spaniel is your best friend. The breed is a type of bird dog, also referred to as a gun dog. As you probably guessed, these dogs are bred to find birds and other game. They can even collect these animals once a hunter makes their shot. As an added bonus, the English Springer Spaniel is also a loving dog that’s nice to have at home.
English Springer Spaniels excel at a whole lot of things, such as blind retrieving, obeying hand signals, and scenting. In fact, this breed can even change their sniffing pattern depending on the direction the wind is blowing. Now wild game stands no chance!
German Shorthaired Pointer
We couldn’t publish this list without talking about the German Shorthaired Pointer. A trusted companion since way back in the 17th century, this breed has always been a hunting and gun dog. Unlike some of the other breeds we’ve talked about, the German Shorthaired Pointer can traverse water with little difficulty. That’s due to the dog’s powerful yet slim legs.
Called a pointer dog for a reason, German Shorthaired Pointers can pick up on ground scents and follow them. Given that they’re a mix of German Tracking Hounds, English Foxhounds, and Spanish Pointers, it should come as no surprise that they can pick up on scents so effortlessly.
Majestic Tree Hound
Part Bloodhound and part Coonhound, the crossbred Majestic Tree Hound is an awesome tracking dog that’s a little less well-known than the others on this list. Their ears are dewlap, heavy flew, and set quite low, aiding them in hearing what’s around them as they begin using their exemplary nose.
A heavier dog that weighs up to 100 pounds (for the males only), the Majestic Tree Hound could theoretically hunt large creatures like jaguars, bobcats, bears, and lions, or at least draw them out from their trees or wherever they were hiding. Today, many hunters who are tracking coon will use the Majestic Tree Hound to help them.
If you are seriously considering to scent train your dog, I would highly recommend this book written by Dr. Resi Gerritsen and Ruud Haak, available on Amazon.
Whether you’re a hunter or someone who just appreciates a dog with a strong sense of smell, you want a tracking breed. Any of the 11 dogs featured in this list would be wonderfully suited for you. Each has a lengthy history of aiding hunters and sometimes even law enforcement and the military in differentiating and following scents.
Now comes the hard part, and that’s choosing which of these fantastic dogs to adopt! Best of luck.