Whether you're looking for a hunting partner or a good-natured, responsive companion, the group of dogs the American Kennel Club refers to as the sporting group is filled with great choices. Born to cover land and water, these dogs require regular exercise.
Family Guys: Spaniels
The AKC recognizes 10 breeds of spaniels, of which the cocker spaniel is probably the best known. Though he's a popular family dog, the smallest of the spaniels will be happy to flush and retrieve game for you. The field spaniel may be reserved around strangers, but he's engaged with his family and whatever activity you dream up for him. The Welsh springer spaniel has a stubborn side, but consistent training and his desire to be with his family make him a valued part of the home. Other spaniels include the American water spaniel, boykin spaniel, clumber spaniel, English cocker spaniel, English springer spaniel, Irish water spaniel and the Sussex spaniel.
Energetic Companions: Pointers
If you want a running partner or gun dog, the German shorthaired pointer represents the pointer group admirably. Very smart, he responds well to gentle, consistent training and loves to relax with his people after a day of vigorous exercise. The other two pointer breeds are the German wirehaired pointer and the pointer.
Unbridled Enthusiasm: Setters
The Irish setter is known for his striking red coat. If you want an ethusiastic dog who's up for just about anything, this may be the dog for you. Great with kids, he needs plenty of exercise to keep him from acting destructively. The other setters -- the English setter, Gordon setter, and Irish red and white setter -- are more popular as hunting dogs.
Devoted and Good Company: Retrievers
Retrievers are well-loved, both for their hunting prowess and their companionable personalities, making them great family pets. The Chesapeake retriever has a proud history of chasing waterfowl in frigid waters, and he's happy to work hard for you. Like the Chesapeake, the golden works on land and in water, retrieving game at your command. He's energetic and outgoing, so he needs a lot of exercise -- perfect for the athletic, outdoorsy family. Other retrievers include the Labrador retriever, the curly coated retriever, the flat-coated retriever and the Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever.
The Rest of the Good Sports
The Weimaraner is a beautiful gray guy, made to hunt with speed, stamina and endurance. Like many in the sporting group, he can act out in destructive ways if he doesn't get enough exercise. However, he's an ideal companion for the person who wants a dog to pal around with outside. The spinone Italiano is a unique-looking dog, with his long head and ears. His hound dog looks may deceive you into thinking he's a couch potato, but this guy can go all day, retrieving wherever you direct him. He's gentle and willing to please, making him a reliable choice for a family pet. The other dog breeds rounding out the sporting group include the wirehaired pointing griffon, the vizsla and the Brittany.