Are Collies Good Hunting Dogs? (Tracking / Retrieving?)

Collies lack the natural hunting and predatory instincts of some hunting breeds, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be a useful hunting companion.

While collies generally aren’t known for being great hunting dogs, their high intelligence, chase instincts and eagerness to work means they can easily be trained for auxiliary hunting tasks, such as flushing and retrieval.

In this article we’ll look at what traits make a good hunting dog, and compare them with collie traits to see where collies might be useful, and where you’d be better off with a different breed.

Can Collies Hunt?

Firstly, all dogs can hunt to some degree.

Collies generally aren’t great at hunting, since they have been bred over hundreds of years to work closely with farmers, and thus have no predatory instincts and are not aggressive.

Although they aren’t great for hunting, collies love exercise, enjoy fetching, and are extremely intelligent, making them a good choice for some auxiliary hunting tasks such as flushing.

Are collies good at hunting?

Collies have some inherent traits that mean they are not generally good at hunting, including their lack of aggression, lack of predatory instincts and their tendency to be quite loud.

In spite of these flaws, collies excel at auxiliary tasks like flushing. Their tendency to be loud, which is usually a disadvantage for a hunting dog actually give them an edge when it comes to flushing.

Their placid nature gives them an edge over more aggressive breeds when it comes to retrieval, but they do not have soft mouths and so are still outperformed by retriever breeds.

Can Collies Track?

Collies are usually not good at tracking, owing to their nervous nature, lack of attention span when it comes to things they are not interested in, and having fewer scent receptors than hunting breeds.

With some practice, you may be able to do some basic tracking with your collie, however the breed is just not built for tracking and you will have better results with a hunting breed like a basset hound, a beagle, or a spaniel.

Collie Tracking
The only thing Luna tracks is her ball

Collie hunting skills

Like all dogs, collies are descendants of wolves.

What this means is that deep down, there are some vestigial hunting and predatory instincts present in your collie.

Over the last three centuries, collies have been selectively bred to reduce their aggression, and to increase their chase instincts. Unlike with hunting breeds, collies haven’t been bred for their eyesight (collies are not sighthounds) or their sense of smell.

For this reason, collies have poorer eyesight than a sighthound, and fewer scent receptors than a bloodhound.

Where collies excel is in their chase instincts, and their intelligence.

Collies may have been bred to be non-aggressive, but they have been herding sheep for 300 years, giving them a highly developed chase instinct and ability.

Collies excellent agility, speed, chase instincts and intelligence give them the edge over more common breeds when it comes to hunting, however they will still not be as effective as a pure hunting breed.

Are collies good bird dogs?

Collies aren’t usually good bird dogs, since they don’t have soft mouths, and they can be quite skittish around loud noises and unknown situations.

Where a collie excels is as a flushing dog, running in to the heather to flush out grouse or pheasants in to the open.

Can border collies retrieve birds

Border Collies’ intelligence means with a bit of practice they can learn most simple tasks.

Although they don’t have natural retrieval instincts like a labrador or another retrieval dog, Collies can definitely be trained to retrieve birds.

If you’re going to train your collie to retrieve birds, rabbits or other prey it’s best to first train them to fetch their ball or another toy so you have a command that’s understood.

Another thing to consider is training your collie to pick up prey without destroying it. Collies don’t have soft mouths and will require training to hold birds properly.

Do Border Collies have soft mouths?

Border Collies do not have soft mouths, although they are highly intelligent and can be easily trained, making them a viable option for a retrieval dog.

Much like with tracking and flushing, collies’ intelligence means they are a viable option for many tasks, even if their breed isn’t specifically built for it.

While they don’t have the natural instincts for carrying with a soft mouth, they can certainly be trained, it just might take a little bit more work than working directly with a soft-mouthed breed like a labrador.

About the author:

About the author:

Hollie and Border Collie

 Stuart MacPherson

Colliepedia Editor

 Stuart MacPherson

Colliepedia Editor

I'm an experienced collie owner from Scotland. I started Colliepedia to share everything I know about collies. All the pictures you see on colliepedia are of my beloved collie Luna

Learn More about me and Luna's story on the about page!